Dorian thankfully a no show
by The Press and Standard | September 12, 2019 5:00 am
Last Updated: September 11, 2019 at 9:39 am
Life in Colleton County returned to normal on Sept. 6.
The havoc officials and residents had feared from Hurricane Dorian never materialized.
Colleton County Fire-Rescue Chief Barry McRoy pondered the 10-mile difference.
If Dorian had passed Colleton County 10 miles closer to the shoreline, McRoy said, county residents would have experienced a much more perilous outcome.
For example, he said, as Hurricane Dorian made its way by Colleton County, it was forecast that the county could see about 15 inches of rain.
Instead, he pointed out, the county saw less than two inches of rain.
A few hours after Hurricane Dorian passed by, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster issued an executive order lifting the evacuation orders for Colleton, Beaufort and Jasper counties.
The end of the evacuation order meant that Colleton County and Walterboro governmental offices could get back to work on Sept. 6.
The Colleton County School System had cancelled classes when McMaster issued his evacuation order. The schools remained closed on Sept. 6.
The evacuation shelter set up at Colleton County High School remained in operation until 3 p.m. on Sept. 6 and keeping the schools closed on Friday gave school district officials time to check on all the school buildings. It also gave any district employees and students who had evacuated the area more time to return home.
The county’s Emergency Operations Center, which had been in operation since the evacuation order was given, went to OpCon 3 (normal operations) and closed at 11 a.m. on Sept. 6.
Reports of the possible size and strength of Hurricane Dorian, bolstered by video of the devastation the hurricane had caused in the Bahamas, resulted in abundance of caution by both officials and residents.
The emergency shelter operated by the Red Cross, had 119 people take up temporary residency at the high school gym. Another six people were housed in the Special Medical Needs evacuation shelter, which closed at 10 a.m. on Sept. 8.
Assisting the Red Cross personnel in operation of the emergency shelter were representatives of S.C. Department of Social Services, Colleton County Sheriff’s Office, Colleton County Fire-Rescue and S.C. Law Enforcement Division.
When the readiness status reached OPCON-1, the staff of the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office switched into high gear.
Deputies were working 16-hour shifts. “This is normal during this time and status,” Shalane Lowes, the sheriff office’s public information spokesperson.
The deputies’ primary assignments are property security, life safety checks and traffic safety management.
Many of them were out on the roadways armed with chainsaws.
Three deputies spent four hours clearing away downed trees that were limiting traffic on Bennetts Point Road.
“They were only able to travel as far as the eight-mile marker, clearing as they went,” Lowes said. “They lost count of how many trees they removed because there were so many.”
She added that due to the size of some of the trees, the deputies needed additional manpower with bigger machines. S.C. Department of Transportation and Dominion Energy crews arrived to provide the additional manpower and equipment.
Deputies were also on tree removal duty on Green Pond Highway for a shorter period, assisting SCDOT and Dominion Energy in clearing the road for safe travels.
While trees did block some roadways, Lowes added, none of roadways in the county were closed due to high water.
“Everything went according to plan,” Lowes advised.
A National Guard unit from Beaufort County delivered a truckload of cots to the high school. Members of the sheriff’s office and Fire-Rescue assisted them in unloading the truck and then put the cots together. The cots will be staying in Colleton County, placed in storage until the next weather emergency reopens the shelter.
Although the sheriff’s office, SLED and Fire-Rescue’s main role at the shelter was to provide security, the local safety forces dedicated part of their time at the shelter to keep the large number of children staying at the shelter entertained.
McRoy said the school district, one of a multitude of governmental and business organizations that has a seat at the table in the Emergency Operations Center, had its cafeteria staff preparing meals for those staying at the shelter.
In addition to the usual officials working out of the Emergency Operation Center last week in response to Hurricane Dorian, the U.S. Coast Guard and S.C. Law Enforcement Division staffed the center.
Keeping the officials working at the Emergency Operations Center and the first responders working the storm fed was the responsibility of the staff of The Restaurant at Dogwood Hills Golf Course.
McRoy said that the county introduced two new facets of their emergency operations for Hurricane Dorian.
In the on-going effort to get vital information out to residents, the EOC expanded its use of social media by uploading video reports of preparations for the approach of the hurricane to uTube.
Hurricane Dorian was also the first time the county had a pet shelter available to residents.
McRoy said the emergency planners wanted the pet shelter to be close to the emergency shelter at the high school.
School officials, understandably, did not want the family pet shelter inside the school building. That problem was solved when the school district approved installing a storage building near the high school tennis courts.
Once the building was up, the interior walls were insulated and a linoleum floor was installed for easy cleanup. Operating the pet shelter was the responsibility of Laura Clark of the Colleton County Animal Services and veterinarian Dr. Lori Campbell.