Gov. Henry McMaster ordered residents of barrier islands in three S.C. counties to evacuate late Friday, as weather experts warned of storm surges expected to accompany Hurricane Irma’s arrival.
The Category 4 storm’s projected track – which once had the Palmetto State in its crosshairs – leaned west Friday. The hurricane now is expected to churn through Florida and then Georgia.
However, it could bring storm surges of 4 to 6 feet to coastal counties in southern South Carolina, officials warned.
Some S.C. residents could see scattered tornadoes and up to 10 inches of rain, weather experts warned Friday afternoon.
Tropical storm-force winds also are possible Monday in some areas of the state, particularly south of Interstate 26 and in the western half of the Midlands.
Residents of barrier islands in Colleton, Beaufort and Jasper counties must leave their homes by 10 a.m. Saturday, two days before the now-Category 4 storm begins affecting South Carolina, McMaster said.
Officials said the order would affect fewer than 20,000 residents who live at:
▪ Edisto Beach in Colleton County
▪ Hilton Head, Harbour, Hunting, Daufuskie and Fripp islands in Beaufort County
▪ Knowles and Tullifini islands in Jasper County
“There will be no other evacuations for other counties,” McMaster said.
McMaster left the possibility of lane reversals up to law enforcement officials in those three coastal counties.
Officials have opened shelters for evacuees at Colleton Middle School in Colleton County, Ridgeland-Hardeeville High School in Jasper County, and Bluffton and Battery Creek high schools in Beaufort County.
McMaster left open the possibility of evacuations until late Friday, as Irma approached southern Florida. The latest forecasts predict the storm will skirt along South Carolina’s western border.
But experts warned S.C. residents to expect power outages and possible damage to poorly built mobile homes, trees, signs and outbuildings. Heavy rains could lead to flash flooding or river flooding throughout next week.
State forecasters remained uncertain of the storm’s path and cautioned that South Carolina residents should remain vigilant.
The likelihood of storm surge in the coastal areas of South Carolina also is increasing, which could lead to “significant coastal flooding,” according to the National Weather Service.
Major coastal flooding is possible, threatening to cut off many coastal areas, including routes to and from barrier islands.
Earlier Friday, McMaster rescinded a portion of an executive order issued Thursday calling on health care facilities and nursing homes to evacuate from coastal counties. Now, only the 27 facilities and three hospitals in Beaufort and Jasper counties are being required to evacuate, the governor said.
In its current track, the eye of Irma is set to make landfall over the southern portion of Florida on Sunday night and make its way north, nearing south Georgia by Monday. That track could take Irma west of South Carolina.
Even as Irma tracks west, hurricane force winds could extend up to 70 miles from the center of the storm and tropical storm-force winds can extend 185 miles.
10 a.m. Saturday
Mandatory evacuations will begin for residents of coastal islands in three S.C. counties – Beaufort, Colleton and Jasper.
The University of South Carolina, Allen and Benedict universities, Columbia College, and the Richland 1, 2, Lexington 1, 2 and Lexington-Richland 5 school districts will be closed Monday.
City of Columbia and Richland County will be closed Monday.
For more on closings, go to thestate.com.