COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina National Guard Soldiers and Airmen assisted law enforcement and local authorities across the state Thursday, as final plans and preparations were made, and troops and equipment stationed where needed for Hurricane Florence.
Packing winds of 90 mph and torrential rain, the storm came ashore about 7:15 a.m. Friday at Wrightsville Beach, N.C. Meteorologists say it may hover in that area for several days before moving further west and reaching the Midlands by Sunday with sustained winds of 70 mph near the coast, 50 mph in the Midlands and 30 mph in the mountains. Rainfall totals may exceed 10 to 20 inches.
For the past four days, Soldiers have moved into place to transport sandbags where needed, emplaced water purification systems at hospitals, mobilized more than 60 high-water vehicles, prepared several boats and personnel to assist with search and rescue after the hurricane and continued to help local law enforcement with traffic and lane reversal.
"When I was traveling across the state, I saw a lot of smiling faces and happy Soldiers," said Command Sgt. Maj. Russell Vickery, South Carolina State Sergeant Major. "They are excited, engaged and happy to be doing what they are doing."
The South Carolina National Guard plans and trains throughout the year in preparation to react to natural disasters and help South Carolinians who are affected by them. Part of this training includes working and collaborating with state and local partners.
"The South Carolina National Guard supports its state's partners, for instance, with lane reversals with the Department of Transportation, Highway Patrol and Public Safety," said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston, adjutant general for South Carolina. "We also have Soldiers partnered out with our communities to handle initial responses after the hurricane passes."
Once Hurricane Florence passes, which may be as late as Sunday, according to meteorologists, the Guard will assist in conducting search and rescue operations along with the fire departments and then we will move into lane clearings.
"I'm the type of person who doesn't want anybody stranded," said Sgt. Brandon Walker, Alpha Battery, 1-178th Field Artillery, who is postured at the Midway Fire Department in Pawleys Island. "I'm going to do all I can to help them and make them feel safe. We want them to know that they can always depend on the South Carolina National Guard and we are always here to help them at all times."