“It is storm day.” Governor Nikki Haley said in a press conference at South Carolina’s Emergency Management Division office in West Columbia on Friday morning.
Haley has spoken with Florida’s Governor Scott, among many other governors in surrounding states, who have offered prayers and assistance.
According to the representative from the National Weather Service, as of 11 a.m. this morning, there is a hurricane warning and a storm surge warning in effect for the entire coast of South Carolina. Matthew is still a category three storm with winds of 120 miles per hour. It is currently brushing the east coast of Florida.
The storm will move toward South Carolina tonight, and could potentially make landfall at some time tomorrow morning, Saturday Oct. 7, then moving away from S.C. later that night.
The storm track has shifted a bit closer to the South Carolina coast, and a bit further north, closer to the coast of Myrtle Beach. Given the current track, again, the greatest concern is storm surge. Storm surges along the coast could be “disastrous and life threatening” along the entire coast, but specifically the central and southern parts of the coast. Storm surge inundation means high water will get where there is usually dry ground. The representative from the National Weather Service said that in the worst-case scenario, storm surge inundation could reach eight feet on parts of the S.C. coast, and even miles inland.
Battering waves, high tides, hurricane-strength winds and tree-fall could create significant damage to coastal structures and some areas further inland. There may be widespread power outages. Some of the more vulnerable areas include: Hunting Island, Daniel Island, Daufuskie Island, Edisto Beach, Folly Beach and Wild Dunes. Roads in and out of barrier islands may become impassible, and residents in those areas will likely become stranded if they choose not to evacuate.
Eight to 14 inches of rain are expected in coastal areas. Further inland, there still may be three to six inches of rain. Flash flood watches are in affect from Rock Hill down to Aiken and all points east. Downtown Charleston and the peninsula, between storm surge and heavy rainfall, has the potential for deadly flooding.
“There is nothing safe about what is getting ready to happen,” Governor Haley said, emphasizing that the storm situation is, in fact, getting worse. “This is the last time you will hear my voice where I am asking you to evacuate.”
There have been 310,000 people evacuated so far. Local bus operations are still operating to take people to shelters. Haley advised that if you cannot evacuate upstate to move to shelters.
There are now 66 shelters open, one more than yesterday, Thursday, Oct. 6. Currently there are 2,882 residents in shelters. The shelters have adequate food supplies, but may not be able to accommodate restricted diets. There are three pet-friendly shelters available, and Haley stated those shelters have room and are ready to host evacuees and their pets. Four special needs shelters are available, with another four on standby.
There are still four hotels with vacancies in Anderson, S.C. Some hotel rooms have opened up in the Columbia area, as the University of South Carolina football game has been postponed until Sunday. Air BnB and Expedia have special accommodations and rates for evacuees.
Governor Haley voiced significant concern for residents on barrier islands, many of whom have still chosen not to evacuate. There are still one hundred people on Daufuskie Island, and the last ferry left at 6 p.m. yesterday. The state sent another ferry at 10:30 a.m. this morning. National Guardsmen and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are ready to perform water and air search and rescue.
In these high-risk areas where people are staying, the state is now traveling door-to-door and performing reverse 911 calls to ensure residents understand the seriousness of the situation.
As of 9:20 a.m., Director Smith and his team had closed access to the reversed roads on I-26. Traffic points will be manned until it is no longer safe. There are 712 troopers on the road, with 2,700 Department of Transportation maintenance workers ready to go. There are 2,000 National Guardsmen currently active, with another 3,000 on standby for search and rescue.
As of 9 a.m. this morning, 104 medical facilities have been evacuated. Beaufort Memorial will be evacuated by noon today. Governor Haley thanked Emergency Medical Services for their hard work in transporting thousands of people to safety.
The Charleston Harbor closed at 10 a.m.
Haley also offered her special thanks to her team, all of the state agencies and officials working hard together in this difficult process.
“We understand the situation before us and it’s not a good one,” she said. “We are now getting ready to see some really tough weather.” Utility crews, first responders and guardsmen are now preparing for the next phase, which will include search, rescue and recovery.