Chester Residents Brace For More Rain, Wind

Sep 15, 2018

Gene's Restaurant in downtown Chester, SC, plans to stay open during the rain that Tropical Storm Florence is expected to bring.
Credit Alex Olgin / WFAE News

David Johnson says he's ready for whatever Tropical Storm Florence brings to Chester, SC.

“Well we always have a preparedness in the house for all the emergency equipment," Johnson, 66, says between drags of a cigarette.  "I could probably supply half this town with what I have at my house.”

Emergency management officials have urged those in flood-prone areas in Chester - about 50 miles south of Charlotte - to evacuate to shelters. 

He expects a lot of family members to come over to his house. He has a fridge and freezers full of food as well as canned goods.

And as he said, a few other necessities.

“Generator, plenty of food and $200 dollars worth of liquor.”

He’s learned from previous storms to stay fully stocked on emergency supplies. And this one has already 

Dave Johnson is all stocked up and ready for the rain that he expects will bring down a lot of trees in Chester.
Credit Alex Olgin / WFAE News

claimed a 50-foot tree in his yard. Johnson was finishing his coffee at a table outside his regular breakfast spot, Gene’s Restaurant.

Inside, the diner is full of people chatting and watching a television with the latest weather news. Owner Sandra Martin says it’s busy and she planning to stay open during the storm.

Even if the power goes out, Martin said, “We got gas grills gas stoves so it was kinda candlelight cooking and candlelight eating.”

Here to help her out is the previous owner 80-year-old Bill Robertson. He kept the place open during Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

“We lost power. But we operated we never closed," Robertson said, "We cooked with gas, candles and stuff. We made coffee and heated the water up in the kitchen. It was really busy because nobody had power.”

Power outages and possible flooding is what drove 63-year-old Bertha Meadows to the Red Cross shelter a few miles away from downtown at the Chester Middle School. She lives in a first floor one bedroom apartment and came to the shelter Friday.

“Whatever damage is there it can be fixed, I cannot," Meadows said.

She brought a few days’ worth of clothes, toiletries and tablet to keep herself occupied.  She’s heard the stories about dangerous rescues form a relative who works for the fire department in town.

Bertha Meadows came to the Red Cross shelter because she'd rather be safe than sorry.
Credit Alex Olgin / WFAE News

“He would often tell me about how people wait till the last minute then they have to come in and they are risking their lives also to try and save them," Meadows recalled, "So I didn’t want to be one of those people.” 

When Meadows left for the shelter she told neighbors who planned to wait out the storm at home, that it was a bad idea. Red Cross volunteer and Shelter Manager Cleopatra Allen sprang into action when she got the phone call that she was needed for this storm. She’s helped out in Texas after Hurricane Harvey and during other disasters. So she grabbed her to go bag and helped set up 64 cots in the middle school gym.

Allen said she loves doing this, “I love helping people seeing people at their hardest time not necessarily their worst. But when they are having a hard time to be there to support them, to give them encouragement, to give them love and support. I love it.”

Allen said the shelter has plenty of food, water and blankets and is able to take in more people who want to make sure they’re in a safe place.