Hurricane Florence: Evacuation Order Lifted in Three Counties, SC Continues to Prepare

Governor Henry McMaster addressed the public in a press conference from South Carolina’s Emergency Management Division (SCEMD) this morning at 11 a.m., Tuesday, September 11, 2018.

From the office of the Governor, due to updated predictions from the National Hurricane Center, Governor Henry McMaster, in coordination with state and local officials, lifted the mandatory evacuation order for zones in Beaufort, Colleton, and Jasper counties, with the exception of Edisto Beach.
According to John Quagliariello from the National Weather Service, as of this morning the National Hurricane Center has issued a Hurricane Watch and Storm Surge Watch along the coast of South Carolina from Edisto Beach northward. A Hurricane Watch means hurricane force winds and life threatening storm surges are possible in those areas.

"There's a lot of work that goes into making these plans and doing the logistics. We must be flexible; we must be alert." said McMaster.

The Mandatory Evacuation Order goes into effect at 12 p.m. today, Sept. 11. The Mandatory Evacuation Executive Order is still in place for all zones in Horry, Georgetown, Charleston, Berkeley, and Dorchester counties and for Edisto Beach.

"This is still a very dangerous storm. We must take it seriously." McMaster added. "We must be vigilant. We are in a very deadly and important game of chess with Hurricane Florence and what we, Team South Carolina, are doing is staying one step ahead."

When asked about the timeliness of the evacuations in regard to evacuees being unable to go to work, General Livingston of the Army National Guard reminded South Carolinians that it takes 36-48 hours to evacuate the coast, and storms can change in two to three hours. "We have to err on the side of caution so that all of our citizens are safe, and one life is not worth an economic advantage somewhere else. Inconvenience is part of a hurricane response, but so is caution."

The lane reversal on U.S. I-26 started one hour earlier than previously stated at 11 a.m., but the lane reversal on US Highway 501 in Myrtle Beach began as scheduled at 12 p.m. Due to the evacuation being lifted in Beaufort, Jasper and Colleton counties U.S. Highway 278 and U.S. Highway 21 will not be reversed. South Carolina Department of Transportation and Department (SCDOT) of Public Safety will monitor traffic on those highways to ensure steady, safe and normal traffic flow.

Christy Hall, South Carolina Secretary of Transportation, reported increased traffic volumes exiting the Myrtle Beach area, in particular along Highway 501, S.C. 9, Conway Bypass and U.S. 378. Traffic levels are between four and six times higher than their usual volume on those highways. Traffic levels leaving Charleston are three times higher than their usual level.

Governor McMaster also ordered that schools and state offices in the following counties will be open beginning tomorrow, Wednesday, September 12: Aiken, Allendale, Bamberg, Beaufort, Barnwell, Colleton, Hampton, and Jasper.

Hurricane Florence is currently a Category Four hurricane, with winds of 130 miles-per-hour. The initial storm track has changed only slightly, still showing the potential for the hurricane to make landfall somewhere along the Carolina coast Thursday night into early Friday.

South Carolinians are again advised not to focus on the landfall location, but rather the "cone of uncertainty". While the track shows landfall along the southern North Carolina coast, the cone of uncertainty still covers most of the South Carolina coastline, indicating that landfall on the South Carolina coast is still possible. 

Quagliariello expressed that there has been some concern that residents in evacuation zone will see the track and assume it will not be a threat. "It is important to remember that the impacts of this hurricane will extend far beyond where it makes landfall. Hurricane force winds, storm surge inundation, again are all possible in the watch area." said Quagliariello.

Florence is expected to be slow moving when it approaches land, and bring with it significant rainfall.

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.

For the latest closings, shelter listings and up-to-date information, visit the SCEMD website. SCETV will be broadcasting all future press conferences related to Hurricane Florence on television, radio, and our website, as well as streaming on YouTube and on Facebook, and posting any important developments related to the storm and its effects.