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Georgetown resident Geri Bailey was parked at Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School on Tuesday afternoon, wondering about her next course of action.

"I am concerned about my home but there is nothing I can do about it," Bailey said. "I am not worrying myself too much about it."

Bailey came to Orangeburg to pick up her daughter, a Claflin University student. But she couldn’t return home Tuesday because routes back to the coast were reversed to evacuate people.

"I am sitting here trying to figure out what to do," she said. "That is my dilemma."

It is not the first time Bailey has had to flee a hurricane. She lived on Pawley’s Island when Hurricane Hugo hit 29 years ago.

"Hugo was a trying storm," she said. "The next morning when we came out there, I said 'Oh, my God.' That was awesome what Mother Nature did."

Bailey was part of a flood of South Carolinians who went inland on Tuesday ahead of Florence. Interstate 26 was reversed from the coast at noon to help those fleeing due to mandatory evacuations.

But Florence’s impact is expected to be felt locally.

Residents should prepare for tropical storm conditions Thursday into Friday as Hurricane Florence approaches the Carolina coast.

Florence forecasts

The National Weather Service is forecasting that conditions will begin to deteriorate Thursday morning.

Forecasts are calling for Florence to approach the coast of South Carolina or North Carolina Friday morning, the National Hurricane Center said. The storm is expected to be packing sustained winds of at least 130 mph when it makes landfall.

The T&D Region will be on the southwest quadrant of the hurricane, which is typically the weakest part of a hurricane.

"It is going to be a very big storm and the potential impacts of the storm will be extended out from the storm," Orangeburg County Emergency Services Director Billy Staley said. "We are concerned about major impacts of the storm."

Staley said while wind will be an issue, rainfall forecasts in The T&D Region keep increasing.

"We could see significant rainfall totals," he said. "It is depending on where it goes and how it stalls."

According to the National Hurricane Center, The T&D Region could see between 1 inch and 2 inches of rain during the storm.

There is about a 40 percent to 50 percent chance The T&D Region could see sustained tropical force winds of greater than 39 miles per hour, the NHC said.

Residents of eastern Orangeburg County are likely to see the stronger winds.

There is a 10 percent to 20 percent chance Orangeburg County may see sustained winds of 58 mph and about a 5 percent to 10 percent chance the far eastern portion of the county could see hurricane-force sustained winds.

According to windy.com, a wind forecast website, the worst of the storm winds in Orangeburg will be from Friday around noon to around Sunday at 9 p.m. Wind gusts during this time period could reach as high as 57 miles per hour, according to the website. Sustained winds could be around 30 mph.

Sheltering

Officials spent Tuesday preparing local shelters for expected coastal evacuees.

Orangeburg County’s shelters are located at Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School, Lake Marion High School, Hunter-Kinard-Tyler High School and Branchville High School.

The county is working with the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and the Department of Social Services to ensure the shelters are ready and staffed.

Evacuees going to shelters need to have medications, adequate clothing and essential personal items. It is also recommended that they bring their own blankets, pillows, cots and special food items if they are on restricted diets.

Orangeburg County Administrator Harold Young said there are back-up shelters. These will be announced if needed.

Since shelters do not take animals, the county is working with Orangeburg County Animal Control to ensure there is space for pets. Pets are not allowed in Red Cross shelters.

Individuals and families should plan to board pets with veterinarians, kennels or other facilities in non-vulnerable areas.

"We are working with the state to pull together additional capacity for animals," Young said.

Those sheltering at Lake Marion High School will be able to house pets on the grounds of the high school.

The Orangeburg County Fairgrounds served as the staging site for 125 buses that will go to the coast to help with evacuees.

"Because of council’s investment into emergency service infrastructure, the state feels confident when they stage," Young said. "We are in the middle of the state and we have the equipment to deal with these things."

In Calhoun County, a shelter will be opened at Calhoun County High School at 150 Saints Avenue in St. Matthews at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Should this shelter fill up, the Sandy Run school will open.

In Bamberg County, schools will be open so there will be no shelters in the county.

"Bamberg County is ready and prepared," County Emergency Services Director Brittany Barnwell said. "We have vehicles fueled up. We are waiting for Hurricane Florence."

Government offices

Orangeburg County said via release that its offices will be closed Wednesday through Friday.

The notice, however, does not apply to the following departments: emergency services, sheriff’s department, detention center, EMS, building and grounds, public works and certain administrative staff.

Orangeburg County employees and citizens may find additional information on the county’s website at www.orangeburgcounty.org; Facebook page at www.facebook.com/OrangeburgCounty; local media sites, and by calling 803-533-1000 or 803-533-6265.

Orangeburg City Administrator John Yow said all city employees will be reporting to work Wednesday with decisions to be made on the remainder of the week as the storm's track becomes more certain.

Yow said solid and yard waste collection services will continue through Wednesday as well.

"We will have to coordinate with the county landfill to see if we do anything past that point in time," Yow said.

Yow said all Orangeburg Department of Parks and Recreation sporting events and rentals have been cancelled for the remainder of the week.

Calhoun County government offices will be open Wednesday for all employees and a decision about Thursday and Friday will be made Wednesday.

Agriculture

The storm is also expected to impact local farmers.

Corn harvest is underway and presents the largest concern statewide. Farmers have had several days to prepare for the storm and are working around the clock to get their crop in as quickly as possible.

As of Sept. 4, approximately 63 percent of the corn statewide was harvested.

In addition to traditional crops, livestock farmers are preparing by storing enough feed and fuel for generators. Fall vegetables could also suffer a negative impact from sustained rainfall.

All farmers are encouraged to lower their farm ponds to help mitigate extra stress on dams.

North farmer Jeffrey Axson, who farms peanuts and cotton, says both crops could end up suffering if the storm drops copious amounts of rain and produces severe winds.

"Our neighbors to the north will get the brunt of it," Axson said. "But we don't need a bunch of rain."

Axson said peanuts have already been dug and are ready for harvest while cotton has opened up and is ready to be defoliated.

"Significant rain totals would hurt peanuts and the cotton," he said. "The wind would also hurt the cotton."

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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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