WEST COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC/WIS) - Gov. Henry McMaster announced Friday night a mandatory evacuation order to go into effect for the barrier islands of Colleton, Beaufort and Jasper Counties at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Those islands include Edisto Beach in Colleton County; Dafuskie Island, Fripp Island, Harbor Island, Hunting Island and Hilton Head Island in Beaufort County; and Knowles Island and Tulifinny Island in Jasper County. He said no other mandatory evacuations will be ordered, but he urged residents in those counties to consider evacuating because forecasters expect a storm surge of between four to six feet above ground level in the state's southern-most counties on Monday.
He also said shelters would be opening in the three counties at the following locations:
- Colleton Middle School in Colleton County
- Bluffton High School in Beaufort County
- Battery Creek High School in Beaufort County
- Ridgeland High, Junior and Elementary School in Jasper County
He said he would not order lane reversals of I-26 from Charleston to Columbia, an option he was considering earlier in the week when forecast tracks pointed Irma toward the South Carolina coast. But he said that if lane reversals become necessary for the three counties under the evacuation order, local and state authorities would work together to reverse traffic as needed.
McMaster said he reviewed the 5 p.m. update to Hurricane Irma's forecast track before making that decision.
"I need to say and need to make it clear, if we had to evacuate the whole coast starting at 10 o'clock tomorrow as we are prepared to do, we are prepared to do it," McMaster said at an earlier news conference on Friday.
He said he did not think it would be necessary to issue an order to close schools statewide.
"The decision on school closings will continue to be made by school districts themselves," he said.
Most Lowcountry school districts made the decision early Thursday afternoon to close their schools and offices through Tuesday.
McMaster also rescinded an order of mandatory evacuations for healthcare facilities, including hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and alcohol and substance abuse treatment facilities, in Charleston, Berkeley, Dorchester, Georgetown and Horry Counties.
The order remains in effect in Beaufort, Colleton and Jasper Counties, he said.
The most recent forecast tracks from the National Hurricane Center have shifted the track of the storm to the west, predicting it will go across the Florida Peninsula and then into Georgia. But that forecast track also has the typical so-called cone of uncertainty, a wide area where the storm could actually go.
By the fifth day out, the longest point in such a forecast track, that cone can be more than 200 miles wide, which means South Carolina could still feel the effects of the storm.