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Severe Weather and Flood Safety Week: Severe Weather 101

Sunday is the first day of South Carolina’s Severe Weather and Flood Safety Week. Stay up to date on weather conditions by following the South Carolina Emergency Management Division, the National Weather Service, SCETV and South Carolina Public Radio.

South Carolina experiences a number of different types of severe weather every year. From hurricanes to winter storms, floods to tornadoes, even wildfires and earthquakes, South Carolinians can experience any of these weather conditions in a given year.

According to the South Carolina Emergency Management Division (SCEMD), knowing the threats you and your community face is essential to being adequately prepared for them.

Possibly one of the most common threats are severe thunderstorms. In the United States, an average of 300 people are injured and 80 people are killed each year by lightning. Thunderstorms can also produce tornadoes, strong winds, hail and flash flooding. If thunderstorms are in the forecast, make sure to stay on top of conditions. Remember that no place outdoors is safe during a lightning storm and follow the adage, “if thunder roars, go indoors.”

Hurricanes and tropical storms pose an enormous threat during hurricane season, which runs June 1 to November 30. Downloading the official SC Emergency Manager app can help you build a personal emergency plan, a disaster supply kit, and find your zone. Knowing your evacuation zone is crucial before hurricane season starts, so that when a hurricane does approach, you are ready to evacuate if you need to.

Wildfires can be caused by natural causes like lightning strikes, or man-made causes like arson or burning debris. In South Carolina, wildfires usually occur between late winter and early spring. There can be over 5,000 wildfires in a typical year burning nearly 30,000 acres. Be sure to keep your property clear of combustibles, such as wood piles, lawn furniture and yard debris. If you see a wildfire, report it immediately to 9-1-1. Evacuate immediately with all family members and pets. SCEMD advises against locking doors and windows when you evacuate, as firefighters may need to gain entry into your home to fight the fire.

Finally, most are unaware of how common earthquakes are in South Carolina. Ten to 15 earthquakes are recorded annually in South Carolina, though just a few will be noticeable. The two most damaging earthquakes were the 1886 Charleston/Summerville earthquake and the 1913 Union County earthquakes. Earthquakes can happen suddenly and without warning. Checking your home for hazards before an earthquake, such as loose shelves, cracks in the walls and ceiling, and defective wiring, can help make your home safer during an earthquake. During an earthquake, drop to the ground and take cover. Get under a sturdy object such as a table and stay away from glass or windows.

These weather hazards are not the only threats South Carolinians face. In the coming week, we will explore more types of severe weather, how to prepare for them and how to recover from them.