COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster says the state is ready to weather the potentially deadly and dangerous Hurricane Irma with evacuation orders along the coast.
In a 2 p.m. news conference, McMaster says he hasn't done it yet but intends to issue a mandatory evacuation along the coast of South Carolina beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday.
As a result of the evacuation, lane reversals for Interstate 26 and several other state highways will begin at that time.
Still, McMaster is hoping coastal residents take this storm seriously.
"If you can leave now, go ahead," McMaster said. "Be sure, as we tell everybody, to be prepared."
McMaster did order healthcare facilities in coastal counties -- Jasper, Beaufort, Colleton, Dorchester, Charleston, Berkeley, Georgetown, and Horry -- to be evacuated as of 2 p.m.
The governor is also suggesting he may move to cancel schools and close government offices across the state ahead of the storm on Monday and Tuesday, which is expected to hit the South Carolina and Georgia coast on Monday.
Additionally, the governor issued Executive Order 2017-22, ordering all dam owners throughout the state to evaluate and assess current water levels to determine whether levels can be safely lowered to accommodate anticipated rises in water level. The governor's order directly asks dam owners to coordinate with property owners downstream to minimize additional damage and authorizes the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to act as necessary to protect life and property as the state prepares for the storm.
As for fuel, McMaster is stressing calm and saying not to worry about supply because there could be temporary shortages but it will be replenished.
Irma, a Category 5 storm with 175 mph winds, is expected to make landfall in Florida over the weekend before making a turn and heading to the Georgia-South Carolina coast.
McMaster also updated the latest on emergency officials being at the ready in case Irma's path puts it in South Carolina. The governor said 200 American Red Cross shelters could be available soon.
As for state agencies, McMaster said 5,000 South Carolina National Guardsmen are available for Tuesday and 1,200 state Department of Transportation maintenance workers will help with the potential evacuation.
Here is Team South Carolina Irma preparation by the numbers:
- 2,370 public and private dams in South Carolina to begin lowering water levels if necessary to accommodate heavy rainfall
- 2,358 State and local law enforcement officers on duty for potential evacuation
- Available on duty South Carolina National Guard: Today - 800 Sunday - 2,500 Tuesday - 5,000
- 200 Red Cross shelters if needed
- 2,900 Department of Social Services and Red Cross personnel available
- 1,200 South Carolina Department of Transportation maintenance personnel working evacuation routes