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Hurricane Sally to bring rain to region

Hurricane Sally is expected to bring rain to The T&D Region later this week, according to the National Weather Service.

The slow-moving storm is forecast to make landfall along the Gulf Coast on Wednesday. It will then slowly weaken and begin moving northeast.

The storm is expected to be significantly weakened by the time it reaches The T&D Region, although it could pose a rain and flooding risk.

It could bring 2 to 3 inches of rain to the region through Saturday. The National Weather Service says there’s no more than a 10 percent chance of flash flooding for the region.

SC urges owners to lower dam levels ahead of Hurricane Sally

COLUMBIA (AP) — South Carolina environmental officials are urging owners and operators of reservoirs across the state to be ready to handle potentially heavy rainfall in the coming days as Hurricane Sally makes landfall and drenches inland areas.

High temperatures are expected to be around 80 degrees this week, with lows around 70. Friday night’s low is expected to dip around 63, with Saturday’s high temperature forecast at 71 degrees.

Hurricane Sally threatens Gulf Coast with a slow drenching

WAVELAND, Miss. — Hurricane Sally, one of four storms churning simultaneously in the Atlantic, closed in on the Gulf Coast on Monday with rapidly strengthening winds of at least 100 mph and the potential for up to 2 feet (0.6 meters) of rain that could bring severe flooding.

There’s a 50 percent chance of rain Wednesday, rising to 80 percent on Thursday. Friday and Saturday will see about a 50 percent chance of rain.


Local
alert top story
Bamberg County Council
Bamberg County administrator’s contract extended; council clashes over extra year for Preston

BAMBERG - A divided Bamberg County Council voted to renew the contract of County Administrator Joey R. Preston on Monday night, but it was not before a noisy debate sprinkled with insults and expletives.

Council voted to renew Preston's contract with a one-year extension to run from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022.

Councilmen Trent Kinard, Joe Guess Jr., Evert Comer Jr., Larry Haynes and the Rev. Isaiah Odom voted to approve the contract renewal.

Council Chairwoman Sharon Hammond and Councilman Clint Carter voted against it.

Prior to the vote, Hammond stated that she could not take any action on the contract renewal item because she didn't have any information on it.

Bamberg County urges residents to complete census

BAMBERG – U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham announced that the U.S. Census Bureau will stop data collection for the 2020 Census on Sept. 30, 2020, a month earlier than the previously announced Oct. 31 deadline. This shortened time frame will negatively impact the accurate counting of historically underrepresented groups such as minorities and rural residents. With fewer than 50% of Bamberg County households responding to the 2020 Census, it is imperative that the county response rate accurately reflect the county’s population to ensure the county receives its share of federal funding.

"Right now we're not taking this item up. I'm not taking any action on this item. I don't know anything about it. We haven't discussed it," Hammond said.

Kinard responded, "Madam Chair, that's what tonight's for! I asked for the floor again.”

He made a motion to approve the contract. It was eventually seconded by Comer.

County Attorney Richard Ness said, "I think you need to debate this. ... I think he (Kinard) has a right as a council member to speak. ... Whether it (a motion) is going to pass or not is another story. He's got a right to be heard."

Kinard said Hammond needed a lesson in Robert's Rules of Order.

"It ain't hard. They’ve got the books at Wal-Mart, or you can get them anywhere. ... Sounds like tonight you need it," he said.

Carter said he had not seen a copy of a contract in his packet and was not going to vote on something he had no information on.

Comer said, "As I recall a couple of months ago, we went through revising and updating the contract in executive session. I believe the consensus was we were in agreement with what was presented to us after we got some clarifications, and we got some understandings and made some adjustments. I was under the impression it was in the final form."

Carter said, "I don't have a copy of any kind of contract. And as of my knowledge, the contract he has is good until June 30 of next year. So I'm not sure why this is being brought up.

"But I have looked in my packet three times, and there is no copy of an administrator's contract. So I don't know any terms. I don't know nothing about any contract or nothing."

Kinard said, "I believe that's why South Carolina law lets you abstain. So you can abstain. They’ve got three things: yes, no or abstain."

