Updated: Sunday, Oct. 9, 10:27 a.m.
Gov. Nikki Haley said that evacuation orders for the tri-county area have been lifted but cautioned that coming back to the Charleston area might be inconvenient and slow.
The governor gave a 10 a.m. update on the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, which skirted the East Coast over the past few days causing flooding and leaving hundreds of thousands without electricity across the eastern part of the state.
Some roads and bridges remain impassable and normal routes might be closed. Returning evacuees should use caution and rely on local authorities and law enforcement to help them make their way back to homes and businesses, Haley's staff said.
"All of our agencies have a lot of support coming in," Haley said.
The governor said 2,800 National Guard members have been deployed across the state. One weather-related death has been reported in South Carolina, Haley said, and five high-water rescues were made during Hurricane Matthew.
She said that residents returning to counties that are still under an evacuation order might not be able to re-enter and are likely to return to no electricity at the very least.
"Know that you are going at your own risk. We have not received word from the county that it is OK," Haley said of the counties that have not asked for evacuation orders to be lifted. "You could go back and not be let in. If you are not let in, all that we would ask is that you move out of the way."
Updated: Thursday, Oct. 6, 6:55 p.m.
Around 280,000 people have evacuated as of 3 p.m. today from S.C. coastal communities, Gov. Nikki Haley said at a news conference Thursday evening in Columbia. This up from 175,000 evacuees earlier in the morning.
Haley said the Lowcountry region is likely to have extensive damage from hurricane-strength winds and flooding from storm surges, which would be “floor-to-ceiling” heights. In addition to the ongoing evacuations of Charleston, Beaufort, Georgetown and Horry counties, Haley has now ordered evacuations for Jasper and Colleton counties.
Haley urged residents to evacuate before the storm hits Friday night.
“This is the time we absolutely need you to get out. ... This is a scary storm. I need you to evacuate,” Haley said. “I don’t want to have to deal with anyone losing their life. ... I know people always say, ‘It’ll pass it’ll pass.’ ... This is getting worse. ... Please do not find any excuse to stay.”
Hurricane Matthew has shifted closer to the coastline as it approaches the Eastern Seaboard. The hurricane is expected to be a Category 4 in Florida, and likely a Category 2 by the time it reaches the South Carolina coast, according to a National Weather Service official during the news conference.
Winds are expected to be 110 mph, with a strong potential for storm surges, which could be “disastrous and life-threatening” and cause “significant damage” to coastal structures, the official said.
Hilton Head Island, Hunting Island, Folly Beach, Wild Dunes, Edisto Beach and downtown Charleston are particularly vulnerable areas for flooding.
Haley urged residents to take advantage of the Interstate 26 lane reversal before it ends sometime Friday. Large bridges in the area, such as Interstate 526 and the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, will close once winds reach 40 mph.
Currently, 64 shelters are open with around 1,300 residents in them. Three special-needs shelters and three pet-friendly shelters are also open now.
Updated: Thursday, Oct. 6, 10:19 a.m.
Hurricane Matthew is strengthening into a Category 4 storm as it approaches Florida, a National Weather Service official said at a news conference this morning in Columbia.
The hurricane is then expected to turn slightly north and gradually weaken, passing very near or just off the S.C. coast Friday night and throughout Saturday. The National Weather Service expects the hurricane to come very close to Charleston and then take a sharp turn out to sea as it nears Myrtle Beach.
The path of the storm could still shift, but conditions are expected to deteriorate in Charleston and Beaufort counties Friday night and through Saturday.
The weather service expects wind gusts at or above hurricane force for up to 24 hours, as well as 4 to 8 feet of storm surge — meaning water coming on land — and 8 to 14 inches of rain fall. Flash flooding, fallen trees, mass power outages and impassable roads are to be expected.
Gov. Nikki Haley said at least 250,000 people need to evacuate from the Lowcountry — down from the original estimates of 1 million people — but only 175,000 have heeded warnings thus far. Haley said that is not enough and urged people to evacuate today.
Officials said the commute time to Columbia was 1 hour and 21 minutes on the reversed lanes at the time of the news conference. Haley said all exits on the reversed lanes are closed. Recent local news reports have indicated some exits are currently open, but drivers should not expect to be able to exit from reversed lanes.
Haley called for the evacuation of portions of Horry and Georgetown counties as of noon today. No lane reversals are planned for those evacuations.
Haley said residents should not underestimate the high winds, storm surges and flooding likely to happen along the coast, as well as inland.
“We need residents to take it seriously,” Haley said.
Currently, 38 shelters are open around the state, with 677 residents staying in them. Fifty more shelters are ready to be open, and 100 buses are at the North Charleston Coliseum to take residents to them. Hotels are mostly full throughout the state. Haley said evacuees should look to North Carolina for places to stay.
