COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC) - Gov. Henry McMaster said he plans to issue orders to evacuate and reverse lanes on I-26 that would take effect at 10 a.m. Saturday.
He stopped short of actually ordering a mandatory evacuation, but said he is 99 percent sure he will call for evacuations from the coast and encouraged people to leave the coast sooner than what he would order Saturday morning.
He said those plans are based on the current information coming in on the projected path of Hurricane Irma and its potential impact on South Carolina.
He said any mandatory evacuation order would at least involve coastal counties but could include additional counties depending on where the storm would most likely make landfall.
McMaster also ordered healthcare facilities, including hospitals and nursing homes, in Charleston, Berkeley, Dorchester, Colleton, Beaufort, Georgetown, Jasper and Horry Counties to evacuate.
If lane reversals do happen, they would take place on I-26 from Charleston to I-77, he said.
In the meantime, he urged South Carolinians to look up their evacuation zones and check for established evacuation routes for their communities.
McMaster said he does not anticipate a gas shortage but warns other state's interstate highways are already experiencing traffic jams because of evacuations from Florida.
"We are already experiencing additional high levels of traffic from those states coming into our state to escape the storm and to get to safer ground," McMaster said. "So, as that storm proceeds on there will be more and more people from Georgia and Florida coming through South Carolina which will add to the burden on our highways. So, what we urge everyone to do is get prepared."
On Wednesday, traffic on I-95 was up 40 percent because of Florida evacuations, he said.
South Carolina Adj. Gen. Bob Livingston said the South Carolina National Guard is preparing for a Category 4 storm to make landfall, though they expect it will likely be a Category 3 storm.
Livingston said 800 National Guardsmen have been activated to assist with planning and lane reversals. State troopers would also be stationed along evacuation routes to help drivers.