Photo by Samantha Connors

Hunkered-down South Carolinians got a healthy taste of Hurricane Ian’s strong winds and sheets of rain around noon Friday as the storm started making a bigger impact along the South Carolina coast. Forecasters suspect the worst of it will be over locally by suppertime.

Ian made landfall 55 miles northeast of Charleston near Georgetown about 2:15 p.m., according to the National Hurricane Center.  It packed maximum sustained winds of 85 mph and was moving north at 15 mph.

“Fortunately, no deaths have been reported as a result of the storm,” Gov. Henry McMaster said at a 12:30 p.m. press conference. “But there are still life-threatening conditions.”

The National Weather Service’s John Farrell described the impacts of the storm across the state: “Peak wind gusts as of 12 p.m. have reached 83 mph at Fort Sumter, 73 mph at Folly Beach, 60 mph at Murrells Inlet, 58 mph at the Charleston Airport, 55 mph at Georgetown and 53 mph at North Myrtle Beach.”

Overnight, the Category 1 storm turned a northeasterly direction, which seemed to shift Ian’s center to the Grand Strand, not Charleston. On Wednesday, Ian was a Category 4 tempest that pounded southwest Florida. It weakened into a tropical storm as it tore across the center of the state, only to be resurrected Thursday as a hurricane again as it hit the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

“While we’re encouraged by the change in the track, we want folks to be aware that hazardous conditions are still very possible for our area,” Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said today. “We want our citizens to stay in and stay safe throughout the storm.”

Ian is expected to move onshore later today. According to the City of Charleston, residents can expect sustained tropical storm force winds of up to 60 mph with gusts up to 70 mph, which is just below hurricane strength. Some three to seven inches of rain is expected with the heaviest amounts before 2 p.m. A noon high tide may exacerbate storm-surge through the city. There could be tidal and flash flooding, officials said.

Farrell added that strong winds will occur in the Charleston metropolitan area through the evening. Tropical-storm-force winds could be felt throughout the Midlands and Pee Dee as the storm tracks inland.

“The flooding threat will continue into this evening, especially with the torrential rainfall that we’re seeing right now with Ian,” Farrell said. “If you encounter a flooded roadway, turn around, don’t drown.

Other helpful information:

Stay inside.  Emergency officials urge residents to stay inside until the storm has passed. 

Airport closed. Charleston International Airport is closed until 6 a.m. Saturday, according to airport officials.

Beach impacts.  The U.S. Geological Survey says sandy beaches and dunes along the South Carolina coastline are expected to see significant impacts from Hurricane Ian.  “USGS researchers are forecasting the waves and surge caused by Ian are likely to cause 11% of South Carolina’s and 1% of Georgia’s dunes along sandy beaches to be inundated – meaning continuously covered by ocean water. This is the most severe type of storm effect on coastal beaches, with flooding behind the dunes that may impact coastal communities.”

24-hour Charleston information line. There’s a 24-hour citizen information line for Charleston residents that is now activated. Call 843-724-7311 with any questions or to report damage. For emergencies, please call 911.

County citizen information line.  Charleston County will staff an information phone line all day Friday at 843.746.3900.  Spanish speakers can call 843.746.3909.

Power loss.  If you lose power, you are advised by county officials to contact your energy provider:

Biden signs FEMA emergency declaration. President Joe Biden signed a declaration this morning that authorizes FEMA to “coordinate all disaster relief efforts to alleviate the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population and to provide appropriate assistance” due to the storm in the state’s 46 counties.

Andy Brack and Chelsea Grinstead contributed to this story.

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