City of West Columbia prepares as Hurricane Florence approaches

Expect the Congaree River to rise, like it did in the 2015 flood.

With Hurricane Florence approaching, officials in West Columbia are in hyper-busy mode getting ready.

“The City’s emergency response team is preparing for the storm,” said Anna Huffman, West Columbia’s Public Information officer.

To do that several departments are coordinating, trying to make sure all bases are covered.

“Public Works is ensuring that yard trash and debris are picked up. Crews will be working around the clock as needed to keep roads open for emergency vehicles. If you see cones out in roadways, do not go around,” Huffman said.

West Columbia Assistant Police Chief Scott Morrison said preparing for a large storm like Hurricane Florence requires the help of everyone.

“It’s all hands on deck,” said Morrison.

City department leaders have been meeting as the storm made its way to South Carolina.

If a road is blocked, do not proceed.

“We have coordinated with the Lexington County Emergency Operations Center,” said Morrison.

He also said representatives of the West Columbia Fire Department and members of the city’s parks and recreation staff are included in emergency preparedness meetings. And after communicating with county emergency personnel, West Columbia department heads get together to work out logistics, locally.

“The police deportment will put more people on the street,” said Morrison. 

Morrison said in addition to more officers working, personnel will also be on stand-by.

There is precedent. Hurricane Florence is affecting West Columbia on the heels of three consecutive years of substantial weather incidents involving lots of rain. In 2015, West Columbia dealt with a massive flood. In 2016 Hurricane Matthew hit. In 2017 Hurricane Irma triggered an emergency response.

“We’ve done this before,” said Morrison. “We’ve learned some lessons from the past years, too.

West Columbia Mayor Bobby Horton also said he thinks the city has gathered experience.

“We have a very well-trained staff,” said Horton. “They are smart and they work hard. I have confidence they will do the best job that can be done. They have that reputation”

Huffman said as city officials face the storm, they can use the eyes and ears of residents, too.

“Report all downed trees or power lines and avoid those areas,” said Huffman. “

She also said: “We encourage residents to stay tuned to local news, our social media Twitter  @westcolumbiasc ; Facebook: @WestColaSC our website and the South Carolina Emergency Management Division’s social media channels @SCEMD for the most up to date information leading up to and throughout the storm.”

West Columbia crews cleared drains before the storm.

As another part of the plan to prepare, the City of West Columbia closed the city’s Riverwalk and Amphitheater at noon on Thursday, ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence. The water level is expected to rise will all the rainfall from the storm. West Columbia could get up to ten inches of rain. And the Congaree River will also get runoff from rain that falls north of the city.

The city is asking residents and visitors to stay out of the park and the river for their safety and that of first responders.

Due to projected high winds and rain, city officials urged residents to take precautions and secure loose objects, including roll carts, and recycling bins by securing them after the scheduled pickup.

Huffman said it’s National Emergency Preparedness Month, and the City of West Columbia wants its residents to know the city is doing all it can to reduce the impact of the storm.

In an effort to assist, the city published a list of helpful numbers that may be need in case of an emergency generated by the storm.

Phone contact information is below:

Down Lines- (888) 333-4465
Gas Leaks – (800) 815-0083
Power Outage – (888) 333-4465

Non-Threatening Emergencies – West Columbia PD Dispatch – (803) 794-0721 Ext. *221
Life Threatening Emergencies – 911

Hurricane Florence Questions – SCEMD Public Information Phone System – (866) 246-0133

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