Pee Dee prepares for fringe effects of Hurricane Irma

Pee Dee prepares for fringe effects of Hurricane Irma

FLORENCE COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - The Pee Dee experienced some fringe effects from Hurricane Irma through rain and wind on Monday.

Before it hit, officials with Florence County Emergency Management and the Florence County Sheriff's Office made sure a plan was in place in preparation of the storm.

The Florence County Sheriff's Office Special Operations Division pre-deployed crews throughout the county. The group split up at different fire stations to be on call and ready for any weather-related emergency.

Each post had large equipment like Humvees and ATVs available to go where traditional vehicles couldn't in the event rescues needed to be made.

"We saw during the floods two years ago and Mathew last year, we use these vehicles to rescue people and to move people out of areas of danger and into shelters," said FCSO Maj. Mike Nunn. "So we were making sure all those assets are available and in play."

The main sheriff's office command post trailer was staged at Johnsonville Fire Department. FCSO officials said to prepare for this storm, crews were strategically positioned in the eastern part of Florence County.

"That was in anticipation of an easterly strike," Nunn said. "It would be different and we would potentially put them in other places if it looked like the impact was coming from another direction. So we analyze these things very carefully to see where we might get the best use of that pre-deployment."

FCSO and Florence County Emergency Management were working hand-in-hand for hurricane preparedness.

"We have been having conference calls with state and federal partners beginning last week on a routine basis, so we are constantly up to date on current status of things and what other agencies are doing," Nunn said.

In partnering with emergency management, the division said a main topic has been to utilize the cameras across Florence County to monitor any weather changes, with high winds causing downed trees or power lines.

"We always had this system, but we just mainly did a lot of upgrades and added a lot new cameras," said Levi James, public information officer for Florence County Emergency Management.

There are 43 cameras total that are funded through federal grant money and the Florence County Penny Sales tax. An additional 22 cameras will also be added to the emergency management building that is expected to be complete by 2018.

"It gives us the ability to not only monitor our radio sites for out county radio system we own and operate, it also gives us the ability to check the conditions of each tower," James said. "The newer technology allows for much more, so we can zoom in, zoom out, change positions, go as far over to McLeod."

The cameras stretch from Lake City, Effingham, Pamplico and downtown Florence.

Emergency management believes the cameras give "ground truth" before dispatching first responders to a call.

"We rely on the public for 911 calls, but at the same time we also use these cameras systems we have on our cell phones, tablets, and desktops here at emergency management to monitor these situations," James said.

FCSO officials agreed the assets will be used until the threat is completely eliminated.

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