Gov. McMaster issues mandatory evacuation for parts of Lowcountry counties

Gov. McMaster issues mandatory evacuation for parts of Lowcountry counties

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has issued a mandatory evacuation of the barrier islands in Jasper, Beaufort, and Colleton counties ahead of Hurricane Irma.

The evacuation goes into effect at 10 a.m. Saturday morning.

During his 2 p.m. conference, McMaster said he had not yet made a decision on whether or not to evacuate the coast ahead of Hurricane Irma. He also said he doesn't believe he will need to close schools statewide next week.

The governor said he would wait until the 5 p.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center on Irma before making the final decision.

McMaster said if the state needs to evacuate, then state officials are more than ready to do so. he is urging in an evacuation zone to continue preparing to leave. "Until we say otherwise, coastal residents should plan on evacuating Saturday at 10 a.m," he said. "That may change at 6 o'clock this evening."

McMaster did rescind the order for mandatory evacuations for healthcare facilities in the following counties: Horry, Georgetown, Berkley, Charleston and Dorchester. That evacuation order remains for healthcare facilities in Beaufort, Colleton and Jasper Counties.

As for the possibility of issuing an order to close schools statewide, McMaster said he doesn't think that will be necessary now. "We do not think we need to close schools statewide," the governor said. "The decision on school closings will continue to be made by school districts themselves."

South Carolina's interstate system has seen an influx of vehicles during the past two days. Evacuees from Florida and Georgia are heading to or through the Palmetto State in large numbers. On Thursday, an extra 27,000 vehicles were on the state's roads. Today, an additional 65,000 are expected. McMaster asks that locals stay off the interstates if possible. "Let's be good hosts," the governor said. That will allow evacuees to get to their destinations quicker.

The gas supply remains a concern for state leaders. The governor asks that South Carolinians try not to top off their vehicles everyday. "If you don't need the gas in your vehicles, don't get it," he said. "I am concerned about spot shortages due to a panic. We want there to be plenty of gas for our visitors so they can get to their final destinations."

Irma, the swirling, monster category 4 storm expected to make landfall in South Florida before moving up Florida and deeper into the southeast.

During his news conference on Thursday, McMaster laid out the state's plans if he decides to activate a mandatory evacuation along the coast of South Carolina.

That plan could be activated Friday, going into place at 10 a.m. Saturday.

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