PICKENS COUNTY — Even as the latest models show Hurricane Irma tracking West, the Upstate is taking no chances with the storm and preparations for a worst case scenario are well underway.
At Blue Ridge Electric, Manager of Government and Community Relations Zach Hinton spoke about the potential for power outages and downed lines within their service area.
“As we’ve seen, most of the (hurricane tracking) models do show it (Irma) having some sort of effect on our service territory so we’re going ahead now and making plans to be prepared for if and when that time does come,” he said.
Hinton said the Co-Op had begun stocking emergency supplies and provisions and put extra personnel in place and on standby to combat any outages.
In addition, Hinton urged local residents not to wait until the last minute to make their own preparations.
“Go ahead and make those preparations to protect your house, your animals and yourselves,” he said.
In case of power outages, Hinton said Blue Ridge customers could report them one of three ways: through the phone system, the automated system or with their app available for free download.
Scott Smith, director of emergency services for Pickens County, said the Governor’s declaration of a State of Emergency earlier this week sent crews into motion.
Because the Upstate region is so rarely impacted by the big storms themselves, often times the County’s resources are sent to help people in other parts of the state, he said.
“We generally provide support operations to these outside agencies other then ourselves and we don’t deplete our resources completely because we want to maintain a sense of readiness for our local agencies also,” Smith said. “In the case of last year with Matthew, we sent several crews down to Hurricane Matthew aftermath to help get people out of their homes and to dry ground.”
Smith said in addition to search and rescue and water response teams, the county can also send firefighters to aid in the relief efforts.
When asked what a State of Emergency declaration means for the County, Smith said it gives the responding agencies a chance to “pre-deploy.”
“They can bring in some outside resources from the federal entities if they need to when we get a declaration and it allows us to kind of pre-stage equipment, personnel and resources that we need in the event of an emergency,” Smith said. “And it allows us to start prepping our people also.”
Smith stated a logistics program had been put together to record everything the local agencies had utilized so that information could be more easily relayed to FEMA for future reimbursement funds.
As far as what local residents themselves can do to prepare for the possibility of Hurricane Irma affecting the Upstate, County officials urge caution and the old adage “better safe than sorry.”
Stay indoors, have plenty of water, batteries and essential needs on hand. Also, residents are warned never try to drive through standing water — it takes much less than you would think to wash a car away.
The County also has a system in place where residents can register their phone number for emergency notifications.
To register your phone visit http://www.co.pickens.sc.us/ and click on the available link.
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.