The following is a list of terms relevant to hurricanes and tropical storms. If a storm threatens the Charleston County area and you are either required or feel the need to evacuate, please see our Evacuation Information
Once winds within tropical system reach 39 mph and the distinct low pressure area is well defined by a rotating circulation, the system is considered a tropical storm and is given a name.
A Tropical Storm that has sustained winds exceeding 74 mph or greater, dangerously high water and rough seas.
A Hurricane Watch is issued when hurricane conditions are a real possibility for an area within 48 hours. For a list of tasks to complete during a Hurricane Watch, see the Hurricane Fact Sheet
A Hurricane Warning is issued when a hurricane is expected within 36 hours. Begin precautionary action at once. For a list of tasks to complete during a Hurricane Warning, see the Hurricane Fact Sheet
Hurricanes can be dangerous killers. Learning the hurricane warning messages and planning ahead can reduce the chances of injury or major property damage. Read below to learn specific information to prepare you for each phase of the storm.
Check into flood insurance. You can find out about the National Flood Insurance Program through your insurance agent or the Emergency Management Department. There is normally a 30-day waiting period before a new policy becomes effective. Homeowners polices do not cover damage from the flooding that accompanies a hurricane.
Develop an emergency communication plan. In case family members are separated from one another during a disaster (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school), have a plan for getting back together.
Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the "family contact." After a disaster, it's often easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone in the family knows the name, address and phone number of the contact person.
Make sure that all family members know how to respond after a hurricane. Teach family members how and when to turn off gas, electricity, and water.
Teach children how and when to call 9-1-1, police, or fire department and which radio station to tune to for emergency information.
Prepare window protection methods. Permanent shutters are the best protection. A lower-cost approach is to put up plywood panels. Use 1/2 inch plywood (marine plywood is best) cut to fit each window. Remember to mark which board fits which window. Pre-drill holes every 18 inches for screws. Do this long before the storm.
Check for gas leaks - If you smell gas or hear blowing or hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave the building. Turn off the gas at the outside main valve if you can and call the gas company from a neighbor's home. If you turn off the gas for any reason, it must be turned back on by a professional.
Look for electrical system damage - If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, or if you smell hot insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If you have to step in water to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker, call an electrician first for advice.
Check for sewage and water lines damage - If you suspect sewage lines are damaged avoid using the toilets and call a plumber. If water pipes are damaged, contact the water company and avoid the water from the tap. You can obtain safe water by melting ice cubes.
Information compiled from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
You are responsible for your safety, and now is the time to get prepared. The Charleston County Hurricane Guide is filled with information about developing a family communications plan, creating an emergency supplies kit, protecting your home from damage, evacuation information and much more.
The guide is available in two formats: a standard page size for easy printing at home and a booklet for churches, groups and associations to hand out to their members.
Share the guide with your family, friends and neighbors.
Protect Your Home From Flooding
Ask the Emergency Management Department or Building Services Department to see a flood map of your community. There may be a projected flood elevation for your neighborhood. This information will help you determine how much water is likely to come in.
The main electric panel board (electric fuses or circuit breakers) should be at least 12" above the projected flood elevation for your home. The panel board height is regulated by code. All electrical work should be done by a licensed electrician.
Consider elevating all electric outlets, switches, light sockets, baseboard heaters and wiring at least 12" above the projected flood elevation for your home. You may also want to elevate electric service lines (at the point they enter your home) at least 12" above the projected flood elevation. In areas that could get wet, connect all receptacles to a ground fault interrupter (GFI) circuit to avoid the risk of shock or electrocution. Have electrical wiring done by a licensed electrician.
For protection against shallow flood waters, the washer and dryer can sometimes be elevated on masonry or pressure-treated lumber at least 12" above the projected flood elevation. Other options are moving the washer and dryer to a higher floor, or building a floodwall around the appliances.
The furnace and water heater can be placed on masonry blocks or concrete at least 12" above the projected flood elevation, moved to inside a floodwall or moved to a higher floor. (You have more options for protecting a new furnace. Ask your utility about rebates for new energy efficient furnaces. The rebate plus the savings in fuel costs could make the purchase feasible.)
