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Shelters began to open in The T&D Region on Wednesday as residents hunkered down ahead of Hurricane Michael.

“I am not going to stay here when it gets bad. I am gone and I am not going to be like the ones that stay," Balinda Kelley said. She lives in the Edisto Mobile Home Community but will stay with her daughter during the storm.

She left during Hurricane Matthew two years ago and is glad she did.

"A tree almost fell on the house," Kelley said, using her fingers to demonstrate the tree was inches from hitting her mobile home.

While it did not hit the house, it did total her daughter's Jeep Cherokee.

Orangeburg County Emergency Services Director Billy Staley said many people were on edge as the storm approached.

"They are nervous about what happened with Florence. People want a comfortable place to be and that is what we want to provide,” he said.

The T&D Region was placed under a tropical storm warning and flash flood watch on Wednesday.

Residents can expect a 12-hour weather event with tropical storm wind gusts most likely beginning around 4 a.m. The winds will strengthen through the morning hours with sustained winds around 30 mph and gusts around 40 mph to 45 mph, National Weather Service Meteorologist Michael Proud said.

"The eye goes by around 11 a.m. to noon and the winds will die off a little bit and then right back up to the 25 mph to 30 mph range with gusts around 40 to 45-ish," Proud said.

Proud said there could be possible wind gusts of up to 50 mph, with the storm forecast to taper off around 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. Thursday.

While the region is not forecast to experience any sustained hurricane-force winds, Staley said he is not ruling out wind speeds in the 60s and 70s in some storm cells.

Orangeburg Department of Public Utilities spokesman Randy Etters said wind is the main concern of the utility.

"With the rain preceding the storm, the chance for falling trees is increased," he said. "We perform right-of-way clearing year-round to mitigate some of that risk, but areas that are wooded or that pass through wetlands can still cause outages."

Despite the concerns, Etters said the utility is not anticipating outages at the level seen during Matthew in 2015 unless the storm slows down.

About 20,400 customers were without power at the peak of Matthew.

Individuals do not need to call DPU about power outages.

"With the installation of our smart meter system, any customer outage is reported to the command-control system," Etters said.

Michael is expected to move relatively quickly, so extreme rainfall isn’t expected. Periods of heavy rain and flooding could occur.

The National Hurricane Center is forecasting rainfall totals to be anywhere from 2 inches to 6 inches. Larger amounts are possible.

There is a slight chance of flash flooding, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The North Fork of the Edisto River's level was 4.1 feet on Wednesday. It’s forecast to rise to about 7.9 feet Saturday afternoon following Michael's rains. The flood stage of the river is 8 feet.

The Congaree River at Carolina Eastman was at about 103 feet on Wednesday and was expected to crest Sunday morning at 119.6 feet. There’s moderate flooding at that level.

At the Edisto Mobile Home Community, Moneak Busby said, "I hope we don't get flooded out.

"I am concerned about our safety but there is nothing I can do about it. I am going to pray and ask God to let us be safe. That is all,” Busby said.

"I am going to ride it out," said Busby's neighbor, Bob Robinson. "We never go anywhere.”

Robinson said he has never left his mobile home and is not concerned about Michael. He has a new roof on the house that is fit for a site-built home.

He’s also got a tree next to his home.

"I am not worried about that," he said.

Staley said Orangeburg County is most concerned about are people who live in at-risk housing such as mobile homes, especially older mobile homes, and those who may not feel safe in their homes.

Orangeburg County opened a shelter Wednesday afternoon at the Orangeburg City Gym at 1420 Broughton St. The shelter will be operated by the American Red Cross.

People are urged to bring important medications, bedding, pillows, additional blankets, hygiene items and other items for children or anyone with special needs. Pets are not allowed in shelters with humans but Staley said arrangements can be made at another location to shelter pets. Service animals are allowed in shelters.

In Bamberg County, Progressive Church of Denmark at 282 Progressive Way opened as a shelter at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

There are no shelters open in Calhoun County through Wednesday afternoon and there were no plans to open any.

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

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Staff Writer

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

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