Hurricane Irma, Fort Myers, Fla.

A palm tree blows in the wind as Hurricane Irma hits in Fort Myers, Fla., on Sept. 10, 2017. The T&D Region is under a wind advisory until 2 a.m. Tuesday, meaning sustained winds of at least 40 mph, or gusts of 58 mph or stronger may occur.

AP Photo, Gerald Herbert

It was cloudy and breezy in The T&D Region on Sunday as Hurricane Irma inched up Florida’s coast.

As last-minute preparations reached their conclusion, Orangeburg County Emergency Services Director Billy Staley urged residents to take the necessary steps they need to be safe now.

Monday is a day to stay indoors.

"We really don't want people out on the roads when the winds are high and it is raining out," Staley said. "If they are concerned about staying where they are, we have four shelters open."

The Orangeburg Municipal Airport was reporting sustained winds of 20 mph with higher gusts near 30 mph on Sunday afternoon.

The region remained mostly dry through Sunday, though moisture began to creep in later.

The T&D Region is under a wind advisory from 8 a.m. Monday to 2 a.m. Tuesday.

According to the NWS, a high wind watch means sustained winds of at least 40 mph, or gusts of 58 mph or stronger may occur.

Bamberg County and southern Orangeburg County areas such as Cope, Bowman and Branchville are expected to see higher wind gusts.

There is also a chance of isolated tornadoes. These tornadoes could damage mobile homes, roofs and vehicles.

The NWS says the region can expect winds strong enough to cause scattered damage to trees, signs and outbuildings. There could also be some damage to poorly constructed mobile homes.

Power outages are also considered likely.

A portion of Orangeburg was in the dark Sunday afternoon for about 300 customers served by the Glover Street substation.

It wasn’t due to Irma, however. The outage was blamed on an individual cutting down a tree.

The area is expected to get 2 to 4 inches of rain.

The heavy rains may cause creeks and streams to rise, causing roads to become flooded and impassable, the NWS states. Homes and structures in low-lying areas possibly could flood. Minor river flooding is becoming less likely to occur.

A flash flood watch was issued for the same time period as the high wind watch. A flash flood watch means conditions may develop that lead to flash flooding.

In Calhoun County, Emergency Services Director Bill Minikiewicz said residents can expect sustained winds of 30 mph to 35 mph and gusts of 50 mph to 60 mph.

"Once the winds get to 35 mph, no first responder will go out to rescue anybody," Minikiewicz said. "That is just getting too dangerous for us to go on the road."

He encouraged those who are concerned to go to the shelter at Calhoun County High School at 150 Saints Avenue in St. Matthews.

Individuals need to bring their own sleeping bags, sheets and pillows.

"If they get stuck at home and there is not a place to go, they should shelter in place," he said.

Sheltering in place means a person goes to the interior room of their home where there are no windows and above any anticipated flood waters.

“They should have a supply of water and maybe some food to eat," he said.

He said, "Trailers are not good places to be in."

Minikiewicz encouraged individuals in mobile homes to go to a friend or family member's home that is a site built.

Bamberg County Emergency Services Director Brittany Barnwell said the Sunday afternoon forecast had Bamberg County potentially feeling a greater storm impact than either Orangeburg or Calhoun counties.

Barnwell echoed her counterparts, saying individuals should stay indoors during the height of the storm.

"They should stay calm and stay put until we are able to get an emergency official out there and take them to a shelter," she said. "I think people are heeding the warnings."

She encouraged all residents to continue to monitor the storm on social media and other news outlets.

Through Sunday afternoon, the county had yet to receive any evacuees in its sole shelter at 1980 Main Highway in Bamberg.

The following shelters are open in Orangeburg County:

• Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School, 601 Bruin Parkway, Orangeburg.

• Branchville High School, 1349 Dorange Road, Branchville.

• Lake Marion High School, 3656 Tee Vee Road, Santee.

• Hunter-Kinard-Tyler High School, 7066 Norway Road, Neeses.

Through late Sunday afternoon, there were five people in the Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School shelter. The shelter is being manned by the American Red Cross and the Department of Social Services.

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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