Furnaces that operate horizontally can be suspended from ceiling joists if the joists are strong enough to hold the weight. Installing a draft-down furnace in the attic may be an option if allowed by local codes. Some heating vents can be located above the projected flood elevation.
Outside air conditioning compressors, heat pumps or package units (single units that include a furnace and air conditioner) can be placed on a base of masonry, concrete or pressure-treated lumber. All work must conform to state and local building codes.
A fuel tank can tip over or float in a flood, causing fuel to spill or catch fire. Cleaning up a house that has been inundated with flood waters containing fuel oil can be extremely difficult and costly. Fuel tanks should be securely anchored to the floor. Make sure vents and fill-line openings are above projected flood levels. Propane tanks are the property of the propane company. You'll need written permission to anchor them. Be sure all work conforms to state and local building codes.
Install a floating floor drain plug at the current drain location. If the floor drain pipe backs up, the float will rise and plug the drain.
If flood waters enter the sewer system, sewage can back up and enter your home. To prevent this, have a qualified, licensed plumber install an interior or exterior backflow valve. Check with the Building Services Department for permit requirements.
Information compiled from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Once a tornado, hurricane or major storm hits, it's too late to protect your home and property. But there are things you can do now to limit future wind damage. Some are fairly simple and inexpensive; others will require a contractor. You'll need to consider the characteristics of your home, your financial resources and the building codes in your community.
This homeowner's checklist will help you learn what you can do. For more information about the costs and benefits of each approach, talk to a professional builder, architect or contractor. You should also ask the Building Services Department about building permit requirements.
If you're building or remodeling a home, there are many other ways to protect your property that are not addressed in this checklist. To learn more, talk to a professional home builder, architect, contractor or building supply retailer.
Ask the Emergency Management Department or American Red Cross for information about the hazards in your community.
Even if you have taken steps to protect your home from flooding, you still need flood insurance if you live in a floodplain.
Homeowners' policies do not cover flood damage, so you will probably need to purchase a separate policy under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
It takes 30 days for a flood policy to take effect. This is why you need to purchase flood insurance before flooding occurs.
If your insurance agent is unable to write a flood policy, call (800)638-6620 for information.
During a windstorm, wind forces are carried from the roof down to the exterior walls, down to the foundation. Homes can be damaged when wind forces are not properly transferred to the ground.
Roof sheathing (the boards or plywood nailed to the roof rafters or trusses) can fail during a hurricane if not properly installed. Examine the sheathing from the attic. If many of the nails have missed the rafters, you may need to renail the sheathing. If you're putting on a new roof, make sure the sheathing complies with current recommended practices.
In a hurricane or other wind storm, the side walls of the roof (end gables) take a real beating and can collapse. Gable bracing often consists of 2"x4"s placed in an "X" pattern at both ends of the attic: from the top center of the end gable to the bottom of the brace of the fourth truss, and from the bottom center of the end gable to the peak of the roof.
Hurricane straps (made out of galvanized metal) help keep the roof fastened to the walls in high winds. They can be difficult to install, so you may need a contractor for this project. Ask the Building Services Department whether hurricane straps are required or advisable in your area.
The exterior walls, doors and windows are the protective shell of your home. If the shell is broken during a storm, high winds can enter the home and put pressure on the roof and walls, causing serious damage.
For each double door, at least one of the doors should be secured at both the top of the door frame and the floor with sturdy sliding bolts. Most bolts that come with double doors, however, are not strong enough to withstand high winds. Your local hardware can help you select the proper bolts. Some door manufacturers provide reinforcing bolt kits made specifically for their doors.
If the garage door fails, winds can enter your home and blow out doors, windows, walls and the roof. Ask the Building Services Department for guidance on what to do.
Installing storm shutters is one of the most effective ways to protect your home. Purchase or make shutters for all exposed windows, glass surfaces, French doors, sliding glass doors and skylights.
There are many types of manufactured storm shutters available made out of wood, aluminum or steel. You can also make storm shutters with 5/8-inch thick exterior-grade plywood.
