According to an official proclamation from Governor Henry McMaster, this week is Severe Weather and Flood Safety Awareness Week in South Carolina. It’s an occasion intended to encourage South Carolinians to prepare for potential severe weather scenarios.
In a press conference at the SC Emergency Management Division on Tuesday, South Carolina Deputy Adjutant General R. Van McCarty emphasized that while the South Carolina National Guard and SCEMD are ready to respond in a crisis, it’s up to each person to be prepared.
“Have a to-go kit. Have basic things that you may need—first aid kit, some water, minor medical supplies that are available in your home that could help you get through the immediate effects of an event.”
McCarty also encouraged familiarity with local authorities and nonprofits.
“Surely the resources that the state has, and the federal level have, will be there for you. But in most cases, it is the local governments that are your initial response. They’re the ones that react and respond to those events,” he added.
Much of the conference was dedicated to tornado preparation. Warning Coordination Meteorologist John Quagliariello of the National Weather Service in Columbia said tornadoes have been very active in the state during recent years.
“We had 45 confirmed tornadoes across the state last year. The average is about 26 a year, so it’s well above normal last year,” he said.
Quagliariello encouraged participation in a statewide tornado drill that took place on Wednesday, when owners of NOAA-sponsored weather radios heard a tornado warning alert sound. He said this was an opportunity for individuals, businesses and schools to test their preparedness by practicing safety protocols.
“For the most part, this will be sheltering in an interior hallway or room, such as a bathroom or closet on the lowest floor of your home or business. In an actual tornado, you want to stay away from windows, and put as many walls between you and the outside as possible.”
Quagliariello also recommended taking other common sense precautions like removing dead trees around the home and identifying a safe building for shelter before a tornado.
While the state has observed Severe Weather Week for some time now, it wasn’t until recently that flood preparedness was specifically included. After the Floods of October 2015, SCEMD and the National Weather Service decided to use Severe Weather Week as an opportunity to bolster preparedness for floods. At the press conference Tuesday, Director of SCEMD Kim Stenson stressed the importance of taking official directives seriously during severe rain events.
“If you are told to evacuate by any local authority, government authority, official authority, you need to do that,” he said. “It’s a life safety thing. They’re not gonna tell you to move and evacuate unless you really need to.”
For his part, Quagliariello cautioned drivers to stay off the roads during floods, and not drive through barricaded areas.
“A simple tip,” he said, “is to ‘turn around; don’t drown.’”
Severe Weather and Flood Safety Awareness Week takes place this year from March 4-10.