SC State, local officials give update on Irma preps

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD) — As Hurricane Irma’s track shifts to the west, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster says the decision for possible evacuations is delayed until after the Friday 5 p.m. update is released from the National Hurricane Center. Team South Carolina, consisting of the governor and other emergency management officials, is expected to make a decision on whether evacuations are needed around 6 p.m. Friday.

During the Friday briefing, the governor also rescinded the mandated evacuation of healthcare facilities in Horry, Georgetown, Berkeley, Dorchester, and Charleston Counties. Only three counties remain under the healthcare evacuation order.

An increase in traffic is expected on South Carolina roads as Georgia residents evacuate given the westward shift of the storm. Gov. McMaster asked residents in the Palmetto State to avoid major highways and to not continuously go to the gas station to “top off” gas tanks as those traveling from Georgia and Florida will need the gas.

During Thursday’s briefing, the governor announced, if necessary, he is prepared to begin evacuations of coastal communities Saturday at 10 a.m.

In a Hurricane Irma briefing Thursday afternoon, the governor said that health care facilities along the coast, to include those in Georgetown and Horry Counties, should begin evacuations Thursday at 2 p.m. Healthcare facilities include hospitals, nursing homes, substance abuse treatment facilities, assisted living facilities and other similar health services. About 24 hours later, with the change in Irma’s track, the governor rescinded his instruction for evacuations in Horry, Georgetown, Berkeley, Dorchester, and Charleston Counties.

The plan for evacuations, if enacted by the governor, calls for residents of coastal communities to evacuate beginning Saturday at 10 a.m., at which time the lane reversals on major roadways are also expected.

Gov. McMaster did not list specific counties that are to evacuate Saturday. He said emergency management personnel would monitor the storm and make that determination as the storm makes its northerly turn near Florida.

More than 2,300 law enforcement officers and National Guardsmen will work throughout the state to assist in evacuations, the governor announced.

The four major roadways that will host lane reversals are:

  • US 501 in Horry County
  •  I-26 in Charleston
  • US 21 in Beaufort County
  • US 278 in Hilton Head

Gov. McMaster said on Thursday if Hurricane Irma doesn’t take a “major turn” away from the South Carolina coast, evacuations will be necessary. He said evacuations will start with coastal communities and other areas could be added to the list as Irma’s path and strength become more clear.

If evacuations are initiated Saturday, Gov. McMaster said he doesn’t have a timeline on when residents will be allowed to return to their homes.

In addition, the governor announced that he is prepared, if necessary, to announce schools in the majority or all 46 counties will be closed Monday and Tuesday. While Gov. McMaster said the school cancellations are “likely,” the school closings are not finalized as of Thursday afternoon.

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