Information compiled from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Your local government can tell you in which flood zone your property is located. For unincorporated Charleston County, Awendaw, Kiawah Island, Meggett, and Rockville, contact the Charleston County Planning Department to obtain a flood zone determination. Flood zone determinations are available for property in other municipalities in Charleston County through the applicable municipality.
Flood Insurance Rate Maps for Charleston County are also available on-line at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) map service center.
Charleston County has experienced many hurricanes and other severe storms throughout our history, the most recent of which were Hurricanes Hugo in 1989 and Hurricane Floyd in 1999. The greatest threat for flooding in the Charleston County area is from storm surge associated with a hurricane from the Atlantic Ocean.
If a property within Charleston County is in one of the following flood zones:
Zone A: No base flood elevations determined.
Zone AE: Base flood elevations determined.
Zone AH: Flood depths of 1 to 3 feet (usually areas of ponding); base flood elevations determined.
Zone AO: Flood depths of 1 to 3 feet (usually sheet flow on sloping terrain); average depths determined. For areas of alluvial fan flooding, velocities also determined.
Zone A99: To be protected from 100-year flood by Federal flood protection system under construction; no base flood elevations determined.
Zone V: Coastal flood with velocity hazard (wave action); no base flood elevations determined.
Zone VE: Coastal flood with velocity hazard (wave action); base flood elevations determined.
Shaded Zone X: Areas of 500-year flood; areas of 100-year flood with average depths of less than 1 foot or with drainage areas less than 1 square mile; and areas protected by levees from 100-year flood.
Zone X: Areas determined to be outside 500-year flood plain.
Zone D: Areas in which flood hazards are undetermined, but possible.
Additional information regarding flood zones and flood insurance is available from the National Flood Insurance Program.
Federally subsidized flood insurance is available through the National Flood Insurance Program for most properties located in Charleston County and its inclusive municipalities. Damage caused by flooding is not covered by a standard homeowner's insurance policy. A separate flood insurance policy is required for flood peril coverage. Flood insurance is available for buildings only, contents only, or both buildings and contents. Insurance agents or the National Flood Insurance Program should be contacted for flood policy information. There is generally a 30-day waiting period for flood insurance policies to become effective. Charleston County currently has a few parcels of land that could potentially be developed located in "Coastal Barrier Resource Act" protected areas (COBRA zones). Under Federal law, the National Flood Insurance Program may not issue flood insurance policies for structures built in COBRA zones. If flood insurance is available for structures built in COBRA zones, it will be through a private insurer.
The Charleston County Flood Damage and Prevention Ordinance mandates that certain procedures be followed for construction-related work within properties designated as flood zones on the Charleston County Flood Insurance Rate Maps. Copies of this ordinance are also available from the Charleston County Building Services Department upon request.
The National Flood Insurance Program requires that if the cost of reconstructing, rehabilitating, adding to, or otherwise improving a structure equals or exceeds 50 percent of the building's assessed or appraised value, then the building must meet the same construction requirements as a new building. An improvement of 50 percent or more to a structure is known as a "Substantial Improvement". These requirements also apply to buildings that are substantially damaged; however, the value used in making the substantial improvement determination is the pre-damage value of the structure. In Charleston County and the jurisdictions for which it provides inspection-related services, the values of construction work on building permits taken out on a property during the past five (5) years are included in the determination of a "Substantial Improvement." This regulation is enforced through the construction permitting process. Any questions regarding "Substantial Improvements" may be referred to the Building Services Department.
Flood Elevation Requirements:
The finished floor of all new and substantially improved residential structures must be elevated to a minimum of two feet above the base flood elevation indicated on the applicable flood insurance rate map. A flood elevation certificate indicating this elevation must be submitted prior to any building inspection except for a foundation inspection. This certificate must be of the latest version available.
