Local emergency management officials spent Tuesday checking equipment and planning as Hurricane Matthew churned closer.

"We are monitoring the system very closely," Orangeburg County Emergency Services Director Billy Staley said Tuesday evening.

"The track has continued to shift to the west and we are anticipating subtle shifts of the track over the next couple of days. We are geared up for the response,” he said.

County officials spent most of Tuesday planning to support the anticipated evacuation of the coast. Gov. Nikki Haley could decide to evacuate an estimated 1.1 million on Wednesday.

The Orangeburg County Emergency Operations Center moved to OPCON 3 on Tuesday evening. OPCON 3 indicates a disaster or emergency situation is likely or imminent.

County offices will be closed from 12:30 p.m. tomorrow thru Saturday, Oct. 8, with supporting personnel reporting as needed.

The monster hurricane is forecast to track along the South Carolina coast Friday into Saturday.

The T&D Region can expect to see an increase in moisture and windy conditions Friday into Saturday.

Currently, there is a 70 percent chance of showers Friday and Friday night, decreasing to a 50 percent chance Saturday. Windy conditions are also forecast for the area Friday into Saturday.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Chris Rohrbach said Tuesday afternoon there is increasing certainty about the storm's track.

"The eastern Midlands are expected to have the strongest winds and the most rains from the storm, including the Orangeburg area," Rohrbach said. "Generally, we are expecting for the western portion of the county to have about 3 inches of rainfall."

Rohrbach said for the Orangeburg area and eastern portion of the county, such as in Holly Hill, could see up to four to six inches of rain.

"We will see that rainfall begin on Thursday afternoon and Thursday night," he said.

Rohrbach said the main wind threat for the area will be on Friday and Saturday, with sustained winds between 30 mph and 40 mph.

As far as tornadoes, Rohrbach said there “is a very low threat.”

"Our confidence is not very high at this time," he said. "Anything will be isolated."

Orangeburg Department of Public Utilities spokesman Randy Etters said Tuesday all the utility’s divisions were taking an inventory of supplies.

"All divisions have the responsibility to support the electric division," Etters said. "We are going to err on the side of caution. We will have everything we need in place if it does impact us."

"Only the man upstairs knows where this will go," Etters said. "He is in charge."

The storm has already prompted local school closures, as well as the cancellation of sporting events.

Interstate 26 through the county will be reversed beginning at 3 p.m. Wednesday. Citizens should anticipate heavy traffic on all the evacuation routes through Friday, Staley said.

To accommodate the expected coastal traffic, Orangeburg County emergency shelters will open at 3 p.m. Wednesday based on evacuation orders made by the state.

Staley said Orangeburg County can expect to see evacuees from Charleston, Berkeley, Dorchester and possibly Colleton counties.

The shelters will include Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School at 601 Bruin Parkway, Orangeburg; Hunter-Kinard-Tyler High School at 7066 Norway Road, Neeses; Elloree Elementary School at 200 Warrior Drive, Elloree; and Bethune-Bowman High School, 4857 Charleston Highway, Rowesville.

Calhoun County

Calhoun County Emergency Services Director Bill Minikiewicz said the county was busy checking equipment and generators Tuesday.

Essential county employees have been contacted. They will most likely help with shelters and managing phones at the county's emergency operations center during the storm.

"We are not right on the coast, so we don't expect to have hurricane-force winds," Minikiewicz said. "We may have tropical storm force winds with gusts up to 50 miles per hour."

In the worst-case scenario, local residents in manufactured homes should consider staying with a person in a sturdy shelter, he said.

Individuals should make sure they have an emergency kit in place as well as extra food, water, medicine and cash.

"Check on your neighbors, especially for those who are invalids or elderly with medical conditions," Minikiewicz said.

The county will be ready to open shelters. There are three: Calhoun County High School, St. Matthews K-8 and Sandy Run K-8 School.

The South Carolina Department of Social Services and the American Red Cross are responsible for manning the shelters, Minikiewicz said.

Minikiewicz said the only road reversed in Calhoun County will be Interstate 26, though motorists can expect heavy traffic on all U.S. and state routes in the county including U.S. 176, U.S. 21 and S.C. Highway 6.

Minikiewicz encouraged everyone to stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary.

Bamberg County

Bamberg County Emergency Services Director Brittany M. Barnwell said, "When traffic starts flowing we will open shelters." That is expected to be after 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Barnwell said traffic is expected to come from the Charleston, Beaufort and Hilton Head areas.

"We are coordinating with the Red Cross and everybody to get these (shelters) manned," Barnwell said.

The shelters in Bamberg County include Bamberg-Ehrhardt High School, Denmark High School and Ghents Branch Baptist Church in Denmark.

"We want everyone to get prepared," she said. "Make sure you have plenty of water and plenty of food stored. Also fill up your car with gas."

Barnwell hesitated to speculate on the storm's impact.

"I want to say it will be pretty bad, but hurricanes tend to do what they want to do," she said. "We are waiting to see what happens."

Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD

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Business Reporter

Gene Zaleski is a reporter/staff writer with The Times and Democrat.

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