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As Hurricane Florence Nears, Small Earthquake Shakes South Carolina
Published: September 13, 2018
As Hurricane Florence battered the coast of the Carolinas, a small earthquake shook a part of South Carolina along the state line with Georgia and the governor warned of potential landslides.
The U.S. Geological Survey reported a magnitude-2.6 earthquake about a mile east-southeast of McCormick, South Carolina, which is about 86 miles west of Columbia, the state capital.
Earlier Thursday, Gov. Henry McMaster said torrential downpours expected from the slow-moving storm could cause landslides in the upper part of the state, which is in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
State officials said more than 421,000 people had evacuated from the coast; more than 4,600 had gone to the 66 emergency shelters opened across the state.
All along the coast, businesses and homes were boarded up, shelters opened, and curfews were enforced.
In Myrtle Beach, some businesses spray-painted messages on the plywood boards that covered their windows, the Sun reported.
"We need God's help," read one sign on Mona Lisa’s Liquors on South Kings Highway. Knuckleheads Bar and Grill shared a warning, "Looters will be shot."
Earlier, coastal towns ordered people to stay out of the ocean and curfews were enacted.
Myrtle Beach will be under a curfew from 7 p.m. Thursday night to 7 a.m. Friday morning, the city announced.
Ocean Boulevard, the main drag in Myrtle Beach, was mostly empty Thursday, and gondolas on the 187-foot-tall SkyWheel were removed as a precaution. The city asked all businesses to be closed by 5 p.m. Wednesday.
"This appears to be a storm unlike any we’ve seen," Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin told the State. "That can be disconcerting. You’ve just got to remain confident that your protocols are in place, that people are working on the same goal, and you’ve got to remain prayerful."
Myrtle Beach International Airport canceled all flights Thursday and Friday, Myrtle Beach Online reported.
Further south along the coast, the city of Folly Beach enacted a 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew that was to start Wednesday and continue until the storm had passed. The Post and Courier reported that no other towns or cities in Charleston, Berkley or Dorchester counties had announced curfews as of Wednesday afternoon.
Two of the state's busiest highways were turned into one-way streets so everyone could leave the area starting Tuesday.
Those who were planning to stay behind in mandatory evacuation zones were begged to reconsider.
"This storm is going to knock out power days into weeks. It's going to destroy infrastructure. It's going to destroy homes," FEMA official Jeff Byard told the Associated Press.
Sherry Kachanis of Summerville, South Carolina, northwest of Charleston, posted on Instagram a photo of long lines of cars heading away from the coast. She said it took her 40 minutes to go four miles.
The state's Department of Transportation said it saw three times the normal amount of traffic leaving the Charleston area on Tuesday morning. Traffic leaving the Myrtle Beach area was four to six times more than normal, SCDOT said.
GasBuddy has launched its fuel-tracking live map to help residents find gas stations that still have an available supply.
"Today's the day," Byard said Wednesday morning. "It's time for our citizens to be a part of the team. Heed those warnings and evacuate if you're in one of the zones."
Charleston International Airport closed its runways at midnight Wednesday and they will remain closed at least through Friday, the airport said on Facebook.
To South Carolinians who thought the evacuation orders may have been issued prematurely, Gov. Henry McMaster said, "This is a very dangerous hurricane, and we do not want to gamble with a single life of a single South Carolinian."
Some residents, like Debbie and Rich Davis, opted for one more walk along the beach before they evacuated.
"I love the ocean," Debbie Davis told Myrtle Beach Online. "Thought I better go take one more look at it before it flies over there."
Prison Will Not Be Closed, Officials Say
Despite being located in a county placed under mandatory evacuations, officials at the MacDougall Correctional Facility said the prison will not be evacuated ahead of the storm.
The Berkeley County facility currently holds an estimated 650 inmates, according to Vice, and has not been evacuated for a hurricane since Floyd in 1999.
"We’re monitoring the situation," South Carolina Department of Corrections spokesman Dexter Lee told Vice. "Previously, it’s been safer to stay in place with the inmates rather than move to another location."
Inmates had either been evacuated or were preparing to evacuate in parts of North Carolina and Virginia, the report added.
Slave Descendants Won't Leave St. Helena Island Unless Elders Do
On St. Helena Island, southwest of Charleston, some 5,000 slave descendants in the Gullah community say the decision to evacuate lies squarely on the shoulders of the elders, who are leaning toward staying on the island to ride out the storm.
"If Mama won't leave, most folks aren't going to leave," Josh Dais told the AP, adding that the family didn't evacuate last year for Hurricane Irma last year or Hurricane Matthew in 2016. "If Mama and Grandma are going, then a lot of people are leaving."
The families, descendants of slaves who worked on rice plantations before being freed by the Civil War, have preserved their culture and African heritage by staying off the mainland, the AP also said. Hurricanes have impacted the community in the past, the worst of which was the Sea Islands Hurricane of 1893, which killed some 2,000 people, the report added.
Since then, no hurricane has come close to hitting the community as hard.
"We saw some remnants of hurricanes here when I was growing up," Emory Campbell, a scholar and Gullah descendant, told the AP. "The wind would blow, you'd put some tin up against the window, but you wouldn't know that much except for the scratchy sounds on the radio coming out of Savannah."
Zoo Animals Secured in Columbia
At Columbia's Riverbanks Zoo, employees worked quickly to get more than 2,000 animals to safe locations ahead of the storm's arrival, the State reported. Although the zoo is located well inland, officials feared the facility could still suffer damage in the storm, and they didn't want to chance it with any of the animals.
"Several of our outdoor exhibits are not made to withstand hurricane winds," zoo spokeswoman Susan O’Cain told the State.
O'Cain said all of the animals would be in secure shelters by the time Florence started bringing impacts to Columbia.
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