Only non-residential structures in all "A" flood zones may be floodproofed to a minimum of one foot above the base flood elevation in lieu of elevating the finished floor to this elevation. A pre-construction (prior to the plans being released for permit) and an as-built (prior to final building inspection) floodproofing certificate must be completed by a South Carolina registered Architect and/or Professional Engineer for all floodproofed buildings. Construction plans for floodproofed buildings must also be sealed by a South Carolina registered Architect and/or Professional Engineer.
Equipment Elevation Requirements:
With the exception of one electrical outlet and one switch on a Ground Fault Interrupter (as required to meet the National Electrical Code), there may be no electrical wiring, plumbing fixtures, mechanical fixtures, other equipment, appliances, or ductwork located within new or substantially improved structures below one foot above the base flood elevation. Replacement HVAC systems in all "A, AE, AH, AO, A99" flood zones must be located either at or above the existing finished floor elevation or the base flood elevation, whichever is lower, unless the property is undergoing a "Substantial Improvement," in which case the HVAC system must be elevated to or above one foot above the base flood elevation.
Construction Materials Requirements:
Per FEMA, only Flood Resistant Materials Technical Bulletin 2 (Class 4 or 5 materials) are permitted to be used below the base flood elevation unless the structure is a floodproofed non-residential structure.
Flood Control Vent Requirements:
Enclosed areas below the base flood elevation (e.g. garages, sheds, crawl spaces, etc.) must be provided with flood control vents located and sized in accordance with FEMA requirements (e.g. a minimum of two (2) openings on different walls, located within a maximum of 12 inches of grade, sized at a minimum of one square inch per one square foot of enclosed area, with vents that allow the free-flow of flood waters at all times. If these specifications are not met, a South Carolina registered Architect or Professional Engineer must certify in writing that the structure is designed to comply with FEMA requirements regarding equilization of hydrostatic and hydrodynamic forces.
Permitted Uses Below Base Flood Elevation:
Permitted uses below the base flood elevation are restricted to those necessary for building access, vehicle parking, and limited storage of yard-related equipment.
Refer to the Charleston County Flood Damage and Prevention Ordinance.
Lowest Horizontal Member Elevation:
The lowest horizontal structural member of all new and substantially improved structures must be elevated to a minimum of one foot above the base flood elevation indicated on the applicable flood insurance rate map. A flood elevation certificate indicating this elevation must be submitted prior to any building inspection, except for a foundation inspection. This certificate must be of the latest version available.
Plan and Certificate Requirements:
Wall section and foundation plans for structures in "V or VE" flood zones must be designed and sealed by a South Carolina Registered Professional Engineer and/or Architect. Plans must detail breakaway wall construction, foundation design, and scour depth. If spread footings are used, the bottom of the footing must be a minimum of 12 inches below the anticipated scour depth at the structure location. Pre-construction "V-Zone design" and "V-Zone Breakaway wall" certificates must be submitted with the construction plans for review. As-built "V-Zone design" and "V-Zone Breakaway wall" certificates must be submitted prior to a final building inspection. Obtain copies of these certificates from the Charleston County Building Services Department.
Equipment Elevation Requirements:
With the exception of one electrical outlet and one switch on a Ground Fault Interrupter (as required to meet the National Electrical Code), there may be no electrical wiring, plumbing fixtures, mechanical fixtures, other equipment, appliances, or ductwork located within new or substantially improved structures below the design flood elevation (base flood elevation plus freeboard). Replacement HVAC systems in all special flood hazard areas (flood zones) must be located either at or above the existing finished floor elevation or the design flood elevation, whichever is lower, unless the property is undergoing a "Substantial Improvement," in which case the HVAC system must be elevated to or above the design flood elevation.
Construction Materials Requirements:
Per FEMA, only Flood Resistant Materials Technical Bulletin 2 (Class 4 or 5 materials) are permitted to be used below the base flood elevation.
Permitted Uses Below the Flood Elevation:
Permitted uses below the design flood elevation are restricted to those necessary for building access, vehicle parking, and limited storage of yard-related equipment.
Walls Below the Base Flood Elevation:
All walls below the design flood elevation in a V or VE flood zone must be designed and certified by a South Carolina registered Professional Engineer and/or Architect to break away from a water load less than that which would occur during the base flood.
