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The Latest: Curfew, Evacuation Order in Effect For Beaufort County Barrier Islands

September 9, 2017 - Posted in This Week in South Carolina by G. Jackson

The latest on hurricane preparations in South Carolina (all times local):

6:30 p.m.

BEAUFORT -- Sheriff P.J. Tanner announced that a dawn to dusk curfew is now in effect for Beaufort County barrier islands under the governor's evacuation order due to hazardous effects from Hurricane Irma headed this way.

The curfew takes effect this evening at 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. on Daufuskie, Fripp, Harbor, Hilton Head and Hunting islands. It will be in place through Monday evening, Tanner said. 

"We just don't want you rambling around the island," Tanner said. "We have asked our citizens to leave these areas and it's our job to protect their property when they're gone. So establishing a curfew is something we needed to do."

Lt. Col. Neil Baxley noted that low-lying areas nearby those islands under evacuation will experience some predicted four to six feet of storm surge when Hurricane Irma's effects are felt Sunday evening through Tuesday. Baxley added that doesn't mean they should've been included in the evacuation order.

"Folks particularly whose houses face the water...those areas may be inundated," Baxley said. "Those folks need to think about 'I know where the debris line was with (Hurricane) Matthew, this is going to be a little bit worse, I probably don't want to be here.' But right across the road they are going to be OK."

Deputies already witnessed flooding at Hunting State Park during high tide around 12:30 p.m. on Saturday. Part of the park near the lighthouse and campgrounds experienced minor flooding. The area no longer has dunes after Hurricane Matthew pummeled the area last October. 

Beaufort-Jasper Water and Sewer Authority will turn off water to Fripp, Hunting & Harbor islands at 4 p.m. Sunday, the authority stated. The move is to prevent the failure of a suspended line that runs under the Harbor River bridge.

Fripp Island Public Service District will close the sewer system at noon on Sunday. 

Baxley said some 100 residents still remain on Fripp Island, 12 on Harbor and 300 on Daufuskie. Some 125 Daufuskie residents have evacuated. The last ferry from Daufuskie leaves at noon Sunday.

Roughly 200 Beaufort County residents taking shelter at the Ridgeland High Junior-Elementary Complex in Jasper County, according to Baxley.

5:30 p.m.

HILTON HEAD ISLAND -- A light trickle of vehicles left the most populous barrier island included in the governor 's mandatory evacuation order effective more than seven hours ago.

Around the island, which features large swaths of private resort areas with manicured landscapes and large rental homes, traffic was sparse. Many stores, fast food restaurants and other establishments were closed and boarded up. Gas was still flowing at the pumps across the island with no lines.

Besides the overcast skies, the dry air made for a comfortable day in the mid-70s. Perfect conditions for the links, but the pristine courses the island is known for were empty and closed.

Mobile homes, that can be found far off the beaten path and behind the strip malls of the quaintly planned island, were boarded up with cars in the yard, signaling what many locals are doing--riding out the storm.

Conditions were gusty cruising inland on U.S. 278 over the towering J. Wilton Graves bridge, which crosses the Intracoastal Waterway. On the other side, Beaufort County Sheriff's deputies manned a roadblock preventing unauthorized vehicles from entering the island. 

S.C. Department of Transportation crews, National Guard troops and other law enforcement remained staged along the route, but had nearly nonexistent traffic to direct.  

3:15 p.m.

BEAUFORT -- The Palmetto Breeze is providing bus services to Beaufort County evacuees needing transportation from the following locations until 6:00 p.m. Saturday and will resume tomorrow at 8:00 a.m. Sunday.

- Port Royal Plaza (BI-LO/former Sam's Club) on Hilton Head Island

- Wal-Mart on Lady's Island

 Service will continue until weather conditions are deemed unsafe.

Residents and guests on Harbor, Hunting and Fripp islands and those from other areas in Beaufort County needing transportation are asked to call the Palmetto Breeze Evacuation Hotline 843-757-5782. 

2:30 p.m.

CHARLESTON -- Mayor John Tecklenburg spoke with other officials about the potential impact of Hurricane Irma on the city expected early next week.

"At this point, we anticipate significant storm surge and flooding, especially downtown, on Monday and Tuesday," Tecklenburg said. "So if you’re in a low-lying area or your home has flooded in the past, consider making arrangements to stay with friends or family. In addition, we our currently working with County officials to ensure that shelters will be available for those in need as conditions warrant.”

BEAUFORT -- At 4:00 p.m. the Hilton Head Regional Medical Center will close, including the emergency room. The emergency rooms at Beaufort Memorial Hospital and Coastal Carolina Medical Center plan to remain open.

Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner will hold a press conference at 6:30 p.m. 

2 p.m. 

WEST COLUMBIA -- Gov. Henry McMaster said fuel and traffic continue to flow in the state as the forecast continues to improve as well. 

"Fuel is continuing to be delivered to stations from terminals in Charleston, Augusta and Belton.  Branded gas stations (Exxon, BP) are not experiencing shortages because they have contracts with the major oil companies," McMaster said. Independent non-branded stations purchase fuel on the “spot” market and are able to purchase what is left over – which is why some are experiencing shortages."

Some branded gas stations operated by other companies in the Beaufort County area and on Hilton Head Island were closed. Several gas stations did remain open.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control has inspected 51 dams in the state and will be monitoring eight of them when rain begins. 

The governor's office said 44,457 were covered by the mandatory evacuation order that took effect at 10 a.m. for Edisto Beach and the following islands: Daufuskie, Fripp, Harbor, Hunting, Hilton Head, Knowles and Tullifiny. 

