COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster is being blunt with state residents ahead of what could be the landfall of the potentially dangerous Hurricane Irma.
"If it hits in the strength that it now has, when it gets here, it will be like Hurricane Hugo," McMaster said.
Hugo, the last powerful hurricane to landfall directly on the shores of South Carolina, hit the state in September 1989 and remains a topic of discussion.
McMaster declared a state of emergency ahead of Irma's landfall as the category 5 storm swirls in the Atlantic with 185 MPH winds. He has also issued a disaster declaration to the federal government.
But the governor's main message Wednesday afternoon was for residents to get ready.
"So what we are urging you to do, is all citizens, is get prepared. Just assume or pretend that a category three hurricane is arriving tomorrow morning, and do what you would do then, now and get ready. Because when it gets close, it's too late," McMaster said.
The governor has not yet made a decision on if there will be mandatory evacuations yet due to a large amount of uncertainty of the storm's present track. However, if that decision is made, it will likely be made on Friday.
"If we say go, that means it's time to go," McMaster said.
"The state of emergency allows one of the best, most experienced emergency response teams in the entire world to begin organizing response efforts," McMaster said. "South Carolina is fortunate to have time to allow us to prepare for Hurricane Irma's potential landfall, and it is important that families and individuals in vulnerable areas use that time to review safety plans in case they are needed."
SCEMD officials have been keeping a close eye on Irma.
"It's too soon to rule out any possibilities," SCEMD Director Kim Stenson said in a statement. "Hurricane Irma is a dangerous storm and its projected path could put South Carolina in harm's way. Fortunately, people in South Carolina have time. While we hope we never see a hurricane head our way, we all need prepare for the possible effects."
The South Carolina National Guard is also on standby, according to state Adj. Gen. Robert Livingston, after returning from Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts in Texas.