THE ISSUE: 25th anniversary of “storm of the century”; OUR OPINION: Red Cross provided major assistance then and is always expected to be there

Everyone who lived through South Carolina’s “storm of the century” has memories. Five years ago tonight, South Carolinians were living the great storm.

Daylight on Sept. 22, 1989, is a time to be remembered forever. The destruction was so vast — and there were so many blessings to be counted despite it all.

Inside today’s Times and Democrat, you’ll find special coverage of Hurricane Hugo in Section C. You’ll get to revisit images from the storm and read about people who were on the front lines of preparedness, recovery and relief. Twenty-five years later, the stories remain compelling.

Important on this Hugo anniversary is awareness that South Carolina remains a primary target for nature’s greatest storms. And while the state has been fortunate not to experience a hurricane of Hugo’s magnitude since 1989, and fortunate in general that comparatively few hurricanes have done major damage in the state since that time, history tells us it is just a matter of time before we must deal with a Hugo-type storm again.

The South Carolina Emergency Management Division estimates that a storm of similar intensity on the same path as Hugo could potentially require the evacuation of 1.2 million people, cause more than $16.6 billion in damages and destroy more than 21,000 homes statewide today.

And while Hugo’s lessons and technology have led to the state being better prepared, the fact is that only so much can be done before a storm hits. The aftermath will remain a major ordeal.

In 1989 in The T&D Region and elsewhere, the American Red Cross was a major player in providing shelters before, during and after the storm, and allo manner of relief assistance to those in need for weeks after the storm.

The same would be expected today. When disaster hits, the Red Cross is there, but it needs help to ensure just that.

Thus on this Hugo anniversary, the American Red Cross is launching a statewide campaign called Prepare SC to better prepare communities for disasters and to create a stronger, more resilient South Carolina.

“We live in the most disaster-prone state in the mid-Atlantic,” says Louise Welch Williams, regional CEO of Palmetto SC Region, American Red Cross. “Preparation is the best protection against the dangers of a hurricane and other disasters.”

And hurricanes are not the only threat. The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources reports that between 1990 and 2013, the annual average of tornadoes was 29 per year in South Carolina.

The Red Cross responds to a disaster every 84 minutes in South Carolina and touches more than 200,000 lives in the state’s communities every year.

The goals of Prepare SC are to better prepare South Carolinians and to strengthen the Red Cross’ capacity to respond to major disasters. They include:

* Increase the number of people trained in preparedness form 19,000 to 38,000.

* Train 100,000 people in lifesaving first aid, CPR and AED skills.

* Increase the number of volunteers recruited and trained for disaster response from 3,000 to 7,000.

* Increase community capacity to distribute and serve meals from 150,000 to 300,000 per day.

This effort will only be possible with the support of corporate and individual donors, Williams says. “We are asking everyone to join us on Sept. 21 and 22 in supporting the Prepare SC campaign by texting REDCROSS at 90999 to donate $10 or by donating online at www.RedCross.org/preparesc.” Red Cross is asking businesses to become Prepare SC partners by calling Dick Miller at 843-764-2323 x 366.

Assisting the Red Cross would be an ideal way to say “thank you” again for the help during Hugo 25 years ago and to help ensure the private organization will be there again when needed.

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