As Hurricane Dorian is projected to bring heavy rain and wind to the Lowcountry as early as Wednesday, leaders and emergency operations staff in Berkeley and Dorchester counties are making necessary storm preparations.
At 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Gov. Henry McMaster ordered mandatory evacuations to start at noon on Monday. Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties are included in that evacuation. State emergency officials estimated about 830,000 people live within the evacuation zones.
Interstate 26 lane reversal also commenced at noon on Monday. As of Tuesday morning, Highway Patrol said motorists could again exit from the reversed lanes and true westbound lanes onto College Park Road. Entry to I-26 from College Park Road will occur on the true westbound on-ramp, said Lance Cpl. Matt Southern.
UPDATE: Lane reversal operations on I-26 will cease at noon on Wednesday to allow crews to seek shelter if needed, according to the S.C. Department of Transportation in a post made to Twitter Tuesday evening.
McMaster has already issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency for South Carolina. The executive order enables all state agencies to coordinate resources and sets into effect the State Emergency Operations Plan. It also authorizes local emergency management agencies to begin mobilizing assets and resources ahead of any potential impact from Hurricane Dorian.
County Councils in both Dorchester and Berkeley counties each met Sunday afternoon to discuss the counties' preparedness, in case the storm makes landfall, and issue states of emergencies in each county.
According to Dorchester County officials, the county is currently operating at OPCON level 1, the highest alert level meaning the Emergency Operations Center has been fully activated.
Mario Formisano, Dorchester County Emergency Management director, the storm's current track has it brushing against the coast but not making landfall, much like Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Hurricane Dorian was recently upgraded to a Category 5 storm and is expected to be off the coast of South Carolina on Wednesday morning. On Sunday, the storm was producing 185 mph winds and moving west at 7 mph.
Jason L. Ward, Dorchester County administrator, said that Public Works was working to help prevent as much flooding as possible. The water treatment plants are working to lower their levels to manage the influx of water with the increased rain.
Dorchester County District 2 schools are closed for Tuesday September 3rd in response to mandatory evacuations ordered by the governor. This is also to allow employees and students and their families to prepare for the impact of Hurricane Dorian.
The district worked to secure exterior areas of schools on Monday. This included playground equipment and picnic tables. According to Public Information Officer Patricia Raynor the maintenance staff and facilities took all necessary precautions to prevent possible damage. Raynor also said that many of the schools in the district are not prone to flooding but sandbags were installed where there is a potential risk.
SHELTERS: On Monday, Dorchester County opened a pet-friendly shelter at DuBose Middle School, located at 1005 DuBose School Road in Summerville. Residents who feel they may need to relocate to a special medical needs shelter should call the SCDHEC triage phone line at 1-855-472-3432.
Residents evacuating to a shelter should pack minimally, bringing only the essentials i.e. bedding (blankets or sleeping bag, pillows, air mattresses or cots) personal hygiene products, a form of identification, all medications, important documents, a change of clothes, food and water for 3-4 days.
Additional shelters are on standby to open if/when the need arises. Those shelters will be announced if/when they open.
SANDBAGS: Sandbags will be handed out starting 10 a.m. on Tuesday. Residents must show a state-issued or active military ID as proof of residency and bring their own shovels and fill their own bags. Limit is 12 bags per household.
Find sandbags at the following locations:
- Gahagan Park, 184 W. Boundary Street, Summerville
- Oakbrook Middle School, 286 Old Fort Drive, Ladson
- Dubose Middle School, 1005 Dubose School Road, Summerville
- Dorchester County Courthouse, 5200 E. Jim Bilton Boulevard, St George
- Ridgeville Town Hall, 105 School Street, Ridgeville
- Harleyville Town Hall, 122 W. Main Street, Harleyville
CITIZEN CALL LINE: For all non-emergency, storm-related questions, call (843) 832-0393 or (843) 563-0393. For emergencies, call 911.
CONVENIENCE SITES: Sites will be open for normal operating hours on Tuesday. The City of North Charleston has suspended curbside collection until further notice. The Town of Summerville will pick-up the Tuesday yard debris route. After Tuesday's service, all curbside collection in the town will be suspended until further notice.
Berkeley County is also operating at OPCON level 1.
During a news conference county officials held Monday morning at Berkeley County Sheriff's Office, leaders continued to enforce the seriousness of the storm's size and uncertain path.
"A lot of uncertainty...but we know it's a big storm," said Sup. Johnny Cribb.
Also, leaders said that while Dorian had slowed overnight to just 1 mph but still encouraged residents to continue making necessary preparations and safety measures, including securing trash cans, grills and other objects that could take flight during strong winds.
"The storm has slowed down so that gives us a little bit more time to prepare," said Sheriff Duane Lewis.
Lewis also said extra deputies are being placed on shift and every shelter will have a deputy working. Residents in flood-prone areas and mobile homes, especially in locations not included in the county's mandatory evacuation zones, are urged to consider their safety, too.
"We will be doing everything we can to protect you," said Ben Almquist, the county's emergency preparedness director. "Please don't wait until you're flooded, and we can't get to you."
