Aiken County braces for evacuees fleeing deadly Hurricane Matthew headed for South Carolina coast

Aiken County leaders are wasting no time to prepare for the massive number of evacuees headed their way.
Aiken County leaders are wasting no time to prepare for the massive number of evacuees headed their way.

AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) – As the deadly hurricane moves up the East Coast, South Carolina’s coastal empire is moving inland.

In Aiken County, leaders are wasting no time to prepare for the massive number of evacuees headed their way.

South Aiken High School is the designated primary shelter for people fleeing the storm. The Aiken Red Cross and South Carolina Department of Social Services are going to be running the shelter operations.

If needed, Aiken County leaders are prepared to open additional schools, but for now they are just working around the clock as evacuees begin to arrive.

More than 1 million people are packing up and leaving the coast. To brace for evacuees in mass numbers, at a press conference Wednesday Aiken County Sheriff Michael Hunt announced deputies will be monitoring the traffic on all Evacuation Routes.

“South Carolina 39, U.S. 78, U.S. 278, and South Carolina 125 will lead you to Aiken,” Hunt said. “Those roads will have priority. We will man these traffic control points with the Sheriff’s Office, both Public Safety Departments and the South Carolina Highway Patrol.”

The Veal‘s say with no option but to leave the sailboat they live on in Charleston, they chose to ride into Aiken through U.S. Highway 78.

“There was more traffic than usual, but everybody was being patient and driving slow,” Charleston resident Laura Veal told WJBF NewsChannel 6. “But we did notice there was more traffic. We heard 26 was pretty rough so we decided to take the back roads.”

On their way to their final destination in Georgia the couple stopped to fill-up their car in Aiken, a completely different sight then the coast.

“Oh my gosh! Last night was total chaos. We always keep gas in our car, but we drove by  and every gas station was packed and lines out into the road.” Veal said.

Now as the storm nears and the evacuees make their way to the CSRA, people can rest assured Aiken County is ready.

“For those using the shelter the following information is critical. The Red Cross will be serving meals and additional agencies as required. The Red Cross does not provide cots. So, those coming to the shelter need to provide their own bedding and no pets are allowed at the shelters.” Bruce Butler, American Red Cross of Aiken, said.

If you are staying at an Aiken shelter and need information about a local animal shelter to house your pet call 211.

The Aiken County Sheriff’s Office is going to be monitoring South Aiken High School shelter around the clock.

All Aiken County government offices and schools will remain closed through Friday.

The American Red Cross of Aiken is in need of volunteers, if you would like to help visit click here.

Count on WJBF NewsChannel 6 for the latest storm coverage.

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