CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Gov. Henry McMaster said the decision to evacuate South Carolina for any potential hurricanes in the future may be made early due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
During a Thursday afternoon press conference, McMaster said precautions for the virus would slow the movement of people and equipment throughout the state in the event a hurricane evacuation was ordered, and more time would be needed to allow people to get to safety.
“We will have to make decisions a little earlier than we normally would, because we’re going to have to allow for the time for that movement to take place,” the governor said. “So that complicates the situation.”
State officials said emergency officials and crews would work to keep people safe by working within health recommendations against the virus which includes practicing social distance.
“We haven’t had a hurricane and pandemic at the same time,” the governor said. “So that adds an extra level of complication.”
State emergency officials also announced that changes for shelters would also take place due to the virus.
Department of Social Services Director Mike Leach said planning officials were now identifying areas in every shelter to conduct screenings as well as maintain social distancing for those of high risk, and people being possibly exposed or testing positive for COVID-19.
Meals at shelters would now be boxed up for individuals.
McMaster said COVID-19 was still just as dangerous as it was before, and urged South Carolinians to continue to be careful and be smart.
You can watch the presser below or click here.
Prior to that briefing, McMaster met with state and local emergency management officials from Charleston, Beaufort and Horry Counties.
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Hurricane Season began on Monday with two named storms already in the books. On Tuesday, Tropical Storm Cristobal formed in the Gulf of Mexico, setting a record for the earliest formation of a third Atlantic storm in hurricane season.
Forecasters with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center expect an above-normal 2020 Atlantic hurricane season this year:
- 13-19 named storms (maximum sustained winds of 39 mph or higher)
- 6-10 hurricanes (maximum sustained winds of 74 mph or higher)
- 3-6 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5, with winds of 111 mph or higher)
An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms of which six become hurricanes. An average hurricane season produces three major hurricanes.
CLICK HERE to read the South Carolina 2020 Hurricane Guide.
Forecasters expect El Ninño conditions to either remain neutral or to trend toward La Nina, meaning there will not be an El Nino present to suppress hurricane activity.
Also, warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, coupled with reduced vertical wind shear, weaker tropical Atlantic trade winds, and an enhanced west African monsoon all increase the likelihood for an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season. Similar conditions have been producing more active seasons since the current high-activity era began in 1995.
Experts urge people to plan now ahead by building a hurricane survival kit of the approach of a tropical storm or hurricane.
It is especially important this year because some necessary items may already be in short supply in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.
A typical hurricane survival kit should contain a three-day supply for each family member including pets as well as necessary medication and important papers.