Schools are also being secured at this time. Schools were ordered to close once the governor ordered evacuations. Berkeley County School District Superintendent Eddie Ingram said that includes 47 schools and various other district facilities. The maintenance crews worked on Labor Day to prepare the buildings as best as they could in preparation for the storm.
The BCSD will have their Safety and Security team will be on call during the storm to assist the county in case of emergencies. The team will be available to assist in the case of situations like the need of a school to be used as a shelter.
SHELTERS: Shelters in Berkeley County will open 10 a.m. on Wednesday at the following locations:
- Westview Middle, 101 Westview Blvd., Goose Creek
- Berkeley Middle, 320 N. Live Oak Drive, Moncks Corner
- Cane Bay High (animal friendly), 1624 State Road, Summerville
- St. Stephen Elementary, 1053 Russellville Road, St. Stephen
Additionally, there will be a medical needs shelter opened. Call SCDHEC for more information at 843-472-3432.
Tri-County Link will provide transportation to shelters for those in need of it. Call the county's Citizen Call Line at 843-719-4800 to request information. The line will remain open 24/7 through the duration of the storm.
SANDBAGS: Berkeley County has distributed sandbags to local fire departments and municipalities. Residents are responsible for filling the bags, and the sand is available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
As of Tuesday morning, county officials said that more than 32,250 bags, totaling 1,000-plus tons, had been distributed to 25 different locations since Monday. Berkeley County inmates have been filling bags at sites in Hanahan, Goose Creek and Moncks Corner, sheriff's officials said.
Sandbags are available at the following locations:
- Alvin FD Station 1 - 2173 Santee River Road
- Bonneau Rural - 420 Municipal Lane
- C&B Station 1 - 509 Royal Road
- Cainhoy Station 3 - 2451 Clements Ferry Road
- City of Goose Creek - 101 Button Hall Avenue
- Cross Station 1 - 1007 Shortcut Road
- Cross Station 2 - 1776 Old Highway 6
- Cross Station 3 - 1980 Highway 6
- Forty One FD - 11135 Mandella Road
- Forty One FD - 1192 Forty One Road
- Goose Creek Rural - 907 Red Bank Road
- Hanahan - 3000 Railroad Avenue
- Jamestown FD Station 1 - 1242 French Santee Road
- Lake Moultrie FD - 942 Black Oak Road
- Longridge Station 1 - 1382 Longridge Road
- Macedonia Rural Station 1 - 2108 Highway 17A
- Pimlico Station 1 - 1607 Pimlico Boulevard
- Pimlico Station 2 - 2854 Old Highway 52
- Pineridge (Myers Road) - 565 Pine Ridge Road
- Pineridge FD Station 2 - 1046 Jedburg Road
- Pineville FD Station 2 - 2085 Highway 45
- Santee Circle - 1399 N. Hwy 52
- St. Stephen Rural FD - 124 Hood Street
- Town of Moncks Corner - 118 Carolina Avenue
- Whitesville (Sunview Station) 115 Sunview Station
CITIZEN CALL LINE: For non-emergency, storm-related questions, call (843) 719-4800. Residents can get updated information from the county’s Emergency Preparedness Department and can report issues the county should be made aware of.
ANIMAL CENTER: Berkeley Animal Center has temporarily stopped accepting animals and is closed until further notice. According to the shelter's Facebook page, all 60 cats and 45 dogs at the site have been evacuated and are in foster care. Shelter officials said after issuing a plea on social media earlier this week, community members stepped up quickly to help foster. Total, 100-plus animals have been sent to foster homes.
CONVENIENCE SITES: Berkeley County Convenience centers will close at 7 p.m. on Tuesday; the County landfill will close at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
Schools, government offices
Starting Tuesday, schools and government offices will be closed in Dorchester and Berkeley counties, until further notice. That includes Dorchester District Two, Dorchester District Four and Berkeley County School District.
Charleston Southern University has also cancelled classes, starting Monday, until further notice. Also cancelled are all athletic events, campus activities and campus visits, school officials said. CSU has also issued a mandatory evacuation for resident students by 4 p.m. on Monday.
Students without an evacuation plan are urged to talk to their Resident Assistants as soon as possible or stop by the housing office, located at Russell West 126, at 8 a.m. on Monday. Students won't be allowed on campus until they're notified it's been reopened.
Students are asked to use Blackboard to keep up with assignments, and to monitor Buc Alerts, CSU social media and the school's website. Find emergency procedures online. For all CSU updates regarding Dorian, visit charlestonsouthern.edu/news.
Town of Summerville
The Town of Summerville's courts, parks and offices closed at 8 a.m. on Tuesday and will remain closed until further notice.
Cases scheduled for court during the time town offices are closed will be rescheduled to the officer's next court date. Those impacted can leave a voicemail with the town at (843) 871-6000 to verify and update their address with their name and case number.
Crews will pump water out of ponds in the Gadsden Estates and Arbor Oaks neighborhoods to help prevent flooding ahead of potential impacts from Hurricane Dorian.
Stay with journalscene.com as this story develops.