Schools move classes online, government offices close ahead of Hurricane Ian


By Tony Kukulich

As Hurricane Ian made landfall along the west coast of Florida as a Category 4 storm, Gov. Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency for South Carolina Wednesday afternoon. 

“It’s still too early to know exactly how Hurricane Ian will affect South Carolina, but preparations at the state level are well underway, and this declaration of emergency is another step in that process,” McMaster said in a press release. “We do know we’ll see a lot of rain and significant storm surge on our coastline over the coming days – now is the time for each South Carolinian to make plans for every contingency and be prepared.”

McMaster’s action was followed by the declaration of a state of emergency in Beaufort County. Issued by Beaufort County Council Chair Joe Passiment, it does not include an evacuation order for any part of the county, but residents are warned to prepare for power outages. 

“At this time, there are no plans to restrict driving within the county; however, we encourage all residents and visitors to not travel or joyride Friday through Saturday morning,” read a press release issued by the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO). “All bridges to access Beaufort County’s barrier islands are open.”

The threat of bad weather is starting to impact school and government schedules in Beaufort County. 

The Beaufort County School District announced Wednesday afternoon that all classes will be conducted remotely on for the remainder of the week

“Due to the forecasted inclement weather associated with Hurricane Ian, Beaufort County School District (BCSD) will have eLearning and remote work days on Thursday, September 29th and Friday, September 30th, assuming electrical and internet utilities are functioning,” said Candace Bruder, BCSD director of communications. “District buildings will be closed on both days.”

All of the district’s extracurricular activities and afterschool programs scheduled for Thursday and Friday are canceled.

Beaufort County offices and facilities will be closed Thursday and Friday. The same is true for City of Beaufort offices including municipal court. Anyone with a court case scheduled will be contacted for rescheduling.

The National Hurricane Center expects that Ian will cross Florida and move out over the Atlantic. The storm will then track back to the west and make landfall again, this time somewhere along the Georgia or South Carolina coast Friday afternoon.

Ahead of the storm winds are forecast to gust to 45 mph along the coast on Thursday. That wind will be a factor in coastal flooding. 

“The onshore component of the wind will push water ashore and cause coastal flooding,” said Frank Strait, severe weather liaison for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. “The Lowcountry will see major coastal flooding near the late (Thursday) morning high tide, and this will cause flooded roads around Charleston and other areas through the late morning and early afternoon.”

Ian is expected to come back ashore Friday as a strong tropical storm. Winds will start to build in the morning and gusts could reach 75 mph in the Lowcountry by noon. The storm is forecast to bring 4 to 6 inches of rain to the area. 

“Based on current forecasts, low-lying areas of Beaufort County that experienced flooding during Hurricanes Irma and Matthew, or those who live in low-lying areas prone to flooding, should pay close attention to storm surge warnings,” the BCSO warned.

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