Emergency Preparedness in the Upstate

September is National Preparedness Month for good reason, with hurricane season in full swing. Hurricane Irma is currently hitting our eastern shore and Jose is close on her heels, so it’s a great time to make sure you have the needed tools to survive a crisis or major disaster. According to a 2016 survey, only 39% of respondents had formulated an emergency plan with their families.

Although many people living in the Upstate don’t necessarily think that the region is prone to catastrophic events, history begs to differ.

In 1989, the eye of Hurricane Hugo came ashore at Charleston Harbor on the coast of South Carolina. By the time the storm exited the state, schools were canceled and businesses were closed as far north as Greenville and Rock Hill due to fallen trees, scattered debris, and downed power lines. Winds with speeds of up to 85 mph were recorded in Charlotte, NC.

And it’s not just hurricanes. Approximately 10 to 15 earthquakes are recorded annually in South Carolina, and most people are unaware of just how common they are. One of the two biggest earthquakes in state history took place in Union County in 1913. Although the quake was estimated to have a magnitude of 5.5, no loss of life was reported and damage was relatively minimal; however, the event is significant because it demonstrates that large, destructive earthquakes can strike the region at any time. An up-to-date interactive map shows all of the earthquakes that have happened since 2006.

The largest flood in South Carolina, based on the area affected, was the Pacolet River flood of 1903. Relentless rains associated with warm moist air and a low-pressure system caused the Pacolet to rise as much as 40 feet in one hour, resulting in the deaths of 65 people. The textile communities of Clifton and Pacolet in Spartanburg County were hardest hit.

In March of 1984, one of the most intense low pressure centers on record moved across the state, spawning 11 tornadoes and numerous damaging thunderstorms. The first tornado appeared in Honea Path in Anderson County and was quickly followed by a series of tornadoes that stretched along a line from Anderson and Newberry counties east-northeast through Marlboro County and into North Carolina. In South Carolina, fifteen people were killed in as a direct result of the tornadoes, and at least six other deaths were indirectly associated with this severe weather episode. Damage estimates exceeded $100 million, according to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

In short, knowing about the types of emergencies your community may face is essential to being prepared for them. In addition to those mentioned above, SCEMD advises South Carolina is also prone to catastrophic events such as wildfires, drought, and severe winter weather, among others.

After any major disaster, electricity, gas, water, and telephones may not be working. Transportation routes and businesses may be closed. City services may also be impacted as staff may be handling serious incidents during the initial hours of the disaster. It also may take some time for public safety personnel to reach those in need.

National Preparedness Month serves to encourage individuals across the nation to take important preparedness steps, including getting an emergency supply kit, making a family emergency plan, being informed about the different emergencies that may affect them, and taking the necessary steps to get trained and become engaged in community preparedness and response efforts.

Remember: “There’s no reason to be scared when you are prepared.”


Emergency and Disaster Preparation in College

South Carolina Emergency Management Division on Facebook

South Carolina Emergency Management Division on Twitter

FEMA: Ready.gov

Ready.gov: South Carolina

CDC Be Ready!

American Red Cross Hurricane App

American Red Cross Western Carolinas Region 

(Photo credits: Hurricane Hugo, courtesy of NOAANational Preparedness Month poster by Marit G., courtesy of Defense Intelligence Agency; Pacolet River Flood of 1903, courtesy of PacelotMemories.com; lightning, courtesy of Thomas Bush; 1984 tornado outbreak loop, courtesy of Jonathan Finch.)

James Richardson is a freelance writer and the publisher of the Travelers Rest Tribune. When he's not writing, James enjoys spending time outdoors with his wife and two children at any one of many places across the Upstate.