Hurricane Idalia expected to bring heavy rainfall to Aiken County

Aug. 29—Hurricane Idalia, which was churning Tuesday in the Gulf of Mexico and gaining strength while heading toward landfall in Florida, probably will bring heavy precipitation to Aiken County on Wednesday afternoon and Wednesday night.

Flooding will be a threat, according to Chris Rohrbach, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Columbia.

"Right now, we're expecting around, generally speaking, 4 to 6 inches of rain for the Aiken area," he said Tuesday morning. "A few spots might get a little bit higher than that."

In addition, Rohrbach continued, "There's the potential for some strong wind gusts. Currently, we're not thinking we'll see tropical storm force [sustained] winds in the Aiken area, but we could still see a few gusts of 30 to 35 miles per hour and potentially a little bit higher."

As a result, "there could be some isolated power outages from limbs coming off of trees and falling on power lines," Rohrbach said.

The good news is that the Aiken area will get a welcome break from the summer heat.

The National Weather Service was forecasting highs of about 79, 77 and 79 degrees for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, respectively.

"Right now, it looks like it's primarily going to be a rain event," said Aiken County Emergency Management Director Paul Matthews on Tuesday about Idalia's impact locally. "Low-lying areas that are prone to flooding may see some of that, and obviously, there could be localized flooding on roadways. We could have flash flooding as well."

Ahead of the storm, the National Weather Service announced a flood watch starting at 2 p.m. Wednesday.

Matthews has been busy coordinating the county's efforts to get ready to deal with any problems caused by Idalia.

"We're going through our regular preparedness process," he said. "We've done what we always do during a time like this. We go through our checklist and make sure our generators are ready to go ... our county fuel islands are fueled up and our county vehicles are fueled up. We check our communications gear to make sure the batteries are charged. We also do a communications check with the South Carolina Emergency Management Division, and that's through our satellite phones and our 800-megahertz radio system. "

Listening to South Carolina Emergency Management briefings also is part of the usual preparation process.

"Yesterday morning (Monday) and this morning (Tuesday), our EOC (Emergency Operations Center) group got together," Matthews said. "The storm has been wobbling a little bit, and we're watching its track closely. If it's farther to the west, it will bring us more rain.

"At this point, I've not heard anything about any coastal evacuations in South Carolina," he added. "We would support any coast evacuations by opening a shelter in Aiken, but I don't think any of that is going to happen."

As of 11 a.m. Tuesday, Idalia was a Category 1 hurricane. After hitting Florida as possibly a Category 3 storm, Idalia was expected to move through southeast Georgia while losing strength and then travel along or near the coasts of South Carolina and North Carolina.