Tropical storm Elsa: Not planning to 'let it go' anytime soon

July 06, 2021
A truck drives through deep water flooding a road near MUSC
An MUSC truck drives through storm water along Ashley Avenue during Hurricane Dorian. Excessive flooding is a problem that often plagues low-lying Charleston during storm season. Photos by Bryce Donovan

After Hurricane Elsa barreled through the Caribbean over the weekend, drenching Barbados, Jamaica and Cuba and causing widespread damage, the downgraded tropical storm then moved west of the Florida Keys on Tuesday. It is expected to make landfall again around the Tampa Bay area as early as Wednesday morning. Though Elsa was downgraded from a Category 1 hurricane to a tropical storm on Saturday, it is still expected to bring heavy rainfall to Georgia and the Carolinas – one very good reason that MUSC emergency preparedness experts have been planning for its arrival. 

Early on, Elsa made a name for itself, setting the record as the first hurricane of the season and earliest E-named storm on record, which for the last year had been held by Edouard. 

Kim Bailey, Inpatient Emergency manager for MUSC, wants to make sure that everyone is duly prepared for Elsa and any other storm that could affect the Tri-county region. Bailey said that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has predicted that the Atlantic hurricane season will be busier than average, but with 2020 having come in with a record 30 named storms, all bets are off the table. 

A green frog sculpture sits in a deep puddle outside the MUSC library 
A frog sculpture outside the Basic Science Building feels right at home during hurricane season.

When looking at the season on deck, there are so many contributing factors to take into consideration, she said. “The beginning of July is a very early and unusual start to a season. In thinking about this season, it’s hard to predict what we might see – in fact, nearly impossible to predict.”

So, she added, it’s imperative that all who live on the coast stay vigilant. 

“We want you to be prepared. And, don’t let your guard down even if it’s a tropical storm; we could see significant impacts. Ensure that you have a good family plan. Ensure that you have the resources that you need at home in order to stay safe.”

She reminded folks to stock up on plenty of fresh water, flashlights and batteries and, of course, to have a good supply of nonperishable foods and any required medications. She also added that it’s good to have someone not in the path of the storm designated to serve as point person. 

“Let someone outside the impact area be your point of contact so people know that you’re safe – direct everyone in your circle to that person for check-ins. Also, keep your phones charged and have a way to charge them so you can always get the most up-to-date information.”

She also suggested knowing where your emergency shelters are as well as having your local county information handy. 

In terms of the impact of Elsa, Bailey said that they are most concerned about flooding – a problem that historically plagues downtown Charleston during storms. 

A doctor sits by a window in a crosswalk overlooking flooded streets below 
An MUSC Health physician takes a moment to look out at the floodwaters along Ashley Avenue during Hurricane Dorian.

Elsa will probably be a depression by the time it gets here, Bailey said, and her team isn’t terribly concerned about the wind or about inundation – water coming from the ocean that pushes ahead of the storm and onto shore. 

“Right now, we’re worried about rain totals. If fresh water rainfall coincides with high tide, we will have flooding. We’re expecting to get 4 inches in 24 hours, and that changes our thought process. We need to ensure that people have clear ingress and egress to campus and that ambulances can get in and out. We are always preparing so as to ensure that our care team members and our patients are safe throughout a storm.” 

MUSC will regularly communicate instructions to students, staff and faculty before and during emergency weather situations. 

For more information on hurricanes and resources in our area, please visit the South Carolina Emergency Management Division’s South Carolina Hurricane Guide at https://hurricane.sc/ or https://scemd.org/, which also offers preparedness information during these types of events. 

For current weather information, visit https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/.

For specific county information:

https://www.charlestoncounty.org/

https://berkeleycountysc.gov/

https://www.dorchestercountysc.gov/

About the Author

Mikie Hayes

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