WEST COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC/WIS) - Gov. Henry McMaster has ordered the mandatory evacuation of coastal counties in South Carolina except for Jasper, Beaufort and Colleton.
Troopers closed I-26 eastbound between Charleston and Columbia early Tuesday morning and flipped all lanes to the westbound direction at 11 a.m.
Crews have set up hurricane evacuation lanes from the I-26 and the I-77 interchange near Columbia to the I-26 and I-526 interchange in Charleston.
McMaster ordered school closures and closures of all state government offices for all non-essential personnel in 26 counties: Aiken, Allendale, Bamberg, Beaufort, Barnwell, Berkeley, Calhoun, Charleston, Colleton, Clarendon, Darlington, Dillon, Dorchester, Florence, Georgetown, Hampton, Horry, Jasper, Lexington, Lee, Marion, Marlboro, Orangeburg, Richland, Sumter, and Williamsburg.
He later recinded that order for Beaufort, Colleton and Jasper counties
People who live in the following coastal areas must evacuate beginning noon Tuesday:
Northern South Carolina Coast (All Zones):
- Horry County Evacuation Zones A, B, C
- Georgetown County Evacuation Zones A, B, C
Central South Carolina Coast (All Zones)
- Charleston County Evacuation Zones A, B, C
- Dorchester County Evacuation Zones D, E, F
- Berkeley County Evacuation Zones B, G, H, I
If you are unsure of the zone you live in, visit the SC Emergency Management Division website and enter your address into the Zone Finder.
He acknowledged the "inconvenience" of such a move but said it was necessary to keep people safe ahead of the now-Category 4 hurricane.
South Carolina's emergency helpline is now active around the clock. Anyone with questions related to Hurricane Florence should call the Public Information Phone System at 1-866-246-0133.
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At a news conference Sunday, McMaster said people should "pretend, assume, presume that a major hurricane is going to hit right smack dab in the middle of South Carolina and is going to go way inshore."
The National Hurricane Center says Florence could make landfall by Thursday in the Southeast U.S. and that residents from South Carolina to the mid-Atlantic need to get ready.
Though the forecast track has edged north, suggesting a landfall closer to Wilmington, the forecast cone continues to include the Charleston area and Live 5 Meteorologist Joey Sovine said some models have the storm coming closer to the Holy City.
McMaster requested a federal disaster declaration to the White House in anticipation of the hurricane. The governor is requesting the availability of federal resources should the storm make landfall in South Carolina. This request, if approved would also make state and local agencies eligible for reimbursement through FEMA for certain costs related to emergency measures taken during the storm and for debris removal, if necessary.
"Whatever happens, we're going to have a lot of rain and a lot of wind," he said.
He also urged people to get prescriptions filled, take care of pets, and take food and flashlights wherever they go.
McMaster said 2,702 National Guard, State Guard, SLED, Department of Public Safety, Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services, and local law enforcement personnel on standby and ready for deployment if the need arises. That figure includes 800 National Guardsmen, who will be on active duty Monday, 285 State Guardsmen, and 1,617 law enforcement officers.
On Saturday, McMaster declared a state of emergency Saturday to give his state time to prepare for the possible arrival of Tropical Storm Florence. He emphasized that there's no way to know yet when and where the storm will hit land, or when evacuations might be called.
He said he's not telling people to leave, just to prepare.