No fill is permitted to be used for structural purposes in "V and VE" flood zones. Landscaping fill is only permitted if a South Carolina registered Professional Engineer certifies in writing that the fill will not cause wave run-up or deflection.
No obstructions are permitted below the base flood elevation within a structure. Obstructions not located within a structure (e.g. permanent planters, elevated swimming pools, elevated tennis courts, certain types of fences, etc.) are also not permitted unless a South Carolina registered Professional Engineer certifies in writing that the obstructions will not cause wave run-up or deflection.
For properties located in Unincorporated Charleston County, Awendaw, Hollywood, Kiawah Island, Meggett, Ravenel, Rockville, and Seabrook Island, the Charleston County Building Services Department maintains copies of flood elevation certificates for all new construction and substantially improved structures. If your structure was constructed in one of these jurisdictions since 1990, the Charleston County Building Services Department may have an elevation certificate on file for your structure. For structures where an elevation certificate is not available on file, a S.C. Registered Land Surveyor will need to survey the elevation of the structure and complete the flood elevation certificate form. Charleston County does not survey structures for the purpose of completing flood elevation certificates.
The Charleston County Emergency Management Department has information available on safety measures for flooding and other hazard events. The Federal Emergency Management Agency also maintains an electronic library of resources on flood safety. The South Carolina Flood Mitigation Program office also provides information on flood safety. It is important to remember to not drive through flooded areas.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency maintains an electronic library of reference materials on topics such as retrofitting structures for enhanced flood and hurricane resistance and protecting building utilities from flood damages. The Charleston County libraries also have multiple publications available in their reference sections on protecting property from flood damages. Since Charleston County is subject to hurricanes, measures such as protecting glazed openings in your buliding against high wind damages should also be taken for property protection.
Charleston County has passed an ordinance prohibiting the dumping of trash, landscape debris or other materials into stream channels, ponds, basins or ditches that regularly carry or store stormwater in the unincorporated areas of Charleston County. These channels are routinely cleaned and maintained by the Charleston County Public Works Department. Residents of Unincorporated Charleston County are encouraged to assist in maintaining the drainage channels and ditches by removing or reporting obstructions (i.e. shopping carts, debris, trash, etc.) at (843)202-7600. Keeping drainage channels free of obstruction reduces flooding potential in the event of heavy rains.
First and foremost, make certain the building is structurally sound and is not going to collapse or cause other physical harm prior to entering a damaged structure. Shut off the electrical and/or gas service to the structure if there is any possibility that the service is damaged. Notify all applicable insurance carriers of the damage immediately to begin the claims process.
If your property is one of many damaged by an event, make sure the address of your property is clearly indicated for inspectors and insurance adjusters.
Take photographs of any damaged areas. Secure the property from any additional damages if possible. Wait for your insurance company to give you clearance to begin cleaning up damaged areas.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency also has information available online regarding the first steps to take after a flood and about repairing your flooded home. Be careful to avoid injury during post-event clean-up and salvage operations. Make sure any contractors you hire to repair your property are licensed or registered for the type of work they are performing and obtain applicable permits prior to starting work on your property.
Licensing and permit information is available from the Building Services Department.
Charleston County coordinates a regional planning initiative, involving the County and municipalities within Charleston County, in developing and maintaining the Charleston Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan. This plan is updated annually to reflect changes that have occurred during the year. Anyone who would like to provide input into the Charleston Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan may do so by e-mailing the Building Services Department at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling the department at (843)202-6930. The public is also invited to attend committee meetings regarding plan updates.
If you have any questions contact (843)202-6930.
Flood hazard areas in Charleston County may contain wetland areas which serve natural and beneficial functions such as flood moderation, water quality enhancement, ground water recharge, and habitat for wildlife. Beachfront areas may also contain primary ocean front dunes, which serve as buffers against minor wave height fluctuations and beach erosion. Protecting these areas maintains their important functions. Activities that disturb beachfront and saltwater wetlands should not be undertaken without first obtaining permits from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management. Any disturbance of freshwater wetlands requires a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and certification from S.C. DHEC's Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has placed stream gages in rivers and streams that indicate real-time water elevations at the following locations within Charleston County:
For topographic map information please contact the Building Inspections Department.
