Even though many Horry County residents may have once lived somewhere where icy, winter weather was more common, such conditions are rare along the Grand Strand.
As such, Horry County leaders said Thursday they’re preparing for “a rather dire situation” in which freezing rain and other elements of a winter storm could cause power outages and icy roads.
Thursday afternoon, Horry County Council members voted to enact a state of emergency, a formal designation that helps clear “red tape,” — as County Council Chairman Johnny Gardner described it — gives the county easier access to contractors and puts the county in line for state and federal relief funding if it becomes available.
The city of Conway declared its own state of emergency earlier Thursday.
At a press briefing Thursday afternoon, Gardner, alongside public safety officials, urged residents to make preparations today ahead of the storm and avoid leaving home if possible tomorrow and Saturday.
Forecasts from the National Weather Service in Wilmington, N.C., show a high confidence that the Grand Strand and Pee Dee regions will see freezing rain, slick roads, and downed trees and power lines caused by ice. The storm is expected to begin early Friday and last through Saturday morning, though ice may not begin to melt for a couple days.
County officials predicted the winter storm could be similar to one that struck the area in 2014.
A number of local governments and other institutions have begun announcing closings due to the coming storm.
Among the most significant asks by county officials: Stay home during the storm, and stay off the roads. Officials also urged residents to prepare for a potentially “multi-day” event.
“We really need people to stay off the road, that’s the bottom line,” said Randy Webster, Horry County’s assistant administrator for public safety. “Be prepared, basically, as (with) a hurricane, to be on your own for several hours without power, maybe days without power, depending on what part of the county gets hit and the most.”
Webster said public works and stormwater crews are pre-treating roads and bridges with salt ahead of the storm, though he wouldn’t say how many crews and how many tons of salt the county has at its disposal. Webster also said the county had not yet requested assistance from any outside government agency.
“We feel we have adequate supplies,” he said.
County buildings will be closed during the storm and the county’s emergency operations center will begin virtual operations tomorrow, Webster said. He also noted that the county will not have warming shelters available during the storm. Staff and incarcerated individuals at the J. Reuben Long Detention Center have enough supplies to weather the storm, Webster said.
County leaders offered the public the following advice ahead of the storm:
Stay off of the roads as much as possible.
Be prepared for power outages.
Look up and keep handy the phone numbers for electricity, water and other utility providers. County officials urged residents to not call 911 about power outages, but to contact their providers directly.
Bookmark the Horry County Facebook and Twitter feeds, as officials will be sharing information on those channels throughout the storm.
Bring pets indoors, or ensure pets have proper warmth outdoors.
If you encounter a downed power line, do not touch it, Horry County Fire Chief Joseph Tanner said.
Purchase any needed food or supplies to last through next week, and prepare meals ahead of time.
In the event of a power outage, do not bring grills indoors and attempt to cook on them, Tanner said.
If you are using a generator during a power outage, leave the generator outside and keep exhaust away from a home’s siding.
Ensure fire alarms are working properly.
If your home has a fireplace or chimney, leave the flue open, Tanner said.
Have a general plan if your home catches on fire.
“We will be responding to fires in this instance, there’s no doubt in my mind,” Tanner said.
County leaders Thursday also urged residents to check on their neighbors and loved ones and to use “good common sense” during the storm.
“We’ve been through many emergency-type events before, we always come through them because we’re paying attention and we’re using good common sense,” Gardner said. “That’s what I’d ask everyone to do as we embrace this weekend, use good common sense.”
Added Webster: “Just take care of each other, that’s what we need to do.”
Sun News reporter Jenna Farhat contributed to this report.