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Tropical Storm Florence
THE LATEST: Route reopened into Wilmington

As the rain and wind from what is left of storm Florence subsides, plans are being made for a return to normalcy.

All schools in Orangeburg Consolidated School Districts 3 4 and 5 will open on Monday and operate according to regularly scheduled hours, according to a Sunday afternoon announcement.

Calhoun County Public Schools will resume school on Monday. Students will report on a one-hour delay. Staff will report at regular times.

Bamberg County District 1 schools (Bamberg-Ehrhardt) will be on a normal schedule Monday.

The OCAB Community Action Agency Orangeburg Office and all OCAB Neighborhood Centers in Orangeburg, Calhoun, Allendale, and Bamberg counties will reopen Monday on the regular schedule. All OCAB Head Start Centers also will reopen for staff and children on the regular schedule.

Orangeburg County announced Sunday that it will resume regular operations on Monday. All employees should report at their normal operating time on Monday morning.

S.C. State University reopened residence halls at 9 a.m. Sunday and will reopen for staff and the Academic Affairs Leadership Team on Monday. Classes will resume at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Claflin University also has announced that it will resume normal business operations on Monday at 8 a.m. However, classes will not resume until Tuesday at 8 a.m. Evening and online classes also will resume on Tuesday.

Residential students were able to return to their residence halls beginning at noon Sunday.

Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College will be on a normal schedule Monday.

 
Warning lifted

The tropical storm warning was lifted for The T&D Region late Saturday.

According to the National Weather Service: "Tropical Storm Florence will continue to weaken as it moves slowly northwest across the Midlands tonight into Sunday.

"Wind gusts will likely remain below tropical storm force as Florence moves inland. Therefore, the tropical storm warning has been discontinued for the region.

"The latest information indicates that the greatest impacts across the forecast area will be the potential for heavy rain overnight into Sunday across the northern Midlands, Pee Dee and Catawba regions.

"In those regions, rainfall totals of 5 to 10 inches may occur with locally higher amounts near the North Carolina/South Carolina border.

"Totals of 3 to 5 inches may still occur near Columbia with lighter amounts to the south.

"The main life-threatening risk is heavy rain and associated flooding.

"Flash Flood Watches remain in effect for northern portion of central South Carolina with the potential for dangerous flash flooding in the Pee Dee region.

"Winds will continue to diminish through Sunday, however there will be a risk of isolated tornadoes late tonight and Sunday mainly across the north Midlands and Pee Dee. Major river flooding on some of the area river is possible by early next week.

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Evacuations lifted for other counties on Sunday

COLUMBIA – In coordination with local officials, Governor Henry McMaster announced that evacuation orders for Horry and Georgetown counties will be lifted Sunday, September 16 at 9 a.m. Earlier Saturday, the governor lifted evacuation orders for all other previously evacuated zones. A copy of the governor's executive order lifting evacuation orders can be found here.

Beginning at 9 a.m. Sunday, the governor will have restored local officials' authority over school schedules and all state government offices will be open for normal business hours on Monday in all previously evacuated areas. 

Residents returning to their homes are encouraged to exercise patience and expect lengthy travel times, blocked roadways, or detours back to evacuated areas and are asked not to drive around barricades or use emergency lanes that are needed for first responders.

While the weather conditions have improved, motorists should be cautious of fallen trees, downed power lines, and standing water in and around roadways. Citizens also should anticipate power outages at their homes or businesses, which may last for several days.

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Tropical Storm Florence crept through the Palmetto State at what seemed like a snail’s pace on Saturday.

National Weather Service meteorologist Richard Okulski reported Florence’s speed at 2 mph.

As she crawls through the state, here’s what to expect for areas in The T&D region through Tuesday:

• Sunday and Sunday night: Orangeburg, Bamberg and Calhoun counties are expected to experience mostly cloudy skies with chances of showers and thunderstorms.

High temperatures will be around 86 with a low of 72.

There’s a 60 to 70 percent chance of precipitation.

• Monday: Showers and thunderstorms are likely throughout the region. High temperatures will be around 90 with a low around 73.

Chances of precipitation will diminish to around 40 percent on Monday night.

• Tuesday: Residents throughout the region can expect sunnier skies, with a high near 92 and a low around 70.

DPU has 200 without power

Hundreds of customers served by the Orangeburg Department of Public Utilities have reported outages.

DPU spokesman Randy Etters said at midday Saturday that approximately 300 outages have been reported since Thursday.

“Of the 300 reported outages, approximately a third (100 customers) had an outage not storm-related,” Etters said.

Etters said the number of future outages depends on the severity of the impact from Tropical Storm Florence.

In total, 50,688 power outages have been reported throughout South Carolina.

Etters stressed the importance of DPU customers reporting any outages via the utility’s website -- orbgdpu.com.

At the site, DPU has a posted notice that reads:

“A significant threat to our electric system is imminent due to Hurricane Florence. High winds and rain are likely to cause prolonged outages in our service area. The DPU will begin its restoration plan when weather conditions permit safe working conditions to our employees and contractors.

“While the DPU will have representatives to handle storm-related telephone calls, we request that customers report utility problems using our website.”

THE LATEST: Route reopened into Wilmington

Reports of downed trees

As Tropical Storm Florence begins to make its presence known in the area, there have been a few reports of trees falling down.

According to the National Weather Service:

• At 8:51 a.m. the S.C. Highway Patrol reported trees down on U.S. 301/176 at S.C. 47 about 6 miles southwest of Elloree.

• At 2:47 a.m. the S.C. Highway Patrol reported trees down on Strong Drive and Unity Road near Holly Hill.

