All classes are canceled Friday, Sept. 30, in anticipation of Hurricane Ian hitting the Midlands, the university announced today.
The university will close Friday, but food services, housing, health services and virtual academic support services will continue throughout the closure, according to a statement from the university.
Essential employees are required to report to campus.
Parking services emailed pass holders on Thursday, recommending that all students, faculty and staff move their vehicles from low-lying areas of campus in case of flooding.
The garages at Blossom, Senate and Bull Streets will open to allow community members to park their cars safely at higher ground. Metered areas on levels 1A, 1B and 2A of Pendleton Garage will also be available for free. The lower level of Close Hipp Garage will be closed.
Regular parking operations are scheduled to resume on Monday, Oct. 3.
University officials made the call to cancel classes and prepare the campus for flooding after Columbia was placed under a tropical storm warning and Richland County announced on Thursday morning that it will close its facilities Friday.
Hurricane Ian hit Florida as a Category 4 Hurricane, one of the most destructive in the state's history. It is predicted to hit the coast of South Carolina as a Category 1 Hurricane after regaining strength from passing over the Atlantic Ocean. A hurricane warning was issued for the coastline Thursday.
The storm is projected to arrive in the Midlands Friday as a tropical storm.
Heavy rain, flash flooding and high winds are the greatest concern for Columbia throughout Friday and Friday night. The Midlands can expect to see 3 to 6 inches of rain. Wind speeds are predicted to be between 50 mph and 60 mph.
S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, declining to order a coastal evacuation. His decision to declare a state of emergency means the National Guard can be activated and the state can draw on FEMA money as needed, he said during a Wednesday press conference.
It also means local governments and schools can make their own decisions about closing down or staying open.
Five Points flooded most recently after 4 inches of rain fell on July 4. Nearly 30 Columbia roads are flood-prone, including intersections surrounding Five Points, as well as Whaley Street and Main Street.
The move to cancel classes comes after several sporting events were rescheduled or cancelled ahead of the storm.
The football game against S.C. State was the first game to be moved from it's original kickoff time. The game was rescheduled for 7 p.m. at Williams-Brice Stadium.
The women's soccer game, softball fall opener and South Carolina's equestrian match were rescheduled. Club hockey's matchup against Clemson was postponed and will be rescheduled at a later date.
This isn't the first time the university has cancelled classes because of a hurricane passing through Columbia.
Hurricanes Florence and Dorian gave students two "hurrications" in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Though the storms caused damage in other parts of the state, campus escaped mostly unharmed.
Areas USC noted that are especially prone to flooding include:
- Intersection of Main and Whaley streets
- Parking lots behind 300 Main St.
- Parking lots behind the Blatt P.E. Center
- Sumter Street under the railroad bridge
- Pickens Street under the pedestrian crossing
- Five Points
Editor's note: This is a developing story. Check back for updates.