Carter said, "Well, I'm not on council to abstain."

Kinard said, "Just vote no. How hard is that?"

Guess said, "This is a motion to renew the contract. In other words, this is not a new contract. This is a renewal of the contract that we passed last year."

Carter noted Preston’s contract was already automatically renewed for a year because council did not give Preston required notice that it intended to end the contract. The one-year contract includes a base salary of $130,711.10.

“So why are we voting on something that's already renewed?" he said.

Ness said the contract was being extended another year, so it now stretches from July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2022.

"Why would that be two years? We always give an (administrator) a one-year contract," Hammond said.

Kinard said, "Madam Chair, we discussed this. If you recall, we discussed this already."

"Crooks," Carter said.

'You're the biggest one," Kinard said.

Carter said, "There was a one-year contract discussed. There was nothing about two years. ... That meeting you were talking about was probably y'all five (council members) over there holding an illegal meeting."

Ness informed Hammond that a final draft of the contract was not being crafted Monday night.

"The contract can be looked at. We can write it up and you can look at it before we sign it. If they vote to add another year onto his contract, I don't see where that's a problem tonight. ... The only change is the extra year," Ness said.

Kinard said, "There's no more money being involved. He's not getting a $500,000 buyout. He's not getting anything. He's getting a one-year extra (on his) contract, which was discussed with everybody here."

Hammond said, "It should be for one year, not two years."

"Well, that's what the debate is, I guess," Ness said.

Kinard said, "Whether you like it or not does not make you able to keep it at one year or two years."

Hammond said she was "torn" at having a vote on something she hadn't seen.

Odom, who said that he didn't have the administrator's contract in his packet either, said he did remember discussing the contract extension.

"We sat down and discussed this, and I don't see anything wrong giving two years. It does not increase the finances one way or the other," Odom said.

Hammond said she was not happy with voting on the addition of a year to the administrator's contract.

"I don't understand how information can get out to everyone else and I not receive the information. It's unfair, and it's not right. It's not trusting, and I'm in shock. I don't believe this. It feels like a set up," she said.

"It is," Carter said.

The chairwoman added, "It feels like a set up and it's not right, but if the majority feels that that's the way that we have to do business, then that's the way we have to do business."


AP
'Huge rainmaker': Hurricane Sally threatens historic floods

NAVARRE BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Heavy rain and pounding surf driven by Hurricane Sally hit the Florida and Alabama coasts Tuesday as forecasters expected the slow-moving storm to dump continuous deluges before and after landfall, possibly triggering dangerous, historic flooding along the northern Gulf Coast.

“It’s going to be a huge rainmaker,” said Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist and meteorologist at Colorado State University. “It’s not going to be pretty."

The National Hurricane Center expected Sally to remain a Category 1 hurricane, with top sustained winds of 80 mph at landfall late Tuesday or early Wednesday. The storm's sluggish pace made it harder to predict exactly where its center will strike.

The hurricane's slow movement exacerbated the threat of heavy rain and storm surge. Sally remained dangerous even after losing power, its fiercest winds having dropped considerably from a peak of 100 mph on Monday.

Tuesday evening, hurricane warnings stretched from east of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, to Navarre, Florida. Rainfall of up to 20 inches was forecast near the coast. There was a chance the storm could also spawn tornadoes and dump isolated rain accumulations of 30 inches.

Heavy rain and surf pounded the barrier island of Navarre Beach, Florida, on Tuesday afternoon and road signs wobbled in the gusty wind. Rebecca Studstill was among those watching. Studstill, who lives inland, was wary of getting stuck on the island, saying police close bridges once the wind and water get too high. “Just hunkering down would probably be the best thing for folks out here,” she said.

Two large casino boats broke loose Tuesday from a dock where they were undergoing construction work in Bayou La Batre, Alabama. M.J. Bosarge, who lives near the shipyard, said at least one of the riverboats had done considerable damage to the dock.

“You really want to get them secured because with wind and rain like this, the water is constantly rising,” Bosarge said. “They could end up anywhere. There’s no telling where they could end up.”

