Coastal communities adjust severe storm preparations amid pandemic

VIDEO: Coastal communities adjust severe storm preparations amid pandemic

FOLLY BEACH S.C. (WCSC) - As the pandemic presses on in South Carolina and Tropical Storm Isaias forms south of Florida, leaders in coastal cities across the Lowcountry are making sure storm preparations also match COVID-19 precautions.

“We have been through the drill of hurricanes year after year after year, forever,” Isle of Palms mayor Jimmy Carroll said. “Now, we’ve got this new, unprecedented pandemic that has added some thing where we have to use the CDC guidelines.”

During severe storms, all hands are on deck.

That means certain city staff including first respondents have to stay in their station during the storm.

Andrew Gilreath, Folly Beach director of public safety, said that could mean up to 35 people housed during the storm.

“One of the biggest concerns with COVID is making sure that we can have people spread out, have enough room to put people,” Gilreath said. “We are a 24 hour operation. So the key is with feeding and housing, making sure they were also doing that safely and making sure we are good to go as far as COVID protocols.”

Gilreath said there will be no changes to response protocols. Fire and police will be sent out to calls during storms until they're told otherwise for safety.

Carroll said agencies on Isle of Palms are also adjusting their hurricane preparations to incorporate more social distancing during long storms.

But Carroll says there's another challenge beyond COVID-19 facing the Isle of Palms' police department this hurricane season.

“To add insult to injury on the Isle of Palms, our public safety building down on front beach is being refurbished...so our police and fire are working out of trailers out of the side of the building,” Caroll said. “We have got them strapped down I think to about a hurricane category too. But beyond that we may have to take the trailers off the island if it became worse.”

Carroll said leaders in beach towns across the Lowcountry are paying attention to the path of Tropical Storm Isaias and working with county officials to be prepared throughout the season.

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