These stream gage elevations are to be used for approximations only. Always follow emergency instructions that will be broadcast over local television and radio stations through the Emergency Alert System as weather advisories are released or updated by the National Weather Service. If evacuations are required, it is imperative that you follow instructions. Street patrols and door-to-door notifications may be used if an evacuation is mandatory. Generally, residents are given 48-72 hours notice in advance of a hurricane.
Charleston County also uses a telephone notification system for emergency information. For more information and free registration, please visit http://alert.charlestoncounty.org.
Questions regarding emergency procedures may be directed to the Charleston County Emergency Management Department.
When a dangerous storm hits, you know what to do, but what about afterwards? Cooperation and proper clean-up procedures can go a long way toward regaining our way of life.
Please be sure to separate your debris into the following categories:
And, as you clear debris from your yard and home, please be careful not to block:
Do your part to help speed up the recovery process!
For further information:
Charleston County Environmental Management Department
Berkeley County Water & Sanitation Authority
Dorchester County Public Works
"Move from the water, Brace for the wind"
If you are advised to evacuate your home and move to temporary location, there are a few things you should remember:
Zone A: West of the Ashley River - Unincorporated areas of Charleston County from the Ashley River to the Colleton County line; Atlantic Ocean to the Dorchester County Line. This includes City of Folly Beach, Town of Hollywood, Town of Kiawah Island, Town of Meggett, Town of Ravenel, Town of Rockville, Town of the Town of Seabrook Island, James Island, Johns Island, Wadmalaw Island, Adams Run, Parkers Ferry, Wiltown, Yonges Island and all other unincorporated Charleston County in this area.
Zone B: Central Charleston - From the tip of the Peninsula to Ladson Road; from the Ashley River to the Wando River. This includes City of Charleston, City of North Charleston, the Town of Lincolnville, Daniel Island, St. Thomas Island, and unincorporated Charleston County.
Zone C: East of the Wando River - Unincorporated areas of Charleston County from the Atlantic Ocean to the Berkeley County line; Wando River to the Georgetown County line. This includes the Town of Mt. Pleasant, Town of Isle of Palms, Town of Sullivan's Island, Town of Awendaw, the Town of McClellanville, Dewees Island, Capers Island, and Goat Island.
Zone D: Sand Hills Area - West of Dorchester Road and the Ashley River, 17A to the Colleton County line and all areas bordering Charleston County.
Zone E: Miles Jamison/Oakbrook Area - Miles Jamison Road, between Ladson Road, to Bacons Bridge Road: including the Lakes of Summerville, Newington Plantation, Crestwood Subdivision south to Orangeburg Road, and South Main Mobile Home Park.
Zone F: The Swamp - Any other low-lying areas including the Cypress Swamp area, the Edisto River area and the Twin Lakes Subdivision.
Charleston County provides general population shelters for citizens who have been evacuated from their homes, for those who live in low-lying areas, and for others seeking shelter from a storm. Shelters are alcohol, drug and weapon free. Individuals should come prepared with supplies.
Items to bring to the shelter include:
The American Red Cross and/or Salvation Army provides food at the shelters. You are encouraged to bring some food, snacks, and water with you.
In addition, please bring the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of family and friends should you need to contact them or to provide information of your whereabouts. Also, leave your porch light on; this will assist the authorities that drive around your neighborhood after the storm to indicate that you have electricity.
Pets are welcomed at all "Pet-Friendly" shelters. It is important to bring shot records, food, and a crate. Pets are not allowed in General Public Shelters unless they are service animals.
Orange County anticipates opening pet-friendly shelters during an emergency and reminds families to include pets in their hurricane prep plans:
For pet-friendly shelters, individuals are asked to bring a carrier, copy of medical records to ensure pets are current on vaccines, food, water and any necessary medications and identification for the pet.
You should plan on staying for the duration of the event or until it is safe to leave.
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