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UPDATE: McMaster still considering evacuation order; decision by 6 p.m.

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Updated 8:34 p.m. Friday:

Barrier islands in Colleton, Beaufort and Jasper counties are under mandatory evacuation as of Saturday at 10 a.m., S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster said tonight, as Hurricane Irma continues toward the eastern U.S. at 12 miles per hour.

The deadly storm has devastated several islands in the Caribbean and caused massive evacuations across Florida and Georgia. The storm is projected to make landfall Sunday night or Monday morning near the Florida keys, possibly on the western side of the state.

No other S.C. counties are under evacuation order. Interstate 26 lanes will not be reversed as of the latest update from the governor.

The following counties’ islands are under evacuation order starting Saturday morning:

Colleton County:

  • Edisto Beach

Beaufort County:

  • Dafuskie Island
  • Fripp Island
  • Harbor Island
  • Hunting Island
  • Hilton Head Island

Jasper County:

  • Knowles Island
  • Tulifinny Island

Decisions on lane reversals in those areas will be made as needed.

McMaster said all S.C. residents should continue preparing for impacts from the storm, and warned that the storm’s path could change by tomorrow.

Updated, 4:15 p.m. Friday:

As the path of Hurricane Irma continues to shift, Gov. Henry McMaster said the decision to evacuate certain S.C. counties as of 10 a.m. Saturday is still under consideration. A decision is expected by 6 p.m. today.

He said residents in coastal counties should still be ready to evacuate if needed. 

The hurricane’s projected path across land could weaken it somewhat, but officials said the storm could still significantly change direction in the coming days. S.C. residents should continue to heed all warnings and continue preparations as before, officials said.

Traffic along Interstate 95 has already intensified as Florida and Georgia residents evacuate; McMaster said residents should avoid the interstate if possible. Around 65,000 extra vehicles were on the road today compared with normal, McMaster said.

McMaster rescinded part of yesterday’s order requiring health care facilities, hospitals, assisted-living facilities and nursing homes in certain coastal counties to evacuate.

As of today, the following counties must evacuate such facilities immediately: Beaufort, Colleton and Jasper. The following counties are no longer required to evacuate their facilities: Horry, Georgetown, Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester.

Fifty-two shelters across the state stand ready as needed.

John Quagliariello, an official with the National Weather Service, said the hurricane is now a Category 4 with 155 mph winds. It is expected to reach Florida late Saturday or early Sunday.

The forecast has shifted significantly since yesterday; it is now heading northward across Florida through early Monday, passing through northwest Georgia Monday night before coming to South Carolina.

Quagliariello said the hurricane’s impacts will still be felt far from the storm’s center. Heavy rain and tornado threats are possible; any shifts to the east would greatly impact the coastal areas.

“If it tracks further east, flooding could be significant,” Quagliariello said

He warned of storm surges, intense winds, high tides and flooding in low-lying coastal areas. He said downed trees and power lines are likely. Minor to moderate river flooding is possible next week.

Updated, 2:36 p.m. Friday: 

As the path of Hurricane Irma continues to shift, Gov. Henry McMaster said the decision to evacuate certain S.C. counties as of 10 a.m. Saturday is still under consideration. A decision is expected by 6 p.m. today.

He said residents in coastal counties should still be ready to evacuate if needed. 

Traffic along Interstate 95 has already intensified as Florida and Georgia residents evacuate; McMaster said residents should avoid the interstate if possible.

Original reporting follows:

An evacuation order for some parts of the state will go into effect at 10 a.m. Saturday if Hurricane Irma continues on its projected path, Gov. Henry McMaster said today during a news conference.

Eastbound lanes of Interstate 26 will be reversed from Charleston through Interstate 77 in Columbia as of that time, to help with anticipated traffic congestion from evacuations, similar to during Hurricane Matthew’s evacuation in October. Some highway lanes will also be reversed near Myrtle Beach and Beaufort.

Preparing for the storm:

  • 2,300 state and local law enforcement officers on duty for evacuation.
  • 800 S.C. National Guard personnel on-duty currently; will expand to 5,000 as of early next week..
  • 200 Red Cross shelters ready, if needed.
  • 2,900 workers from the S.C. Department of Social Services and the Red Cross ready, as needed.
  • 1,200 S.C. Department of Transportation maintenance personnel working evacuation routes.

McMaster issued an order today requiring the owners of more than 2,300 public and private dams in the state to immediately begin lowering the water levels to handle high rains.

McMaster issued an order today requiring health care facilities, hospitals, assisted-living facilities and nursing homes in the following counties to evacuate immediately: Jasper, Beaufort, Colleton, Dorchester, Charleston, Berkeley, Georgetown and Horry.

Source: S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster

The governor did not provide detail on which counties would be under mandatory evacuation, as the hurricane’s path is still too unpredictable.

State officials urged S.C. residents to prepare now for evacuation — securing their homes and businesses and buying supplies — and to evacuate early.

“Imagine that the hurricane will be here in the morning. ... It is coming,” McMaster said as part of his warning to coastal residents.

Officials said residents should look up their evacuation routes and follow them. Traffic is expected to be heavy as residents from Georgia and Florida are also evacuating on S.C. highways.

John Quagliariello, an official with the National Weather Service, said hurricane-force winds, flooding and storm surges are the main concerns for South Carolina as Hurricane Irma progresses. Rainfall could reach 10 inches in some parts of the state.

The Category 5 hurricane’s winds reached 175 mph as it passed north of the Dominican Republic. It will head for the Bahamas and Cuba through Saturday, before most likely turning north Saturday night, passing along the east coast of Florida, Quagliariello said.

While the storm could weaken somewhat as it passes the Georgia coast, he said, “Irma is forecast to be a major hurricane prior to making landfall somewhere along the Georgia or South Carolina coast late Monday or Monday night.”

The storm is expected to move northwest across South Carolina, remaining a tropical storm but weakening as it heads Upstate.

Updates to the hurricane’s track are expected in the coming days. Quagliariello said the storm is moving quickly and should not be in South Carolina for an extended time.

Reach Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119.

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