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Horry County, MB declare state of emergency as Florence regains hurricane status

Myrtle Beach Mayor addresses Hurricane Florence

Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune issued a state of emergency for the city in preparation for potential effects from Hurricane Florence.
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Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune issued a state of emergency for the city in preparation for potential effects from Hurricane Florence.

With Hurricane Florence on the move and strengthening, Horry County and the City of Myrtle Beach declared a state of emergency shortly after an operating level upgrade Sunday, adopting “ordinances to meet public emergencies affecting life, health, safety or the property of the people in our area,” according to a press release.

The declaration will remain in effect for 60 days unless terminated by county council.

Earlier in the day, Horry and Georgetown counties elevated their operating levels to OPCON3, meaning that they deem Hurricane Florence, now a Category 1 storm but projected to strengthen to a major hurricane, to be a significant threat to the areas. OPCON3 also means that a disaster or emergency situation is likely or imminent.

Both counties upgraded from OPCON4 to OPCON3 at noon Sunday, shortly after Florence regained hurricane status. Under OPCON3, county officials will be in continual discussion with South Carolina Emergency Management personnel as further details of the storm’s track come into focus.

The City of Conway also upgraded to OPCON3 status and issued a state of emergency, according to news releases. The City of North Myrtle Beach called a special meeting for 2 p.m. Monday to consider issuing a state of emergency, a release states.

During a press briefing Sunday, S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster urged South Carolinians to prepare for a “strong hit,” cautioning that a hurricane is coming our way while telling folks to “pretend, assume, presume that a major hurricane is going to hit South Carolina. Be prepared. Be ready.” The governor issued a state of emergency Saturday.

McMaster also announced that he’s submitted to President Donald Trump a request for a federal emergency declaration, which, if approved, would make state and local agencies eligible to receive reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for some costs related to actions taken during and after the storm.

It was also announced that 2,702 National Guard, State Guard, SLED, DPS, PPP and local law enforcement personnel are on standby and ready for duty.

With state officials preparing for significant impact from the storm, it is yet to be seen how Florence will affect school schedules. Horry County Schools said via a press release that it is continuing to monitor forecasts for the hurricane and will adjust accordingly as further details become available.

“HCS is mindful that a change in a school schedule creates changes in schedules for all of our families, and we are committed to providing as much notice as possible,” the release states.

If a mandatory evacuation is ordered, 12 Horry County schools could open as shelters within hours of the order, the release says. A listing of shelters can be found on the Horry County website.

Any school closures, early dismissals or delays will be communicated through the district’s website, the HCS app, email and telephone notification systems, and social media pages, the release advises.

Coastal Carolina University and Horry-Georgetown Technical College said via press releases that they are monitoring the storm and that their emergency management teams were planning to meet Sunday night to further evaluate plans for the coming week.

Should respective operating levels change to OPCON2, an evacuation order would be imminent, and an OPCON1 act would mean an evacuation order is in effect, according to Horry County.

A loop of NOAA satellite imagery shows Tropical Storm Florence heading toward the Carolinas followed by Isaac and Helene. Florence could hit the Carolinas as a major hurricane as early as Wednesday.

David Wetzel: @MYBSports, 843-626-0295

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