City of Florence officials tell residents to stay home
FLORENCE, S.C. – Florence Police Chief Allen Heidler had a simple message for Florence residents: Stay home during Hurricane Florence.
“We’re going to ask you in the public to stay sheltered throughout this event and not come on to the roadway,” Heidler said in a news conference Thursday afternoon in the council chambers of the city center.
Heidler said the city had learned a lot from Hurricane Matthew in 2016. There were a number of times when the city had to rescue people from flooded vehicles during that storm. Heidler added that it was not necessary to expose the public or emergency responders to that type of danger during Hurricane Florence.
“After the event, we want you to be cognizant that there are many dangers that may exist,” Heidler said.
Among those dangers are downed power lines, which should be treated as live lines, and standing water on the roadway that should not be driven through.
Heidler also said that barricades were on roadways “for a purpose” and should not be moved or ignored.
“We had a number of instances when people went around barricades and got themselves in a jam,” Heidler added.
Another concern described by Mayor Stephen Wukela during the news conference was traffic congestion as the public moves around after the event. Such congestion can cause first responders difficulty in responding to those who need assistance.
“If there are power outages, we will have significant issues at all of our intersections in the city,” Heidler said. “You should take great care at every intersection. If you come to a traffic-controlled intersection where the light is out, you should treat that intersection as if it were a four-way stop.”
The city police department has shifted the schedule of its employees to where all are working a 12-hour shift until the event has ended and some degree of normality has been restored. The shift provides more police officers on the street to handle any issues that might arise. There are plans to have officers at every major intersection without power within the city.
Wukela also added that residents should not become complacent because Florence has been downgraded to a Category 2 hurricane. He added that the expected path of the hurricane will keep it over the Pee Dee for a longer-than-normal period of time, and that will cause many issues in the city and all over the Pee Dee.
“Please do not be complacent and continue to prepare as we are here at the city,” Wukela said.
Wukela and City Manager Drew Griffin also explained that the city has staged workers at the city center and the city’s emergency operations center located in the city council chambers will become active on Thursday evening.
Griffin also said if the storm brings a great deal of debris, there are plans to divide the city into quadrants to remove the debris.