A 5:30 a.m. bulletin predicts about 1.5-2.5 inches of rain to fall in Bamberg County and 2-3 inches in Orangeburg/Calhoun counties through 8 p.m. Saturday. There are projected maximum wind gusts of 47 mph in Orangeburg and Calhoun counties and 35-40 mph in Bamberg County.

A flash flood watch is in place for Orangeburg and Calhoun counties until 8 p.m. Sunday.

Evacuation lifted for Edisto Beach, Dorchester

In coordination with local officials, Gov. Henry McMaster announced that evacuation orders have been lifted for all residents in Charleston, Dorchester, and Berkeley counties, along with Edisto Beach in Colleton County, effective at noon Saturday.

At the request of local officials, evacuation orders for zones in Georgetown and Horry counties remain in effect as local law enforcement and officials continue to assess areas for potential dangers, according to the S.C. Emergency Management Division

Returning residents are encouraged to exercise patience and expect lengthy travel times, blocked roadways or detours back to evacuated areas and are asked not to drive around barricades or use emergency lanes that are needed for first responders.

A decision on state government offices and school closings will be made once local emergency management and law enforcement officials have accessed damage and existing shelter needs.

There are currently over 170,000 power outages throughout the state, according to SCEMD.

The S.C. Emergency Management Division’s website, http://scemd.org, lists emergency shelter status statewide and is updated in real-time by the S.C. Department of Social Services. Coastal evacuees without internet access are urged to call the PIPS line at 1-866-246-0133 with questions and needed assistance.

Florence arrives in T&D Region

Tropical Storm Florence arrived in The T&D Region on Saturday, bringing wind gusts and bands of rain.

Orangeburg County Emergency Services Director Billy Staley at 8:30 a.m. said some trees were downed overnight but the situation was "looking good" so far. He cautioned that the weather is to build during the day.

Calhoun County Director of Emergency Management David Chojnacki said the night was "fairly quiet" with a few EMS calls.

Staley and Chojnacki reminded people that shelters are open if needed.

There are six shelters in The T&D Region:

• Orangeburg Wilkinson High School, 601 Bruin Parkway, Orangeburg

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

• Hunter-Kinard-Tyler Elementary School, 7066 Norway Road, Neeses

• Branchville High/Lockett Elementary School, 1349 Dorange Road, Branchville

• Calhoun County High School, 150 Saints Ave., St. Matthews

• Voorhees College, 5573 Voorhees Road, Denmark

The National Weather Service says conditions will deteriorate as the day goes on.

Thunderstorms are possible after 10 a.m. Some of the storms could produce heavy rainfall. Rainfall amounts between a half and three quarters of an inch are possible.

Rain could get heavier this evening, with new rainfall amounts between a half and three quarters of an inch.

The storm will  be around on Sunday, according to the NWS.

Showers are likely, with thunderstorms also possible after 8 a.m. Wind speeds will be 11 to 14 mph. New rainfall amounts between a quarter and half of an inch are possible.

Sunday night, showers are likely with another quarter to half of an inch of rain possible.

The chance of rain remains at 60 percent on Monday with a south wind of 7 to 9 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60 percent. New rainfall amounts may be between a 10th and quarter of an inch.

Monday night, the rain chance drops to 40 percent.

By Tuesday, the sun returns.

Earlier story

Rain and wind are to bear down on The T&D Region through Sunday, thanks to now-Tropical Storm Florence.

With wind gusts increasing as the day went on Friday, rain began during the evening and into the morning Saturday. Orangeburg and Calhoun counties have been under a tropical storm warning since 11 p.m. Thursday.

National Weather Service meteorologist Richard Okulski said Florence’s path is “only moving to the west southwest at 3 mph.” The storm, previously a Category 4 hurricane, made landfall Friday in North Carolina as a Category 1.

“It’s going to take a very long time to move across South Carolina over the weekend,” he said.

Florence was downgraded to a tropical storm Friday afternoon.

For most of the Midlands, which includes The T&D Region, tropical-storm-force wind gusts will be highly likely, Okulski said.

He said there’s a 7-in-10 chance of tropical winds impacting the Midlands.

The projected maximum wind gusts include 52 mph in Orangeburg and Calhoun counties, 46 mph in Bamberg County. The highest possible gusts at 56 mph are projected around Holly Hill.

“Tropical-storm-force wind gusts conditions could linger through Sunday,” Okulski said.

Expected rainfall totals are 1.5 to 2 inches in Bamberg County, 3 to 5 inches in Calhoun County and 2 to 4 inches in Orangeburg County.

With the wind gusts and rain, Okulski said there’s also an increased chance of tornadoes throughout the region.

Okulski said residents in the Midlands should expect power outages.

Due to the forecast through Sunday, 174 people in The T&D Region have chosen to report to shelters. Officials say that number is expected to increase.

Orangeburg County Office of Emergency Services Director Billy Staley encouraged those seeking shelter in the county to do so by 3 p.m. Friday.

Around noon on Friday, there were 166 people in the shelters opened in Orangeburg County, Staley said.

Bamberg County public information officer Mary Tilton said six people are sheltered at Voorhees College.

And in Calhoun County, emergency management director Dave Chojnacki said two people arrived at the Calhoun County High School shelter on Thursday night, but he expected another 6-10 Friday afternoon.

County officials throughout region are strongly advising residents not to drive through Sunday.

Staley said driving through standing water isn’t safe.

“It may look calm, but it may not be calm underneath,” he said. “Don’t drive through flooded roads.”

Tilton said Bamberg County’s emergency operations center is being manned around the clock, although most of the county appears not to be in the zone for a tropical storm warning.

She said officials are monitoring Florence’s projected track and conditions.

“Stay at home if you don’t need to travel through Sunday,” she said.

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