[image-1]With Hurricane Irma bearing down on Puerto Rico and the final path of the storm unknown, Gov. Henry McMaster is advising South Carolina residents to prepare for the worst.
At noon Wednesday, McMaster declared a state of emergency for South Carolina, a move which the governor called precautionary.
“Something is likely to happen and we need to get prepared. This declaration officially allows emergency management officials to begin execution of our state hurricane preparedness plan on the state and local level,” said McMaster during a afternoon press briefing. “It also allows the National Guard to pre-position resources, move people, and stage resources in anticipation of evacuation, probably of the Lowcountry, and anticipation of landfall of the hurricane and the recovery, which will follow the landfall.”
At 2 p.m., the National Hurricane Center announced that Irma was approximately 90 miles east of San Juan, Puerto Rico, moving north west at 16 miles per hour. At the time, maximum sustained wind speeds for the Category 5 hurricane were recorded at 185 miles per hour. Current projections place the coast of South Carolina in the possible path of the storm, which is expected to reach the southern tip of Florida by Sunday morning.
In preparation for a potential East Coast impact from Irma, McMaster has enacted the state’s mass transportation plan, which allows FEMA and the National Guard to begin contracting companies to provide mass transportation in the case of an evacuation. The governor said that he will be requesting a disaster declaration from President Donald Trump in advance of the hurricane to open South Carolina up for federal aid and resources in order to prepare for landfall if and when it comes.
“If it hits in the strength that it now has, when it gets here it will be like Hurricane Hugo,” said McMaster. “The main message that I want to bring to the people is two things: One, you could not have a better, more prepared, more professional team or network around the state than we have. We are prepared. We are prepared in resources. We’ve had training. We’ve prepared in coordination and communication. We’ve prepared all the way from state and county levels all the way across the state. But what we can not do is make the citizens prepare.”
He added, “What we are urging you to do, all citizens, is get prepared.”
According to McMaster, if Irma continues on a definite path toward South Carolina, an evacuation of the coast could come as early as Friday. Maj. Gen. Robert Livingston of the South Carolina National Guard reminded residents that it remains unknown if the storm with hit the East Coast, but a stronger indication of Irma’s impact on South Carolina could come within the next 24 to 48 hours.
On Wednesday, the city of Charleston announced that both the city and Charleston County have been in communication regarding initial preparations for a possible impact. Starting Thursday, members of Charleston City Council will begin conducting daily meetings to discuss storm preparations. A citizen information hotline is being established at (843) 973-7219 and will become active Wednesday evening with a message containing the most current information on the storm.
Both city and state officials recommend that citizens visit scemd.org for additional hurricane preparedness information. The city’s hurricane information page can be found online at charleston-sc.gov/hurricane-information.
“While it is still too soon to know exactly what the impact of the storm may be for our area, residents are encouraged to begin making preparations, including gathering emergency supplies, becoming familiar with evacuation routes and coordinating with family members,” said Charleston Emergency Management director Mark Wilbert.