| Credit: National Hurricane Center

Updated, 5 p.m., Aug. 29, 2023  | S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster this afternoon declared a state of emergency ahead of the expected Wednesday arrival of Hurricane Idalia, now churning toward Florida in the Gulf of Mexico

“Although South Carolina may avoid the worst of Hurricane Idalia’s impacts, this state of emergency is issued out of an abundance of caution to ensure that we have the necessary resources in place to respond to flooding events and are able to respond quickly if the forecast worsens,” McMaster said this afternoon in a statement. 

“Now is the time for South Carolinians to begin making proper preparations, and everyone should begin actively monitoring official sources for the most up-to-date information – especially those along our coast and in low-lying areas.” 

The order directs the S.C. Emergency Management Division to coordinate with state agencies and to be prepared to respond to any requests for state assistance from local officials and county emergency management leaders.

Idalia, which became a hurricane overnight, is expected to cross into Florida early Wednesday.  By Wednesday evening, South Carolina may experience high winds, heavy rain, flash flooding, flooding from storm surge and isolated tornadoes.

Some tips to be safe, according to the governor’s office:

  • Make sure everyone in your family knows what to do in an emergency.
  • Storm surge flooding can be compounded by heavy rainfall. If you’re in a low-lying area or area normally prone to flooding, make sure your emergency plan includes flood precautions.
  • Know where to go if conditions become too unsafe to remain in your home.
  • Do not drive into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely. 
  • Create an emergency plan by visiting scemd.org.
  • Have an emergency kit with items such as bottled water, non-perishable food, flashlights with extra batteries, and chargers for your mobile devices. Refer to the preparedness checklists at Hurricane.SC
  • Bring pets inside and include items for your pets in your emergency kit.

Schools to close early

Updated, 2:55 p.m., Aug. 29, 2023 | As Hurricane Idalia continues to bear down on South Carolina, Lowcountry schools are falling back on pandemic-era contingencies to keep students and staff safe without losing crucial education days. 

All Charleston County School District (CCSD) schools and offices will have a half day on Wednesday. They will have an e-Learning and remote-work day on Thursday. School and district buildings will be closed Thursday. 

CCSD officials have canceled Kaleidoscope and all other extracurricular activities and after-school programs scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.The Constituent District 3 community meeting for James Island, normally held at the James Island Middle School campus, is also canceled.

Pending conditions, high school athletics events Thursday with an arrival time no earlier than 3:30 p.m. are still being held. 

Berkeley County School District (BCSD) schools will also follow half-day dismissals on Wednesday with E-learning and remote-work days on Thursday. All schools and offices will be closed on Thursday and resume operations as normal on Friday. 

BCSD before- and after-school programs, activities and athletics events are canceled for Wednesday and Thursday. 
Dorchester School District 2 and 4 schools and offices will be closed all day Wednesday and Thursday. Schools will follow e-learning and remote-work days, and all extracurricular and after-school programs are canceled. — Skyler Baldwin

City of Charleston is prepping for storm

Updated, 11:35 a.m., Aug. 29, 2023  |  The city of Charleston is handing out sandbags, opening parking garages, closing offices and blocking roads that may flood.  Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg says the city is taking aggressive steps to prepare because the storm is anticipated to hit Charleston Wednesday night when the area is likely to experience a higher-than-normal king tide of nearly 8 feet.

“While it’s still too soon to know exactly what Idalia’s local impacts may be, with heavy rain, winds and King tides expected, we’ve begun making preparations here in the city,” Tecklenburg said. “Citizens are encouraged to do the same, and to continue monitoring local media for the latest news and public information announcements regarding the storm.”

Charleston will be giving away sand and bags Tuesday across three locations, along with other surrounding cities and counties offering more sand in other locations. Charleston will also open six parking garages starting 1 p.m. on Wednesday at the following locations: 

  • Aquarium Parking Garage, 24 Calhoun St.
  • Visitor’s Center Garage, 63 Mary St.
  • Queen Street Parking Garage, 93 Queen St.
  • East Bay/Prioleau Parking Garage, 25 Prioleau St.
  • 99 Westedge St. Parking Garage
  • Charleston Tech Center, 4 Conroy St.

