Marlboro County Emergency Management officials are planning for the worst as tropical storm force winds from Hurricane Florence arrive Thursday.
“This storm is projected to hit the coast of North Carolina as a category four,” said Steve Akers, director of Marlboro County E911/Emergency Management. “Our main goal is personal safety.”
Akers spoke during the Hurricane Florence emergency response planning meeting Tuesday.
Marlboro County, along with the American Red Cross, Dept. of Social Services, and the Marlboro County School District opened a shelter for evacuees at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Blenheim Elementary Middle School.
Individuals seeking shelter were reminded to bring medications they may need as well as a comfortable pillow.
Items not allowed are alcoholic beverages, firearms, and other weapons.
Pets are allowed and will be provided a separate area of the shelter but must be kept in a carrier and the owner must provide food for the pet as well. Volunteers from the Humane Society will be there to assist with this part of the shelter.
Right now, Akers said, this is the only shelter they plan to open. If there is a flood event, Marlboro County High School will be used.
If an additional shelter is needed for evacuees, this can be opened at Wallace Elementary Middle School.
The Emergency Operations Center will open at 8 a.m. Thursday. It will include representatives from Bennettsville Fire Department, Bennettsville Police Department, Marlboro Sheriff’s Office, Bennettsville Public Works, County Public Works, Department of Social Services, American Red Cross, county fire and EMS.
Akers said the county is not projected to get an enormous amount of rain (according to Monday’s forecast).
“It is maybe four or five inches of rain over the next four or five days,” he said. A change in course early Wednesday morning may alter that prediction.
In response to heavy winds, Bennettsville and county public works, fire and EMS will suspend response when winds are 50 mph and higher for the safety of the rescue workers.
Since there isn’t a hospital in the county, routes such as 15/401, S.C. 9, S.C. 38 and S.C. 381 are priorities for highway clearance in the events of trees falling down.
“Our priorities are going to be those main roads first,” Akers said. “The secondary and dirt roads will be addressed in a prioritized way.
Marlboro County residents are encouraged to closely monitor the latest forecasts on Hurricane Florence.
Officials encouraged people to take time now to put together emergency kits and put a plan in place for their family and pets.
Bennettsville City Administrator Max Alderman noted even if the county escaped flooding in the area, the heavy rains in the Pee Dee reservoir could result in flooding for Crooked Creek.
At Monday’s city council workshop, Bennettsville Fire and Police Departments announced that they have an evacuation plan in place to go door-to-door in the Shady Rest area to let residents know the shelter at BEMS is available.
Throughout the storm, the Herald-Advocate will continue to provide updated information on our website (www.heraldadvocate.com) and on our Facebook page.