By Sonya Stevenssstevens@abcnews4.com
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester county emergency management officials said Thursday morning that they were moving to OPCON 4 in preparation for Tropical Storm Andrea. "The OPCON 4 level means that there is a possibility of an emergency or disaster situation, and it notifies our employees who may be called into our Emergency Operations Center to stay on alert and be ready to act if needed," Haynes said.At OPCON 4, the Counties' Emergency Operations Centers (EOC) personnel are required to be on alert as officials monitor the storm.The agencies discussed the counties' preparations ahead of the storm that is projected to hit the South Carolina coast Friday morning.
"It's just one step above day to day operations which means again we are just heightening our awareness a little bit, monitoring a little bit closer the situation at hand and just keeping apprized of what is going on," said Cathy Haynes, Chief of Operations at Charleston County Emergency Management.
The biggest concern with the storm will be the heavy rain and flooding.
"We would ask that if you don't have to travel excessively to not travel. Again, in the world we live in we know that is not always practical but limit your travels if you can and just take some extra time to get there safely," said Maj. Jim Brady with Charleston County Sheriff's Office.
Also keep in mind areas that are prone to flooding such as parts of Highway 17 near Awendaw, where there have been issues the past few days. There will be deputies out monitoring roadways, but law enforcement officials ask that people use common sense.
"If it comes to a point where wind is an issue, any larger vehicles, SUVs, bigger vans, those sort of things, to just limit travel and just be safe again," said Brady.
The operating condition change is a result of the 8 a.m. advisory from the National Weather Service, emergency officials said. That release warned of tropical storm force winds in the Charleston Harbor and along the coast, inland flooding due to heavy rainfall, and the possibility of tornadoes along Interstate 95."We are at the beginning of hurricane season, and for those who have not done so already, it is time to gather supplies and review family emergency plans in order to be prepared," Haynes said.
Charleston County officials also re-released information about high wind procedures on the bridges across the county. Officials said that as winds intensify, officials may trigger condition yellow or red for the bridges.
Condition yellow means winds have reached a sustained speed of 30 mph and the public should use extreme caution if they decide to travel over bridges. At 25 mph, drawbridges are locked down to boat traffic, officials said.
Condition red means winds have reached a sustained speed of 40 mph. At that point, span bridges higher than 65 feet or exposed bridges are unsafe for public travel.
Officials in Beaufort County are stepping up preparations, as well.
"The area is already saturated with rain so we are asking the public to take precautionary measures for the amount of rain we may receive. Those measures include moving lawn furniture and any other objects that could be hazardous with the presence of strong winds. We are also asking those who live in mobile homes, especially raised mobile homes, to think about relocating to a more substantial structure", Beaufort County Emergency Management Director Todd Ferguson said.
Beaufort County Emergency Management will be following the storm throughout the day and night will receive updates from the National Weather Service when necessary, Beaufort County officials said.
Emergency management officials are also planning to regroup on Monday with state leaders to assess their responses and make changes for future storms as well as to talk about the importance of hurricane preparedness. Gov. Nikki Haley will be in attendance.
Where is Andrea?
Tropical Storm Andrea sits just off the Gulf Coast of Florida, based on recent satellite imagery. The storm has maximum sustained winds of 60 mph and is moving northeast at 13 mph. according to the NWS.
The storm is expected to make landfall in the big bend of Florida late Thursday and then accelerate into the Carolinas early Friday. The storm looks like it will heavily impact the morning commute in Charleston, but will accelerate so quickly that it will be along the North Carolina-Virginia border around 2 p.m. Friday.
For more information and tracking maps on Tropical Storm Andrea as well as information on preparing for storms and what to do during and after, check out the ABCNews4 PinPoint Hurricane Center.
The following is an explanation of each OPCON level, and Charleston County is at OPCON 4 as of 10 a.m. Thursday:5: Day-to-day operations to include normal training and exercises.4: Possibility of an emergency or disaster situation that may require a limited or full activation of the County's Emergency Operations Center.3: Disaster or emergency situation likely or imminent. Full or partial activation of the County's Emergency Operations Center; activate County Emergency Operations Plan.2: Disaster or emergency situation in effect; maximum preparedness level; full activation of the County's Emergency Operations Center.1: Disaster or emergency situation in effect; full-fledged emergency response operations on-going; highest state of emergency operations.