CHARLOTTE — Hurricane Ian, one of the most powerful storms ever recorded in the U.S., swamped southwest Florida on Wednesday, flooding streets and buildings, knocking out power to over 1 million people and threatening catastrophic damage further inland.
Officials in the Carolinas are preparing for heavy rainfall and wind expected to start Friday as the storm, now a tropical storm, moves north from Florida.
>> Watch the video at the top the page for more details from Mecklenburg County Emergency Management.
The governors of North and South Carolina declared states of emergency ahead of Friday and Saturday’s inclement weather.
Char-Meck Storm Water ask residents to clear storm drains ahead of TS Ian
Ian’s impacts here in the Carolinas aren’t expected to be as severe as they are in Florida, but that doesn’t mean local agencies aren’t getting ready.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services representative John Wendel held a news conference Wednesday morning to prepare residents for the storm. Wendel shared details about flooding safety, how to prepare for the storm and where to get information.
Mecklenburg County will see an increased risk for heavy rain and flooding as Ian moves through the southeastern U.S., county officials said.
VIDEO: Harrisburg Fire Department preps for flooding
In Charlotte, the number-one natural hazard to prepare for is flooding. An inch of rain in an hour can cause urban or suburban flash flooding. Anywhere it rains, it can flood, officials said.
“6 inches of moving water can knock a person down a foot, can carry a car,” Wendel said. “We really need people at home to look at storm drains in their neighborhood.”
Back in 2019, an area right off of Riverside Drive next to the Catawba River was flooded out. The county bought the land and 11 other homes on the road to avoid more houses getting damaged when floods come.
Channel 9′s Hannah Goetz saw a house that formerly sat on the ground being raised up Wednesday to avoid the wrath of the river.
Storm Water Services is encouraging everyone to stay vigilant. They are pushing for residents to check storm drains near their homes and, if they don’t feel comfortable cleaning them out, call 311 for help.
(VIDEO: Lancaster County leaders concerned about flooding from Hurricane Ian)
Emergency workers in South Carolina issue warning for residents in flood-prone areas
As South Carolina prepares ahead of the storm, Gov. Henry McMaster issued a state of emergency Wednesday.
Channel 9′s Tina Terry spoke to neighbors in flood-prone areas who said they are taking the storm seriously. Emergency workers also had some strong warnings for people who live in places near low-lying, flood-prone areas near creeks, small rivers and dams in residential areas.
“Lots of rain, potential for flooding, maybe some wind damage, possibly trees down is what we’re expecting,” said Malcolm Leirmoe, deputy director of York County Emergency Management. “Pay attention to your property, pay attention to where you’re at. Never ever enter flood waters. You don’t know what’s below you. You can’t see waters a lot stronger than it presents.”
Leirmoe’s office has spent the past few days preparing to respond to flooding emergencies.
Brian Muhammad said he lives in a flood-prone area in Rock Hill called College Downs. For years, heavy rain has flooded a nearby creek, burying the park and some homes in the water.
In April, Rock Hill launched a $2.1 million project to address flooding problems by creating more capacity for the water to flow and by constructing a new way out of the neighborhood.
“This whole canal needs to be dredged out,” Muhammad said. “I don’t think they’ve done enough to stop the flooding ‘cause it’s gonna bottle neck here and this weekend we will see if it works.”
Emergency workers have warned people not to try to escape on their own if they see flooding around their home. They said flooding is too dangerous and unpredictable and advise people to call 911 for help.
>> Channel 9 is monitoring areas in South Carolina as the storm moves in and will have the latest developments on Eyewitness News.
Meck County’s Emergency Operations Center to be activated Friday, Saturday for Ian
Charlotte and Mecklenburg County Emergency Management officials will activate the Emergency Operations Center Friday and Saturday in response to Hurricane Ian. The EOC is located in Charlotte Fire Headquarters and serves as the command center during major events and disasters.
“The goal is always to be prepared in case something does happen,” Emergency Management Planning Coordinator Hannah Brown said.
Emergency Management took Channel 9 on an exclusive tour of the EOC. It features numerous television screens for monitoring news stations, as well as Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department cameras, radar and incident dashboards. Each public agency has an assigned seat in the EOC, and Brown says having everyone in the same room is key.
“When something starts spinning up, all those coordination calls, it gets hard keeping track of it if you are not all physically located with one another,” she said.
Brown said departments like the Charlotte Department of Transportation, Stormwater and Landscape Management will be on hand Friday and Saturday to respond to flooding and power outages in real time.
She says the attitude is always to hope for the best but plan for the worst.
“Each person plays a piece, and everyone is doing their thing and making it happen,” she said.
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- STORM GUIDE: Preparing your family for the 2022 hurricane season
- Hurricane Ian: Here’s how you can help Florida victims
- Photos: Floridians begin assessing catastrophic Hurricane Ian damage
- ‘I thought I could die’: Floridians awaken to power outages, flooding left in Ian’s wake
- Tropical Storm Ian: Storm expected to regain hurricane strength (live updates)
- Hurricane Ian: Photos, videos capture devastation in Florida
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