Hurricane Florence is almost upon us.
As its expected landfall near Myrtle Beach approaches on Friday, forecasters are starting to agree that the storm might linger along the coastline, coming down South Carolina and potentially dumping massive amounts of rain before heading inland.
Officials say the Lowcountry is likely in for a bad time.
But with new forecasts coming out several times a day and dozens of local, state and federal officials sending out new information every few hours, it can be difficult to stay on top of what's happening. Here's our guide to help you along:
What should I be doing now?
If you haven't evacuated already, you should do so as soon as possible. Florence's winds could reach Charleston by Thursday morning and conditions will only get worse as the storm approaches. High winds, rain and storm surge will make travel impossible. Get out while you still can.
How do I evacuate?
Lane reversals on Interstate 26 will remain in place until 6 p.m. Thursday. This means all lanes on I-26 will take westbound traffic to take drivers away from the coast. The S.C. Department of Transportation has set up an evacuation hotline that's staffed around the clock: 855-467-2368. You can also visit DOT's storm resources page to get evacuation routes and other storm-related information: www.scdot.org/travel/stormResources.aspx.
What if I can't leave?
If you have to stay in your home or apartment, make sure you have enough supplies to last several days. It could take days for rescuers to reach you if there's significant destruction. Once wind speeds reach an unsafe level — typically around the 40 mph mark — police, firefighters and other emergency personnel stop responding to calls because their own safety is at risk.
If you have to, go to an emergency shelter, but keep in mind that resources will be limited there. They should be considered a last resort.
What supplies and how many?
- A gallon of water for each person in your group for at least three days
- Nonperishable food such as canned meat, fruits and vegetables
- Manual can opener
- High-energy foods such as peanut butter, jelly, crackers, granola bars and trail mix
- Food for infants, the elderly or others on special diets
- Method of purifying water, such as boiling or adding 16 drops of unscented bleach per gallon
- Food, water and medication for pets
Remember when @NWS and @NHC_Surge issue storm surge forecasts for #Florence, they will be provided as values of possible inundation in feet above ground level (i.e. how high the water could be where you're standing) pic.twitter.com/0XGMLVP3i0— NHC_Surge (@NHC_Surge) September 10, 2018
The city of Folly Beach has instituted a curfew beginning at 9 p.m. Wednesday and lifting at 7 a.m. Thursday. The curfew hours will continue each evening for the duration of the storm. As of Wednesday afternoon, no other towns or cities in the tri-county had announced curfews.
Where can I find information about Florence?
The National Hurricane Center is the best source for forecast information. TV meteorologists typically relay these forecasts. City, county and state government emergency managers also are reliable sources for preparation, evacuation and response information. News media, including The Post and Courier, help relay those details.
County emergency management officials have heavily used social media like Twitter and Facebook to distribute information on evacuation orders, sandbag stations, emergency shelters, updates on storm intensity and location, and other emergency preparedness-related information.
What if I don't have internet access?
- To reach Berkeley County’s information line, call 843-719-4166.
- To reach Dorchester County’s information line, call 843-832-0393, or 843-563-0393.
- For Charleston County’s line, call 843-746-3900.
- The S.C. Emergency Management Division’s hotline is 803-737-8500.
What’s the "cone of uncertainty"?
The cone covers the possible area where a tropical cyclone’s eye might pass over during the next five days. It is plotted by the National Hurricane Center using computer models, data collected from "hurricane hunter" airplanes and using historical margin of error. Forecasts have become more exact in recent years. Based on data from the past five seasons, a storm’s actual path can be expected to stay within the cone 60 percent to 70 percent of the time, the Hurricane Center said. Still, cyclones can defy computer models.
If I’m out of the cone, am I in the clear?
No. The cone is the potential path of the eye. Damaging winds, torrential rains and conditions ripe for rapid tornado formation can extend far from the center of hurricanes and tropical storms.