Updated: Thursday, Oct. 6, 9:16 a.m.
Gov. Nikki Haley has called for the evacuation of portions of Horry and Georgetown counties at noon Thursday.
The evacuations of Beaufort and Charleston counties are ongoing. The westbound lanes of Interstate 26 were reversed as of 3 p.m. Wednesday. Traffic is moving on the reversed lanes. The commute time for those lanes to Columbia from Charleston is about 1 hour and 38 minutes, Haley said during a news conference Wednesday night.
Once a driver gets on a reversed lane, there is no way to get off the interstate until Columbia. All of the exits are closed. Haley urged motorists to fuel up before leaving town.
The National Weather Service said some hurricane models show Hurricane Matthew hugging the coast, while others show it going out to sea. Officials warned even a slight shift could bring significant impacts to S.C. coastal communities, including five to eight feet of storm water surges and up to 10 inches of rainfall, which could contribute to flash flooding.
For evacuees in need, 32 shelters are now open in South Carolina. Haley said the majority of hotels in South Carolina are full. She encouraged evacuees to search Expedia and Airbnb for accommodations in Charlotte or Asheville.
Updated: Wednesday, Oct. 5, 10:53 a.m.
Although Hurricane Matthew has somewhat altered direction and slowed, Gov. Nikki Haley is still ordering an evacuation of Charleston and Beaufort counties at 3 p.m. today.
Eastbound lanes on Interstate 26 will be reversed at that time, Haley confirmed during a news conference this morning. As of 3 p.m., all lanes on I-26 will be moving westbound from I-526 in Charleston toward I-77 in Columbia, according to the S.C. Department of Transportation. Officials said those needing to get back into the Lowcountry can take back roads and alternative highway routes.
Georgetown and Horry counties will now be evacuated Thursday morning. A time has not been set for those evacuations.
“Because the storm changed, we are changing with the storm. ... I think it’s very important that we are doing it (evacuation) in phases,” Haley said.
Although the projected storm path has changed, the S.C. coast is still within range of a Category 2 or 3 hurricane, which could bring 100 mph winds, strong storm surges and flooding. Haley said to anticipate storm damage in coastal communities.
After wreaking havoc on Haiti and Cuba, Matthew is expected crawl up the East Coast over the next several days, impacting the S.C. coast later Friday and Saturday, possibly into Sunday. Threats include coastal flooding, storm surge flooding and strong winds.
Haley said the National Weather Center “made it very clear” that, although the hurricane's course has changed slightly, it could easily change again.
“We are not in stable territory yet,” Haley said. “We’re still kind of moving as the storm moves. We’re still seeing a zig-zag motion as we go forward.”
Haley plans to hold another news conference later today with more updates as officials continue to monitor the storms.
Residents began evacuating Tuesday. Interstate 26 was mostly clear early this morning from Charleston to Greenville, although traffic congestion has since been increasing. Many residents have said on Facebook and Twitter that they plan to stay and ride out the storm.
More than 300 buses are making their way from Greenville County into Charleston County this morning to assist with evacuation of residents without cars. The buses should arrive around noon.
Residents can find the blue “hurricane evacuation” street signs and await bus rides there. Those residents will be moved into shelters throughout the Upstate, beginning at 1 p.m.
Officials said 110 shelters are available to house up to 66,000 residents as needed.
The National Guard has mobilized and 700 traffic control points have been set up along the interstate. Restrooms and water stations will also be set up.
Haley asked Midlands residents to stay off the roads to lessen congestion as evacuees come through the region on Interstate 26.
Updated: Tuesday, Oct. 4, 7:30 p.m.
Haley said lane reversals are planned on major highways — including Interstate 26, U.S. Highway 21 and U.S. Highway 278 — as of 3 p.m. Wednesday to help expedite evacuations.
By the numbers:
The number of law enforcement officers, state troopers and national guard members being called up in anticipation of the storm.
If the National Hurricane Center issues a hurricane watch, a hurricane will be possible within 48 hours, and residents who live in vulnerable areas should stay tuned.
If a hurricane warning is issued, a hurricane is expected within 36 hours. If you live in a highly vulnerable area and are advised to evacuate, you should be prepared to leave immediately.
The distance Haley said evacuating residents should get from the coastline.
Haley urged residents to leave, and to do so ahead of time.
“We don’t do voluntary or mandatory anymore,” Haley said. “An evacuation is an evacuation. … I know the first thought is, ‘Well, maybe this storm will shift or maybe something else will happen.’ I hope that too, but you don’t want to get caught in this. We’re looking at surges this high and winds at this level. This is not something we want to play with.”
The governor will hold a news conference at 9 a.m. Wednesday with updates, including whether the evacuation is still planned, as state officials continue to monitor weather conditions.