In Orange Beach, Alabama, towering waves crashed onshore Tuesday as Crystal Smith and her young daughter, Taylor, watched. They drove more than an hour through sheets of rain and whipping wind to take in the sight.

“It’s beautiful, I love it," Crystal Smith said. "But they are high. Hardly any of the beach isn’t covered.”

Capt. Michael Thomas, an Orange Beach fishing guide, secured boats and made other last-minute preparations. He estimated up to 5 inches of rain had fallen in as many hours.

“I’m as prepared as I can be,” Thomas said.

A couple miles away in Gulf Shores, Alabama, waves crashed over the end of the long fishing pier at Gulf State Park. Some roads in the town already were covered with water.

Stacy Stewart, a senior specialist with the National Hurricane Center, warned that floods in the affected areas could be deadly.

“This is going to be historic flooding along with the historic rainfall,” Stewart said. “If people live near rivers, small streams and creeks, they need to evacuate and go somewhere else.”

Donald Jones, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Louisiana, said Sally could unleash flooding similar to what Hurricane Harvey inflicted in 2017 when it swamped the Houston metropolitan area.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said Tuesday that people in the southern part of the state should prepare for heavy rain and the potential for flash flooding, even if the hurricane comes ashore to the east. He said about 120 people were in shelters in Mississippi.

As rain grew heavier Tuesday, many businesses appeared to be closed at exits along the I-10 highway that runs parallel to the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Florida.

In Gulfport, Mississippi, white plastic bags hung over some gas station pumps to signal they were out of fuel. Along a bayou that extended inland from the Gulf, three shrimp boats were tied up as shrimpers and others tried to protect their boats from waves and storm surge. Most boat slips at Gulfport's marina were empty. Metal storm shutters or plywood covered the windows of many businesses.

David Espinosa walked the streets of Pascagoula, Mississippi, Tuesday afternoon, drenched by the rain. He wasn't worried much about Sally, having found his pickup truck in a tree after Hurricane Katrina wrecked much of Mississippi's coast in 2005.

Espinosa had just moved back to the area days earlier, after a long stint in Oklahoma City.

“We just didn’t know there would be another hurricane when we got back,” Espinosa said. “Here we go again.”

In Alabama, officials closed the causeway to Dauphin Island and the commuter tunnel that runs beneath the Mobile River.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey urged residents near Mobile Bay and low-lying areas near rivers to evacuate if conditions still permitted a safe escape. The National Hurricane Center predicted storm surge along Alabama's coast, including Mobile Bay, could reach 6 feet above ground.

“This is not worth risking your life,” Ivey said during a news conference Tuesday.

The storm was moving at only 2 mph Tuesday afternoon, centered about 85 miles south of Mobile, Alabama, and 90 miles southwest of Pensacola, Florida. Hurricane-force winds stretched 40 miles from its center.

After making landfall, Sally was forecast to cause flash floods and minor to moderate river flooding across inland portions of Mississippi, Alabama, northern Georgia and the western Carolinas through the rest of the week.

President Donald Trump issued emergency declarations for parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama on Monday, and tweeted that residents should listen to state and local leaders.

The threat to Louisiana eased as officials in some areas reversed evacuation orders that had been issued for areas that had been feared to be a risk of flooding from Sally.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared an emergency in 13 counties .

On the barrier island of Pensacola Beach, Florida, the Sandshaker Lounge was open Tuesday afternoon, filled with about 30 locals and tourists staying at nearby hotels.

“I think I’m the only business open,” said bartender Kyra Smith. “It’s pretty windy, but nobody’s being knocked down. We want everybody to be safe.”

Smith said most locals have lived in the area for decades and have weathered many storms bigger than Sally.

“We’re just going to ride it out,” she said.


Government-and-politics
breaking top story
City of Orangeburg’s mask rules extended

The City of Orangeburg’s mask ordinance will continue for two more months.

During an Orangeburg City Council meeting on Monday morning, council unanimously approved the continuation of the ordinance.

City leaders first approved an ordinance requiring the wearing of face coverings on June 30 in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

They later extended the ordinance until Sept. 25.

