WEST COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Governor Henry McMaster urged residents in the evacuation zones to leave now if they haven't already as Hurricane Florence's track has shifted to show it will have a major impact on South Carolina.
Hurricane Florence will begin to slow down and weaken once it makes landfall near the South Carolina-North Carolina border at the end of the week.
In addition to an ever-changing forecast, the National Weather Service says for the first time ever, a Tropical Storm Watch has been issued.
Officials said more than 300,000 residents have evacuated, but they don't have much time to do so. South Carolina Department of Public Safety will shut down their two separate lane reversals at the following times.
- Hwy. 501 will close at noon Thursday, Sept. 13
- I-26 from Charleston to Columbia will close at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13
Troopers will perform a flush-out of those reversed lanes at those times. SCDOT officials said traffic has been increased coming out of the Pee Dee and the Charleston area as residents take heed of the evacuation orders.
Hundreds of law enforcement agencies will be in the evacuation zones, first to help patrol reversed roadways, and then will transition to security in evacuation areas to ensure residents aren't taken advantage of.
SC Department of Health and Environmental Control has examined 181 dams and counting, advising all residents who own or live near ponds to access water levels and consider lowering them. It was also suggested to examine spillways around ponds.
More information from the press conference:
The South Carolina Emergency Response Team continues to track Hurricane Florence and remains fully dedicated to preparing for the storm's potential impact on South Carolina. Forecasters say that Florence is currently a Category 3 hurricane and has the capacity to bring record amounts of rain to South Carolina. The State Emergency Operations Center is fully operational, staffed by emergency personnel from various state agencies and emergency organizations. The SEOC will be operational 24 hours a day until further notice.
- The South Carolina National Guard has more than 2,100 soldiers and airmen on duty and 50 members of the State Guard
- DOT and DPS have reversed 100 miles of I-26 and 20 miles of US 501
- DOT has more than 3000 team members assigned to the event.
- Today, there are 450 State Law Enforcement Division officers on duty
- The Department of Public Safety has 666 officers on duty
- Ordered 125 buses to be staged in Orangeburg to deploy if needed
- There are currently were 35 emergency shelters open throughout the state with over 1,800 occupants (find current openings here)
- The Air Operations Branch has seven aircraft staged to provide aerial reconnaissance over designated evacuation routes
- FEMA Incident Management Assistance Team is on site
- Provided items such as sandbags and generators to counties as requested
- Beginning at 11 a.m. state law enforcement officers began enforcing lane reversals from the coast
- Clemson Livestock-Poultry Health has activated Memorandums of Agreement with the ASPCA and National Animal Rescue and Sheltering Coalition to deploy emergency pet shelter staff, animal search, and rescue and animal-related damage assessment teams as needed
- At 9 a.m. SC Department of Natural Resources began river sweeps.
- Activated “Emergency Mode” on scemd.org and SC Emergency Manager mobile app.
- The Public Information Phone System has been activated. Citizens can call 1-866-246-0133 for emergency information.
For shelters, there are currently 34 shelters open with a capacity of 35,000. Three of those shelters are accepting pets. To see what shelters are open, click here.
All state parks in the evacuation zones are closed.
You can track the storm by using the following FIRST ALERT models:
In past press briefings, the governor has issued lane closures, mandatory evacuations, closed schools, and given preparedness updates from various agencies.
MORE: TRACKING FLORENCE
- Midlands closings, cancellations, and delays
- TRACKING FLORENCE: List of important sources, phone numbers in case of emergencies
- WOW! Astronaut takes a photo showing the power of Hurricane Florence from space
- Harvest Hope in dire need of donations to keep food bank shelves stocked
- SC gubernatorial candidate called for Army National Guard duty as Hurricane Florence approaches
- SCE&G warns of the potential for prolonged power outages due to Hurricane Florence
- U-haul offers free self-storage, other resources ahead of Hurricane Florence
Check back for more updates.