Epperson: Minimal damage from Irma, officials watching Jose
by Robert Joseph Baker | September 12, 2017 12:24 pm
This time last week, no one was sure exactly where Hurricane Irma would hit.
Then a Category 5 hurricane, the storm was plowing through the Atlantic Ocean and seemed headed straight for South Carolina.
Gov. Henry McMaster issued a State of Emergency, bringing the state’s price-gouging law into effect. He held daily press conferences to discuss the storm, presenting experts from the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center.
Utimately, Irma shifted further west, with a forecast that called for the storm to hit Florida, ride the peninsula north and then affect central Georgia.
The storm “pretty much followed that path,” said County Administrator David Epperson on Tuesday.
“We have very minimal damage from what we can tell right now,” Epperson said of Irma’s impact to the Clarendon County area.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Epperson was awaiting the final totals for rainfall from the storm.
“We were forecast to receive between 3 and 7 inches,” he said. “I think we pretty much hit that. I think we fell between that range.”
With storms like the 1,000-year flood and Hurricane Matthew in recent memory, Epperson said the county wasn’t taking any chances.
Shelters at Scott’s Branch, Manning and East Clarendon high schools opened Sunday, and about 60 people took up residence at the peak of the storm.
“The shelters were closed as of 9 a.m. Tuesday, and the people there left or were given rides home,” said Epperson.
Epperson said he was also pleased there were no widespread power outages.
Santee Electric Cooperative and Duke Energy reported a maximum of about 800 homes without power about 1:27 p.m. Monday. Numbers fluctuated throughout the day, but never exceeded that amount.
“Those numbers are really low compared to what we saw the last few years with our other storms,” said Epperson. “And even when people lost power, it was restored really quickly.”
Epperson said while some local roads may have had standing water during the storm, there was “no significant flooding that we were aware of.”
“It was nothing compared to the last two years, and certainly no road washouts occurred because of it,” he said.
Epperson said that county officials remain concerned about Hurricane Jose, which is locked in what forecasters are calling a “strange spiral” as it moves toward the east at 6 mph.
“From what we can tell, we don’t think it will be a terrible storm for Clarendon County, but you never know,” he said. “The cone of uncertainty is just that: uncertain. We’re on standby if we need to activate and put our emergency operations back into place.”
The storm is currently forecast to make a full loop in the Atlantic Ocean before posibly following a track that could place the system off the coast by later this weekend.
As of Tuesday, the storm was slowly churning several hundred miles northeast of the Turks and Caicos Islands, with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph.
Forecasts from the National Hurricane Center and the National Weather Service call for the storm to lose some of its strength as it comes into contact with wind shear and cooler water. However, a move back to the south and then the west will put the system over warmer water, possibly allowing it to re-intensify.
Epperson said that residents should be prepared, just in case.
“A lot of people got ready for Irma and it wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be,” he said. “I don’t want that to lead anyone to let his or her guard down.”
Epperson said that if folks still had items on hand from Irma preparations that they should keep those ready.
“We’re not out of Hurricane season yet,” he said. “Jose may or may not come here, but hurricane season doesn’t end until November. We could still have some type of storm between now and then.”