The expiration is now set for mid-November.

As part of the extension, city council meetings will continue to be held virtually.

In other matters:

• Orangeburg Mayor Michael Butler presented retiree resolutions for two employees of the Orangeburg Department of Public Utilities: Robert “Bob” G. Salley Jr. and Michael “Stephen” Braxton.

Salley worked for 31 years in the electricity division and Braxton worked 28 years in the water division.

• Council approved third reading of an ordinance amending the city’s budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2019 and ending Sept. 30, 2020.

• Council approved third reading of an ordinance adopting the city’s budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2020 and ending Sept. 30, 2021.

• Council approved second reading of an ordinance titled “Weeds and Other Offensive Matter” and adding two additional sections to the city’s codes violations.

• Council approved third reading of an ordinance amending the budget of the Department of Public Utilities for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2019 and ending on Sept. 30, 2020.

• Council approved third reading of an ordinance adopting the budget for the Department of Public Utilities for fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2020 and ending on Sept. 30, 2021.

• Council approved the hiring of Orangeburg Assistant City Administrator John Singh as interim city administrator.

• Council met in executive session to discuss two topics: a contractual matter concerning pre-development services at Railroad Corner and a legal matter concerning COVID-19 as it relates to prohibiting large crowds.

Council didn’t take any further action.


Crime-and-courts
breaking top story
Man faces murder, robbery charges in Calhoun County; suspect’s nephew accused of accessory

The Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office says it took a murder suspect into custody following a two-and-a-half-hour standoff.

Jason Harris Peele of Swansea is accused of killing 45-year-old Jason Adams Geiger on Sunday.

“It appears that this whole situation began with an apparent dispute over money,” Sheriff Thomas Summers said.

“Any killing is senseless, but this situation had the makings to become very dangerous for my men and the community. I am glad we were able to bring the standoff to an end before anyone else got hurt,” he added.

Peele, 34, of 937 Hydrick Road, is charged with murder, armed robbery, possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime and first-offense distribution of methamphetamine.

Peele’s nephew, 18-year-old Logan Robert Givens of 137 Dry Swamp Road, Cordova, is charged with accessory after the fact to murder and accessory after the fact to armed robbery.

Geiger’s death was discovered Sunday evening after his brother and another witness arrived at Geiger’s Jumper Station Road home, according to a sheriff’s office incident report.

They claimed they saw Peele “walking/limping from the outbuilding and getting into the passenger side” of a vehicle.

They also alleged Peele “threw his hand up and waved at” Geiger’s brother, the report states. The vehicle “then left the yard at a noticeably high rate of speed.”

Geiger’s brother and the other witness didn’t think anything off it, and went into the house to eat dinner with Geiger’s mother.

During dinner, someone asked if anyone had been shooting a gun outside because they’d heard about four or five shots coming from the outbuilding area, the report states.

The brother went to the building and found Geiger’s body. His pants pockets were turned inside out.

Warrants allege that Givens was waiting in a vehicle when Peele allegedly shot Geiger.

Givens heard several gunshots after Peele went into Geiger’s workshop, his arrest warrant claims.

When Peele came out of the workshop, he allegedly told Givens, “Go! Go! Go!”

Givens asked Peele what happened and Peele responded, “You heard the gunshots. There’s nothing for me to explain,” warrants allege.

Givens allegedly accepted $100 for transporting Peele and helping him burn his clothes.

Deputies reported taking Peele into custody at a Murph Mill Road residence after a standoff on Sunday.

After they entered the home, deputies located Peele in the closet of one of the spare rooms, an incident report said. K-9 Angus helped with the search.

A search of Peele resulted in $341 hidden in a sock.

When deputies searched the Murph Mill Road home, they located methamphetamine in a bag on a plate in one room, a bag on a plate in another room and in a larger bag on Peele’s person, warrants allege.

The total weight of the methamphetamine is 3.4 grams.

If convicted of murder, Peele faces 30 years to life in prison.

Givens turned himself in on Tuesday.

The Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office said Geiger’s death remains under investigation.