COVID-19 adds another layer to hurricane planning in Horry County

COVID-19 adds another layer to hurricane planning in Horry County
Hurricane evacuation (Source: Flickr — nathalienation)

HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - Every year, people along the Grand Strand plan and prepare for hurricane season, but this year is different.

Not only do residents have to contend with the hurricane threat but local emergency management leaders point out we must also do it while taking the COVID-19 pandemic into consideration.

During a meeting on Tuesday, the Horry County Public Safety Committee learned of the county’s latest emergency management plan for shelters during hurricane evacuations.

Thomas Bell, the spokesperson for Horry County Emergency Management, said this year emergency management agencies had to take another look at their plans through the lens of COVID-19.

Due to COVID-19, fewer people will be allowed into Horry County shelters to accommodate social distancing. Screenings for the coronavirus will also be administered to those arriving at a shelter, and personal protective equipment will be available, according to Bell.

Bell added that residents should review their own hurricane plans.

“Especially with COVID, we really want people to take a hard look at what their hurricane plan is. Your previous plan might not be the best plan this year. See things through the lens of COVID to better prepare yourselves and anyone that might be a part of your hurricane plan,” Bell said.

HCEMD officials said public shelters will only be available in Horry County for Category 1 storms or below. This is a recent change that came about from lessons learned following Hurricane Michael in 2018.

Bell said a wind study of local shelter options and the Emergency Operations Center were performed to determine what wind levels were safe for those locations.

Those shelters will open one at a time as needed, and HCEMD officials said it will provide information about them as events occur.

But should Horry County see a Category 2 hurricane or stronger, county shelters will not operate and the South Carolina Emergency Management Division will evacuate people to shelters outside Horry County, according to Bell.

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