Approximately 50 people are currently in shelters in Colleton, Jasper and Richland counties (locations listed below). 

Attorney General Alan Wilson said his office has received more than 200 complaints related to price gouging--predominantly  over gasoline prices--since the law went into effect under the governor's state of emergency declaration on Sept. 6.

If you feel that you are the victim of price gouging, there are certain steps that you can take to help our office investigate. Please do the following:

    1. Note the time, place, address, and name of the gas station or business

    2. Note the price you paid

    3. Note any prices nearby and get the same information on those stations or businesses

    4. Take pictures that identify the business, along with the price

    5. Provide your name and contact information

The S.C. Attorney General’s Office will need that information in order to conduct a thorough investigation. Consumers can email any examples or documentation to pricegouging@scag.gov or call 803-737-3953 and leave a message, if you have witnessed a likely violation.

Reporting can also be done online at http://www.scag.gov/archives/33193.

12:15 p.m.

HILTON HEAD ISLAND -- John Vargo was on the hunt for some propane, but the boarded-up, though open, Harris Teeter was out. Meanwhile, gas stations on the island had plenty of gasoline.

“We have full tanks, we’re ready to go we have two cars,” Vargo said. “We planned on leaving, taking both cars, we were going to go charlotte. But then as we see the storm going farther and farther west, we think we can handle that peripheral. That will hit us.”

Since Hurricane Irma's had somewhat of an unpredictable path over the past few days, many of Vargo’s neighbors have left.

Sue Metz, a Hilton Head Island resident of 20 years, wheeled out a cart of groceries, including some frozen pizza. She only lost a few shingles during Hurricane Matthew and regrettably evacuated the island once before, but it “was a complete nightmare.”

“I’ve got ice at home, I’ve got plenty of water and we got soda for my husband,” Metz said. “And (the outcome), it’s in God’s hands.”

Before Metz could answer more questions, her husband hollered from the parking lot, “Sue, let’s go!” And off she went into the full lot. 

Kelly Thompson's full cart only contained 10-pound bags of ice. Her husband was waiting in the store's loading zone ready with coolers in the back of his pickup truck.

“They are out of dry ice,” Thompson said. “Last time I got three big bags of ice and all the ice was gone and melted in two days.”

That last time was Hurricane Matthew, which they rode out, and only lost their car when a neighbor’s tree fell on it. Thompson said they have a generator so “we’ll be good.”

Despite no propane or dry ice and a good portion of the bread section gone, it appeared to be a normal Saturday at the Harris Teeter under overcast skies. The grocer is one of the only businesses open on the island, but the parking lot has been steadily full and lines moved inside. 

12 p.m.

WEST COLUMBIA -- Emergency shelters are available today for residents and visitors who are evacuating from southern coastal areas due to Hurricane Irma. 

Colleton County – OPEN AT 9 a.m.

     Colleton County Middle School

     1379 Tuskegee Airmen Dr.

     Walterboro, S.C.

Jasper County - OPEN AT 10 a.m.

     Ridgeland High Junior-Elementary Complex

     250 Jaguar Trail

     Ridgeland, S.C.

Richland County – OPEN AT NOON

     Dent Middle School

     2721 Decker Blvd.

     Columbia, S.C.

Shelters are generally the place of last resort. Individuals and families are encouraged to have emergency plans in place. These plans should include relatives or friends with whom you can stay or locations to which you will travel.

11:30 a.m.

WEST COLUMBIA -- Gov. Henry McMaster and state officials will hold a press conference at the state Emergency Operations Center at 2 p.m. It can be viewed live on scetv.org or on South Carolina Public Radio.

11 a.m.

BEAUFORT -- The National Weather Service issued a Hurricane Watch and Storm Surge Watch for: Beaufort, coastal Colleton, coastal Jasper and inland. A Hurricane Watch means hurricane conditions and life-threatening storm surge inundation are possible within the next 48 hours while Hurricane Irma begins its assault on Florida. 

From Hilton Head Island  to Isle of Palms is now under a Storm Surge Watch, which means  life-threatening inundation levels are possible somewhere within this area and within the next 48 hours.

A Storm Surge Watch and Tropical Storm Watch have been issued for Charleston and tidal Berkeley.     A tropical storm watch has been issued for Allendale, Dorchester, Hampton, inland Berkeley and inland Colleton.

A Tropical Storm Watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area, generally within 48 hours.
 

10:06 a.m.

HILTON HEAD ISLAND -- A Cessna Citation CJ3 cruised down a taxiway at the Hilton Head Island Airport before making a right turn onto runway 3. Seconds later the fueled up twin jet engines roared and before the aircraft, which retails at upwards of $4 million, could get halfway down the runway it was airborne into the overcast skies.

The flight monitoring website Flightaware.com showed the airport has been abuzz with more flights departing on Friday than the previous Friday. Flights on Saturday were just as frequent. However, the Citation--which flew from Oxford, Conn., landed, refuled and departed in minutes--was one of the last plane's to depart the island, minutes after the 10 a.m. evacuation notice.

The fixed-base operator, which caters to general aviation, was closed and no fuel was available, according to the airport's fire department.

10 a.m.

BEAUFORT -- A mandatory evacution order is in effect for several barrier islands in Beaufort, Colleton and Jasper counties effective Saturday at 10 a.m.

Beaufort:

Daufuskie, Fripp, Harbor, Hunting and Hilton Head.

Colleton:

Edisto Beach

Jasper:

Knowles and Tullifiny

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