McMaster declares state of emergency ahead of Ian’s arrival
WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - Gov. Henry McMaster said he has issued a state of emergency for South Carolina ahead of the anticipated arrival of Hurricane Ian but stopped short of ordering evacuations.
“As of 3 p.m. today, I issued a state of emergency, not an evacuation, but a state of emergency,” he said. “The state of emergency is lifting a lot of the regulations and a lot of the rules that allow us to move quickly, to move people, to move assets., and also the state of emergency allows us to draw down federal FEMA dollars.”
McMaster said he was not ordering any evacuations, saying he has been in touch with the counties and that they did not believe they need evacuations.
“I’m ordering no closures of state government offices, I’m ordering no school closures. That is up to the school districts themselves,” he said.
McMaster’s state of emergency declaration also activates the state’s emergency operations plan. It also activates the state’s National Guard to begin positioning assets and troops.
“It’s still too early to know exactly how Hurricane Ian will affect South Carolina, but preparations at the state level are well underway, and this declaration of emergency is another step in that process,” McMaster said. “We do know we’ll see a lot of rain and significant storm surge on our coastline over the coming days – now is the time for each South Carolinian to make plans for every contingency and be prepared.”
National Weather Service meteorologist John Quagliariello said Hurricane Ian made landfall just southwest of Punta Gorda, Florida, as a Category 4 hurricane with wind speeds of 150 miles per hour.
“The current forecast from the National Hurricane Center shows Ian moving northeast across the Florida peninsula while gradually weakening and then coming back out into the Atlantic Ocean as a tropical storm, where it’s expected to maintain its strength as it tracks toward the South Carolina coast on Friday,” Quagliariello said.
The National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane watch and storm surge warnings for the South Carolina coastline from the border with Georgia to the Charleston County-Georgetown County line.
“Tropical storm warnings are in effect for the entire coast of South Carolina,” he said.
Quagliariello said there is the potential for Ian to strengthen to a Category 1 hurricane over water before it reaches the South Carolina coast. He said residents should be prepared for power outages because of the potential of 40-mph winds or stronger. He also warned residents in low-lying or flood-prone areas to plan to move to higher ground because the winds could cause a prolonged period of storm surge inundation of three to five feet beginning Thursday and continuing into Saturday.
“We expect areas to see some flash flooding. We expect to see high water coming in from the ocean inundating parts of the coast and some isolated tornadoes,” he said.
South Carolina Transportation Secretary Christy Hall said the state’s SCDOT is prepared to use all available resources to respond to Ian’s impact. Hall said the agency has more than 2,100 employees statewide who are already doing work in advance of the storm’s arrival.
“Additionally, we are relocating some of those resources to the coastal areas to help with the expected recovery operations that may be required due to downed trees or isolated flooding,” she said.
“Now is the time to finish getting prepared because these winds are going to be coming,” McMaster said. “We know that and we know we’re going to get some rain as well. So be prepared. No where your important papers are, know where your medicines are, know where you can go if you need to go. Know what you can do with your pets, alert your family, all of those things.”
McMaster defended his decision against ordering evacuations, saying it was not necessary based on all of the information they have.
“Evacuation entails a lot of disruption and it is not necessary with this storm,” he said. “It has been necessary with others. This one doesn’t have the wind speed that some others have had and it has got more wind speed than some others have had, and again, they all hit different parts of the state. But we think that the analysis that we have made with the National Weather Service and also watching what’s happening in Florida indicates this is not a situation where we need to have evacuations and therefore we will not order them.”
Some shelters will be open for those who may need them. Residents can text “Shelter” and their zip code to 43362 to receive a list of the nearest open shelters within 200 miles.
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