HURRICANE FLORENCE: The latest on school closures, mandatory evacuations, safety info

Governor issues mandatory evacuations for S.C. coast starting noon Tuesday

Posted

Here is the latest information on Hurricane Florence as it approaches the Carolinas and its possible effects on Sumter, South Carolina and North Carolina.

4:30 p.m.

The following events have been affected by the preparations and imminent threat of Hurricane Florence.

Shaw Air Force Base canceled its 9/11 ceremony scheduled for Tuesday morning to honor the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.  Shaw is now in a Hurricane Condition 5 status following McMaster’s declaration of a state of emergency in preparation for the storm.

The Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce’s Commander’s Breakfast scheduled for Wednesday has been moved to Oct. 24.

The Sumter School District’s Education and Career Summit has been postponed until further notice.

The National Anthem Project scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m. at Patriot Hall has been canceled.

2:30 p.m.

As Hurricane Florence continues to eye the Carolinas and East Coast of the United States, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has upgraded the storm to a category four hurricane.

As of noon Monday, data from an NOAA aircraft indicate Florence has “continued to rapidly strengthen and has maximum sustained winds near 130 miles per hour.”

The now-major hurricane is about 575 miles south-southeast of Bermuda and is moving west at 13 mph.

Gov. Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency on Saturday to free up resources and state assets to prepare for the storm.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper also declared a state of emergency on Friday.

The most recent forecasts show the eye of Florence making landfall in southern North Carolina Thursday morning.

Mandatory evacuations

Gov. Henry McMaster announced several important closures and executive actions Monday afternoon to prepare for Hurricane Florence, including school district closures, highway lane reversals and mandatory evacuations.

Mandatory evacuations will go into effect starting at noon Tuesday for what appears to be the entire South Carolina coast, stretching into Horry, Georgetown, Charleston, Berkeley, Dorchester, Colleton, Beaufort, Jasper counties.

To check your zone and to find a live-updated list of evacuation shelter locations, go to https://scemd.org/prepare/know-your-zone/. The SC Manager mobile app can also be used to find shelters as soon as they are opened.

Anyone planning to evacuate to a shelter should bring essential items such as:

Individuals and families should plan to board pets with veterinarians, kennels, or other facilities in non-vulnerable areas. Pets are not allowed inside Red Cross evacuation shelters.

School closures

McMaster announced in the Monday press conference the mandatory closure of school districts in 26 counties, including Sumter, Lee and Clarendon counties.

The closures, starting Tuesday, are for the safety of students and staff, he said, as well as to free up resources to use school buses and buildings as transport and shelter.

Executive Order Executive Order 2018-30 lists the closures in Aiken, Allendale, Bamberg, Beaufort, Barnwell, Berkeley, Calhoun, Charleston, Colleton, Clarendon, Darlington, Dillon, Dorchester, Florence, Georgetown, Hampton, Horry, Jasper, Lexington, Lee, Marion, Marlboro, Orangeburg, Richland, Sumter, and Williamsburg.

Lane reversals

To help speed up the time and efficiency of the mandatory evacuations – McMaster said as many as one million residents may be leaving the coast in the next 24 hours – starting at noon tomorrow, Interstate-26 east will be open to westward traffic from Charleston to Columbia; U.S. 501 will also be reversed heading to Myrtle Beach.

Officials will be ready for it, but will make the decision at noon Tuesday, about reversing Hwys. 278 and 21 from Beaufort.

There will be no tolls on Hilton Head to get back across the island.

According to the governor's press release on the press conference:

South Carolina’s emergency helpline is now active around the clock. Anyone with questions related to Hurricane Florence should call the Public Information Phone System at 1-866-246-0133.

State offices closed

Executive Order 2018-30 also includes state government offices for all non-essential personnel in those 26 counties where schools will be closed will also be closed starting Tuesday.

First responders deployed

Soldiers and law enforcement personnel are being deployed to the coast and to be on alert to respond to the storm, including 1,600 soldiers as of Monday afternoon and 444 State Law Enforcement Division officers.

Impacts will extend far beyond where the eye hits, McMaster said. Tropical storm-force winds may reach as far as 100 miles from the center of the storm, and hurricane-force winds may reach as far as 50 miles from the center.

McMaster said the hurricane is expected to weaken and move slowly once it makes landfall, dumping “heavy rainfall.”

“This may be the first Category 4 hurricane to strike South Carolina sine Hugo,” he said. “We’re in for a real episode here.”

He urged everyone to heed the warnings and prepare ahead of time for the storm.

“Evacuations are inconvenient, but we do not want to risk one South Carolina life in this hurricane. So we’re willing to suffer those inconveniences,” he said.

11 a.m.

As Hurricane Florence continues to eye the Carolinas and East Coast of the United States, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has upgraded the storm to a category four hurricane.

As of noon Monday, data from an NOAA aircraft indicate Florence has “continued to rapidly strengthen and has maximum sustained winds near 130 miles per hour.”

The now-major hurricane is about 575 miles south-southeast of Bermuda and is moving west at 13 mph.

Gov. Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency on Saturday to free up resources and state assets to prepare for the storm.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper also declared a state of emergency on Friday.

The most recent forecasts show the eye of Florence making landfall in southern North Carolina Thursday morning.

---

This is a developing story. Stay tuned here for storm coverage as it comes in.