“I would love nothing more than to see this suddenly take a right-hand turn and go out to sea, but as it looks right now, Friday afternoon into Saturday being pretty brutal,” Haley said.
Hurricane Matthew is now a Category 4 storm. Weather officials anticipate winds of more than 100 mph and a storm surge of up to 10 feet.
Haley declared a state of emergency Tuesday morning. Storm preparations are in full effect, including closures of schools and businesses, planning of evacuation routes and the sending of buses and troops into Lowcountry communities from other parts of the state.
“We’ve been through winter storms. We’ve been through a 1,000-year flood,” Haley said of the February 2014 ice storm and the October 2015 flooding in the Midlands and Lowcountry. “A hurricane is different, and so I don’t want anyone to look at the last few tragedies that we’ve gone through and think that this is similar.”
Do I have to evacuate?
Haley and county officials said evacuations are no longer classified as mandatory or voluntary. Evacuations are not enforced, but officials urged residents to leave. Haley responded to questions about those questioning whether to evacuate:
“I don’t want to have to sit there and have to talk about any fatalities about anybody that we couldn’t get out. Our goal is going to be to save everybody that we can. What I will tell those people who are thinking about not leaving, is if you think you can take care of yourself, at least think about my law enforcement and my national guardsmen because they’re going to have to be the ones going out to find you, and you’re putting their lives at stake ... just because you refused to leave.”
Why are evacuations happening already?
Haley said the evacuations are planned in advance of the anticipated hurricane landfall, which is projected for possibly Friday night, to help ease traffic congestion as more than 1 million residents could be making their way away inland.
Haley said she wanted the evacuations to be orderly and as comfortable as possible for those leaving the coastal S.C. counties. She said the early evacuations and lane reversals were for that purpose, even though those leaving should expect a drive of several hours in the best of circumstances.
“I will not hesitate pulling back on the three o’clock, but right now, based on what we know now, it’s the responsible thing to do to go ahead and focus on those evacuations,” Haley said. “I hope that I can pull that back tomorrow, but I want people to be prepared. I want them to know what I know when I know it.”
How do I know which route to evacuate on?
Your hurricane evacuation zone determines your evacuation route. To determine your route, type your address into the state Emergency Management Division's interactive map. Evacuation plans could change.
As of Tuesday, residents in the following evacuation zones should prepare to evacuate by 3 p.m. Wednesday:
- Beaufort: Zone A, Entire county
- Jasper: A and B
- Colleton: A Only
- Charleston: A, B, C
- Dorchester: B, D, E and F
- Berkeley: A, B, C, G and I
- Horry: A only
- Georgetown: A only
“It’s not going to be a fast evacuation,” Haley said. “But what we ask is that you be patient and understand that it could take up to several hours. We are making all the plans to make sure that everyone is going to be able to move safely and as quickly as possible. ... If you can leave early, do that. The goal is to not leave all at once.”
What should I do when preparing to evacuate?
- Fill up with fuel as soon as possible.
- Keep road maps, nonperishable food, water, a first aid kit, important documents and prescriptions in the car.
- Inform family of evacuation plans.
- Have a plan for where to stay once you evacuate, such as a hotel, motel, a friend or family’s home, or an American Red Cross shelter as a last resort. Emergency shelters will be announced as soon as they are open.
- Once you are driving on an evacuation route, stay on it.
- Get 100 miles away from the coast.
- Consider a plan for pets. Pets are not allowed in Red Cross shelters.
- "Comfort stations" with water, restrooms and law enforcement are planned along evacuation routes.
- Talk to neighbors, particularly elderly neighbors or those without a car, to ensure they have a plan.
How do I evacuate if I do not have a car?
Around 340 school buses are coming from Greenville County to be used by Charleston County to pick up residents who do not have their own cars or means to evacuate. Those residents should look for a blue “hurricane evacuation route” street sign in their neighborhood and wait there for a bus to pick them up and take them to a shelter, officials said.
What will be closed as of Wednesday?
Government offices and schools in coastal communities will be closed in an effort to keep the roads clear and give people time to evacuate, Haley said.
Wednesday closings include the following counties: Aiken, Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Berkeley, Beaufort, Calhoun, Charleston, Clarendon, Colleton, Darlington, Dillon, Dorchester, Florence, Georgetown, Hampton, Horry, Jasper, Lexington, Marlboro, Marion, Orangeburg, Richland, Sumter and Williamsburg.
Haley urged businesses to close Wednesday as well.
How do I keep updated?
South Carolina’s Emergency Response Team is operating 24 hours a day from the state’s emergency operations center. Connect with the S.C. Emergency Management Division at scemd.org or @SCEMD on Twitter and Facebook.