States of emergency and emergency closures, explained

Though the forecast for Hurricane Florence is still in flux, it is all but certain that South Carolina will be impacted. 

In preparation, Gov. Henry McMaster has issued a state of emergency declaration, with many asking what exactly this declaration does. On campus, classes are cancelled "until further notice" starting on Tuesday.

As you wait, read up on exactly how the state is preparing and how the university makes its closure decisions.

What is a state of emergency?

Although the direct impacts of Florence are still days away, the state of South Carolina is already under a state of emergency.

A state of emergency declaration, issued by the governor, allows state agencies to begin official preparations for disaster management. McMaster's order specifically put in action the state's "Emergency Operations Plan" and activated units of the South Carolina National Guard. 

The declaration also puts in place laws against price gouging — when stores artificially inflate the cost of things like gas and water during emergencies.

McMaster's emergency declaration also closed various school districts and state agencies around the state.

Will campus close?

USC students should keep an eye on the closure and delay decisions of Richland County Government as well as McMaster's orders for state agencies. The university is a state agency and follows the decisions of the county.

Beverly Harris, director of public information for Richland County Government, explained that county officials including the county administrator, county council, emergency services and other localities come together to make closure decisions.

"Because each emergency is different, the factors that must be considered also are different," she wrote in an email to The Daily Gamecock.

The university advises students to make sure they're subscribed to Carolina Alerts in order to receive updates about when classes will resume. 

Dining options around campus remain open as students remain in residence halls.

The storm also has the possibility to impact athletic events, including Saturday's football game against Marshall. USC Athletics said in a statement Monday that they're monitoring the situation and have not made any changes as of then.

Who's evacuating?

McMaster ordered mandatory evacuations for parts of every coastal county in South Carolina, impacting about 2 million people. That order goes into effect Tuesday at noon.

In South Carolina, law enforcement does not go door-to-door to enforce mandatory evacuations. 

Eastbound portions of multiple interstates will be reversed starting Tuesday to accommodate evacuees. In the Columbia area, those reversals will primarily impact I-26. All lanes will travel westbound, meaning drivers in Columbia won't be able to head east to the coast.

Why close in Columbia?

Although Florence is forecast to impact the eastern part of the state, closures will impact the Columbia area.

This allows resources to be reallocated to helping coastal areas. During past storms, closed schools have been used as shelters for evacuees and school buses have been used to transport coastal residents.

Keeping locals off the roads also helps accommodate lane reversals on interstates. 

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