Florence County Emergency Operations Center set for storm

Florence County Emergency Operations Center set for storm

FLORENCE COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - The Florence County Emergency Management opened up its operations center on Tuesday at a monitoring stage.

By Wednesday, it was fully staffed and operating at an OPCON 3 level.

Andrew Golden, public information officer for Florence County Emergency Management, said it is all to make sure first responders are ready for the changes Hurricane Matthew will bring to the area.

"As we know with Hurricane Matthew so far, the tracks have changed daily and we are still expecting it to change daily," Golden said. So right now the track shows it's off our coastline and not having much effect on us here in Florence County except wind and rain. However, I caution people that can still take a turn overnight and can still make a turn and come back towards us."

The operations center was filed with representatives from the American Red Cross, Department of Social Services, the Florence County Community Emergency Response team, and the Florence County Sheriff's Office and Florence County Fire Rescue.

"We want people to know this is the type of things we need help with, especially during an emergency like this," Golden said. "They are answering phones, they are helping us out however we need help in the center."

They also stay on top of the latest National Weather Service reports, use the Hurrevac system to look at the wind-field model and keep an eye on heavy traffic from the South Carolina Department of Transportation.

It's all to make sure the response teams are aware of the fluid storm changes for the safety of everyone.

Golden explained setting up the shelter is the No. 1 priority during the preparation stages. Also at the top of the list is to make sure the county is a place of safety.

"Florence County is an evacuation site, which means we set up shelters for Horry and Georgetown counties," he said. "We don't evacuate unless it is extreme."

The ground in Florence is already wet from previous storms and Matthew is expected to bring heavy rain to the Pee Dee.

"As we get more rain, yes, you could see some trees fall down," Golden said. "You could see some other hazards caused on the roadways because of excess water"

And even for those who live inland, emergency crews stress the importance of getting an emergency preparedness kit ready now.

"If we have another storm, they will already have this stuff prepared," Golden said. "So it's always good to have a plan and get this stuff done even if we aren't going to be affected by it."

Emergency workers planned to stay at the center until late Wednesday night, ahead of the American Red Cross opening emergency shelters throughout Florence County starting at 7 a.m., Thursday.

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