Hurricane Matthew storm surge could reach miles inland

Nikki Haley made one last attempt to get coastal residents to get out of Hurricane Matthew’s way before the storm’s effects began to be felt on the South Carolina coast.

“This is the last time you’ll hear my voice,” the governor said in calling for any who still has not evacuated from the coast to take this last chance to get out now. “This is the last time you’ll see me.”

Three days after Haley called for residents to evacuate, she told reporters in a press conference that 310,000 residents out of an expected 500,000 have left the coast to seek shelter elsewhere in the state and beyond.

On Thursday, Haley said “not enough” people had evacuated from the coast.

“Daniel Island is not moving. We need you to consider coming up north,” Haley said, adding that Daufuskie Island “will be under water” from the storm surge.

The S.C. Department of Transportation began the process of ending the reversed lanes of Interstate 26 on Friday morning, after closing the eastbound lanes on Wednesday to speed up coastal evacuations.

No state-owned bridges were closed in South Carolina Friday morning. Movable bridges have been locked down so that vehicles can still drive on them, but waterway traffic can not pass through, said transportation chief Christy Hall.

The state was also preparing for power outages as a result of the storm.

“What we may be looking at is a lot of power outages for an extended period of time,” Haley said.

She said utility companies will coordinate with law enforcement and the National Guard so that restoring power can be done safely and quickly.

Public Safety head Leroy Smith said evacuating traffic was light in Myrtle Beach, Beaufort and Charleston areas.

Haley said 104 medical facilities have been evacuated from coastal areas. Beaufort Memorial Hospital, which was planned to be evacuated by noon Friday. Those patients are going to facilities in Aiken, Anderson, Dillon and Cheraw, said the state’s Health agency chief Catherine Heigel.

There have not been any specific inspections of dams by DHEC, Heigel said. She said they have been having owners do inspections. She said they are planning a “robust” response effort, including additional engineering resources from Army Corps and aid from the Homeland Security division that assisted in last year’s historic flooding.

Hurricane Matthew could make landfall in South Carolina sometime overnight and cause a storm surge of more than eight feet extending miles inland, according to state officials monitoring the storm.

The Charleston and Georgetown areas are expected to receive 13 inches of rain or more from the storm, according to the National Weather Service.

Many evacuees have already made their way to Columbia. Haley has said hotels throughout the state are booked up, and several storm shelters have been set up throughout the state.

“If the reason you're not leaving is because of a pet, we have plenty of space,” she said.

Two swiftwater rescue teams from the Columbia fire department deployed to Colleton County to assist with water rescues and the department’s mass-evacuation response vehicles deployed to a medical rehabilitation facility in Hanahan to help evacuate patients to Columbia on Thursday.

South Carolina Electric &Gas Co. said Friday it has maintenance crews in place and prepared to stare down another high-magnitude natural disaster like last year's flood.

The utility has more than 1,200 of its own personnel in place throughout its service areas to respond to power outages and other issues that arise from Hurricane Matthew, officials said. Backup crews are on standby from Oklahoma, Texas and Mississippi, SCE&G officials said.

"We feel we're in a proper position from a manpower standpoint to be able to handle what is to come," said Keller Kissam, SCE&G retail operations president.

Widespread power outages are anticipated in the Lowcountry, Kissam said, and the scope of power outages in the Columbia area will depend upon how rain falls. Customers can tract and report outages online at https://www.sceg.com/ and at 1-888-333-4465.

Elsewhere in the state, Berkeley Electric Cooperative pre-emptively de-energized their service to Kiawah and Seabrook islands on Friday afternoon.

Watch live web cams of the coast here.

Roddie Burris contributed

Cassie Cope: 803-771-8657, @cassielcope

Related stories from The State in Columbia SC