Tri-County officials: 'Don't let your guard down'

VIDEO: Tri-County leaders urge caution ahead of storm

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Tri-County officials urged people Thursday to prepare for heavy weather conditions within the next 72 hours.

"The weather conditions will change significantly over the next 72 hours," Charleston County Emergency Management Director Jason Patno said. "And we want to encourage residents to relocate or evacuate if they haven't already done so, and remind you that once those heavy rains pick up, our public safety representatives will not be able to respond to your calls for assistance."

Patno said they are encouraging people to stay off the roadways and avoid standing water, adding they are expecting flooding from heavy rains in the Charleston area.

"If you see standing water, do not try to drive through that water," Patno said.

Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten said most hurricane-related deaths are caused by drowning.

"We know historically and statistically that most fatalities involved with hurricanes are the result of flooding, not wind, not other things but flooding and that's what we're looking for and anticipating is a real possibility," she said.

Residents should not call 911 unless they have a life-threatening situation. He said 911 operators will not be able to answer questions or respond to reports of power outages. Instead, power outages should be reported directly to your power provider.

North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey said those who don't evacuate should not leave their homes because that makes it difficult for first responders to find them.

"You need to understand our great first responders once wind speeds get up to 45 miles per hour cannot respond because of safety conditions," Summey said.

"It's certainly still a dangerous storm," Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said. "We're expecting over the next 72 hours some wind. I think our biggest concern in the city and low lying areas is the amount of rain we might receive and the kind of flooding that can result in that."

On Thursday night, Charleston City Council passed four emergency ordinances authorizing the mayor to prohibit price gauging, block access to impassable streets and areas and, only if necessary, to implement a curfew, city spokesperson Cameron Wolfsen said.

The mayor has no intention to enact a curfew at this time and would only do so if required by circumstances, Wolfsen said.

Patno also brought up a frequently-asked question about bridges.

"Bridges will not close during a hurricane," he said. "Two conditions are issued by our law enforcement officials. Those conditions are Condition Yellow, when wind speeds reach 30 miles per hour, and we advise that high-profile vehicles, box trucks, big vans, tractor trailers, stay off of those bridges. And when sustained winds reach 40 miles per hour on the bridges, we issue a Condition Red and then we advise that nobody drive on those bridges because it is not safe to do so."

South Carolina Highway Patrol Sgt. Bob Beres said the I-26 lane reversal will end at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester County and Charleston and North Charleston city leaders held the news briefing at the Charleston County Emergency Operations Center Thursday afternoon. That's where staff representing local, state and federal agencies are working together to keep tabs on Florence.

The three counties are operating at OPCON 1, the maximum preparedness level.

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