CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Charleston City Council unanimously declared a state of emergency for the Holy City as Hurricane Irma continues its trek toward the United States.
Mayor John Tecklenburg made the announcement at a news conference late Thursday afternoon.
"We cannot over emphasize how dangerous this storm could be and likely will be for the City of Charleston," Tecklenburg said.
The mayor also had a strong warning for those who live in areas that tend to be impacted by storms.
"If you live on the barrier islands or on a property that has a history of flooding it's a good time to be out of town for this long weekend coming up," Tecklenburg said.
The city is currently operating at OPCON 4 and the Emergency Management Department is keeping in touch with Charleston County and other local agencies about the storm's potential impact, city spokesman Jack O'Toole said.
"I don't think I can say more eloquently than the governor said this afternoon,'If you can leave now, go ahead,'" Tecklenburg said. "It's okay you don't have to wait until Saturday morning."
On Thursday, crews began preparing city buildings for potential impact and worked with contractors to secure all private construction sites.
City public service workers worked to clear drains and improve system flow in advance of the storm, O'Toole said.
City staff went door-to-door throughout the area notifying vulnerable people about the storm's potential impact, including an outreach to Charleston's homeless community and those in the city's public housing, he said.
Over 20,000 sandbags were distributed to residents throughout the day today from four pick-up locations throughout the city. Supplies are being replenished and distribution of the final 8,000 bags will take place Friday.
Beginning Friday at 5 p.m., all city parking garages, excluding the Gaillard Center garage, will be free for residents to park their cars throughout the duration of the storm.
Authorities say the city's emergency management team has already begun preparation for recovery, which will commence immediately after the storm passes through the area.
A citizen information line has been established at 843-973-7219 and will be staffed throughout the day tomorrow to answer citizens' questions regarding storm preparations. Additional information can be found at www.charleston-sc.gov/hurricane-information.
Watch the presser below: