Barnwell County residents urged to plan and prepare in advance of Hurricane Irma's potential impact

Governor Henry McMaster today issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency and, along with the S.C. Emergency Management Division, has urged South Carolinians to prepare for the possibility of Hurricane Irma impacting the state. The executive order enables all state agencies to coordinate resources in preparation for Hurricane Irma, which is currently a category five hurricane. Forecasters believe Irma could affect the east coast of the United States in the coming days.

“The state of emergency allows one of the best, most experienced emergency response teams in the entire world to begin organizing response efforts,” said Gov. Henry McMaster. “South Carolina is fortunate to have time to allow us to prepare for Hurricane Irma’s potential landfall, and it is important that families and individuals in vulnerable areas use that time to review safety plans in case they are needed.”

People in potentially vulnerable areas should review personal safety plans, become familiar with local evacuation zones in coastal counties and locate the nearest hurricane evacuation routes. This information is detailed in the 2017 S.C. Hurricane Guide, currently available at all Walgreen’s stores statewide, at all rest areas along interstates and for download at scemd.org.

Members of the state’s Emergency Response Team will begin reviewing plans and notifying response staff should they be needed. SCEMD Director Kim Stenson continues conference calls with county emergency managers, SERT agencies and local National Weather Service offices. The agencies on these coordination calls share information and discuss emergency plans in advance of any response to the storm.

“It’s too soon to rule out any possibilities,” Stenson said “Hurricane Irma is a dangerous storm and its projected path could put South Carolina in harm’s way. Fortunately, people in South Carolina have time. While we hope we never see a hurricane head our way, we all need prepare for the possible effects.”

The Emergency Management Division has increased operational readiness to Condition 4. OPCON 4 is the next highest response level above normal, day-to-day activities, and emergency managers make initial preparations for the possibility of any hazardous situations. Select personnel from SCEMD’s Operations and Preparedness sections continue to monitor Hurricane Irma from the State Emergency Operations Center in West Columbia.

Local preparations

Locally, Hurricane Irma preparations are underway at Barnwell County's Emergency Operations Center. A meeting of EOC leadership gathered Wednesday morning to get an update on the storm and what could be expected over the next week.

Residents are asked to start their preparations now including getting groceries, gasoline and medical supplies laid in. If shelters are opened later this week and residents plan to evacuate, "don't wait" as they could fill up with evacuees.

"This is a massive storm and we will get some impact," warned EM Director Roger Riley. "The time to plan and prepare is now."

The storm is expected to reach Florida by Saturday and move northward although the exact track is unknown.

SCDOT Activates Storm Resources Web Page

The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) has activated a Hurricane Irma page on the agency’s website, www.scdot.org, to provide one location for online resources to help motorists cope with the storm.

The site features evacuation routes, road closings on an interactive map, the SCDOT 511 Traveler System, storm reports, press releases, social media messaging and links to other state and federal agencies.

Gas and fuel

Gas prices jumped 20 cents in Barnwell on Wednesday in anticipation of the storm.

Supplies seem to be good locally but may become strained as evacuees move through, said Riley.

He suggested locals to top off their vehicles well in advance of the weekend.

Price gouging

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson announced today that the state’s law against price gouging is now in effect, since Gov. Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency.

“With the possibility that Hurricane Irma could make landfall in South Carolina, our people have already started making preparations. We can expect normal price increases, but we may see businesses and individuals looking to unfairly take advantage of the situation through price gouging of food, gasoline, lodging, and other commodities as defined by the statute. By our law, that’s a criminal violation and an unfair trade practice,” Wilson said.

The price gouging law (SC §39-5-145) is a general prohibition of unconscionable prices during times of disaster. It is in effect for the next 15 days. Price gougers can be charged for excessive pricing, a misdemeanor offense punishable with a $1,000 fine and/or 30 days in jail.

If you feel like you are the victim of price gouging there are certain steps that you can take to help our office investigate. Please do the following:

1. Note the time, place, address, and name of the gas station

2. Note the price you paid

3. Note any prices nearby and get the same information on those stations

4. Take pictures that identify the station, along with the price

5. Provide your name and contact information

 The AG’s office will need that information in order to conduct a thorough investigation. Please email any examples or documentation to pricegouging@scag.gov or call 803-737-3953 and leave a message if you have witnessed a likely violation.