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South Carolina National Guard On Responding To Hurricane


Parts of central South Carolina are under a tropical storm warning for the first time ever as Hurricane Florence moves over the state. The South Carolina National Guard has 3,000 personnel ready to exchange resources along the border between North and South Carolina, including hundreds of soldiers and airmen. Major General Robert Livingston of the South Carolina National Guard is overseeing and coordinating this response, and he joins us on the line.

General, thanks so much for being with us.

ROBERT LIVINGSTON: Thank you, Rachel. It's great to be with you today.

MARTIN: What are the conditions right now along the coast?

LIVINGSTON: Well, we're mainly waiting for the storm to come. Right now it's going through our neighbor's backyard up in North Carolina. And we're coordinating with them as the storm goes through as far as cross-border operations. We're starting to pick up a little bit of wind on the coast, and the storm is moving in. So we're just kind of in that wait mode. We have everybody set where they need to be. Everybody's pre-positioned and just waiting to see what the storm does to us.

MARTIN: Right. So a big concern we've been hearing a lot about is the flooding that's expected to happen with storm surge up to 13 feet along the coast. How do you even go about preparing to combat that?

LIVINGSTON: Well - and flooding is going to be very difficult for us. Not only are we going to have the flooding on the coast but we get a lot of water flow from North Carolina in the northern part of our state. So we're probably going to see about 20 inches of rain in South Carolina. So we're going to end up with flash flooding and problems initially as the storm runs through. And then we're going to end up with a lot of flooding coming from North Carolina. The way we deal with it is that we pre-position our high-water assets. We pre-position our aerial assets so that once the winds die down, we can move. And we're just there to respond to the citizens of South Carolina.

And when this storm moves through, we'll start sending people out. And as soon as the winds die down just a little bit, we'll send people out to check on homes and make sure that, you know, if someone did stay behind, that we're able to respond to that. And this is in conjunction with what we call Team South Carolina. All of the agencies - I've got national guardsmen with the Department of Natural Resources, with the state law enforcement, with the counties especially, with the towns. And we're out there with the Department of Transportation...


LIVINGSTON: ...Making sure the roads are safe, too.

MARTIN: Do you have any idea, at this point, how many people have stayed behind?

LIVINGSTON: It's hard to say. In the affected area, we're probably a little bit under a million people. And we've had approximately a half-million people evacuate from the coast. Now, that doesn't mean they didn't reposition out of the flood zones into a hardened hotel somewhere. This is a Category 2, Category 1-type event. Windwise, it's something we've seen quite frequently.

MARTIN: Right.

LIVINGSTON: From a - rainwise, that is the big concern at this point. So you know, people - they have their own evacuation procedures. But most people have gotten off the coast, so we're prepared to get out there and to help people...


LIVINGSTON: ...If they, you know, they get isolated.

MARTIN: Let me ask you, though, because this is not just the area you serve. This is your home, too. I imagine it has been frustrating because you probably have come across people - maybe even in your own life - who say, come on. You know that they send out these evacuation warnings, but it'll be fine. And I'm just going to stay home.

LIVINGSTON: Yeah, we do. We have quite a few. In fact, there's a - we normally know the address, the name. We go through this about every year, either unfortunately or fortunately. And you know, some people are very willing to evacuate. And then there are those who refer all the way back to Hugo and say, I rode out Hugo. I don't have to worry about this storm. And you know, because they got away with it...

MARTIN: What do you tell?

LIVINGSTON: ...They think it's valid.

MARTIN: Yeah. What do you tell them? What have you told them about this? Do you say, this is different - believe me this time?

LIVINGSTON: Yeah. Well, we tell them it's not Hugo. That's for sure. And we just try to convince them up until the last minute. And in some previous storms, we have actually rescued people or evacuated them in high-water conditions. And I'm sure we'll have some of those this time. But we've done a good job of proactively finding the people. And we've had great success with South Carolinians. They are a very resilient group of people, and we're really proud to work with them.

MARTIN: OK. Major General Robert Livingston with the South Carolina National Guard.

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us. And we'll be thinking about you as you get ready to face the storm.

LIVINGSTON: Thank you so much, Rachel.

MARTIN: Take good care. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.