Safety officials are also taking steps to protect beachside communities from the effects of Hurricane Idalia, expecting high winds, heavy rainfall and high tides. Representatives from Isle of Palms and Folly Beach are working to reduce damage to the coastline. — Michael Pham

Communications tips to prepare for the storm

AT&T suggested that residents consider the following tips to safeguard their communications during the storm:

  • Save your smartphone’s battery life. In case of a power outage, extend your device’s battery life by putting it in power-save mode, turning off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, deleting apps, or putting your phone in Airplane Mode. This may prevent you from using certain features, but will ultimately save battery power.
  • Keep your mobile devices charged. Be sure to have another way to charge your smartphone if the power goes out.
  • Try texting versus calling. Because it requires fewer network resources, text messages may go through more quickly than voice calls.
  • Keep your mobile devices dry. Mobile phones can be a critical lifeline during a storm. To protect yours, store it in a water-resistant case, floating waterproof case or plastic bag. A car charger or back-up battery pack can come in handy. 
  • Back up important information and protect vital documents. Back up insurance papers, medical information and the like to the Cloud or your computer. With cloud storage, you can access your data from any connected device.
  • Have a family communications plan. Choose someone out of the area as a central contact in case your family is separated. Most importantly, practice your emergency plan in advance.
  • Store emergency contacts in your mobile phone. Numbers should include the police department, fire station, hospital, and family members.
  • Forward your home number to your mobile number in the event of an evacuation. Because call forwarding is based out of the telephone central office, you will get calls from your landline phone even if your local telephone service is down. If the central office is not operational, services like voicemail and call forwarding may be useful.
  • Take advantage of the camera on your smartphone. Be sure to use the camera on your phone to take, store and send photos and video clips of any damage to your insurance company.
  • Use location-based technology. These services can help you find evacuation routes and track a lost family member’s mobile phone.
  • Be prepared for high call volume and keep non-emergency calls to a minimum. If there is severe weather, chances are many people will be attempting to place calls at the same time.

Forecast shows Wednesday landfall in Florida

Updated, 7:45 a.m., Aug. 29, 2023  |  The storm known as Idalia morphed overnight into a hurricane.  It’s quickly approaching the Florida coast and is expected to make landfall Wednesday morning. It then will turn northeast to threaten southern Georgia and the South Carolina coast. 

Forecasters say Idalia should lose some of its punch after it hits land, but it is expected to pack tropical storm force winds and heavy rains when it makes it to South Carolina by late Wednesday or early Thursday.  A tropical storm watch currently is in effect for the Georgia and lower South Carolina coasts, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Tropical storm force winds are expected midday Wednesday along the South Carolina coast.

Idalia should move quickly through the Lowcountry and be centered off the North Carolina coast by midday Thursday, according to a forecast.  

“The stage is set for Idalia to rapidly intensify before landfall,” the latest forecast said. “Shear should continue to lower over the cyclone as an upper-level trough departs the northeastern Gulf of Mexico and ridging builds closer to the cyclone.  These changes, combined with extremely warm and deep waters the hurricane will be traversing, all strongly point to rapid intensification.  

“The new forecast is similar to the previous one, and confidence is increasing in an extremely dangerous major hurricane making landfall Wednesday along the west coast or Big Bend region of Florida.”

The forecast warned of heavy rainfall as well as flash flooding and urban flooding “across portions of the west coast of Florida, the Florida Panhandle and southern Georgia beginning today 

into Wednesday, spreading into portions of the eastern Carolinas Wednesday into Thursday.” — Andy Brack

Get ready for the weather

Follow these links to read the City Paper’s emergency kit checklist and safety tips for hurricane preparedness and Charleston County’s 2023 Hurricane Guide.

This is a developing story.  Come back for more updates and information.

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