South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster on Sunday announced evacuation orders for parts of eight coastal counties as Hurricane Dorian moved slowly toward the East Coast.
The governor’s plan, which could affect millions of residents, is set to take effect at noon Monday. Lane reversals on several highways are scheduled to begin at that time.
McMaster said he understands that not everyone will be happy with the decision, but said he believes it “can keep everyone alive.”
The counties and zones to be evacuated are:
- Colleton Zones A, B
- Beaufort Zone A
- Jasper Zone A
- Charleston Zones A, B, C
- Dorchester Zone D
- Berkeley Zones B, G
- Horry Zone A
- Georgetown Zone A
McMaster also ordered schools and state government offices in the eight counties to be closed starting Tuesday. Monday is the Labor Day holiday.
Midlands schools could also be closed this week, as many are used as emergency shelters. McMaster said announcements on those schools will be made in the next few days.
To help facilitate the evacuation, McMaster has also ordered lane reversals on multiple South Carolina highways, including Interstate 26 west from Charleston to Columbia, in addition to US 278 in Hilton Head. The lane reversals will also begin at noon on Monday.
He said this will be especially challenging and important with so many people visiting South Carolina for the Labor Day weekend.
“We do not want people to be stuck on the highway,” McMaster said.
Medical evacuations have already begun for nursing homes, assisted living facilities and hospitals.
Dorian was upgraded to a Category 5 storm Sunday, with maximum sustained wind speeds of 185 mph, according to a 5 p.m. update from the National Hurricane Center.
It was heading to the Bahamas “with all its fury,” the hurricane center said.
The eye of the storm was over Great Abaco as of 5 p.m., and the hurricane was called “catastrophic,” according to the NHC, which said Dorian is the strongest in “modern records” to hit the northwestern Bahamas.
The growing hurricane is expected to approach Florida’s east coast Monday. Current models project that it will turn north, the National Weather Service office in Columbia said in an 11 a.m. update.
“Some fluctuations in intensity are likely, but Dorian is expected to remain a powerful hurricane during the next few days,” the release said.
Dorian is expected to weaken after three days but will remain a hurricane for five days, the hurricane center said.