Hurricane Florence: "This Hurricane is Unpredictable" says Governor McMaster

Governor Henry McMaster addressed the public in a press conference from South Carolina’s Emergency Management Division (SCEMD) this afternoon at 2 p.m., Wednesday, September 12, 2018.

Hurricane Florence has slowed slightly, but McMaster said that it could in fact pick back up.

"As we've been predicting, this hurricane is unpredictable." said McMaster. "With all of the information we are getting from around the world on this hurricane, I can assure you that what we are telling you here is the best information available."

McMaster urged residents remaining in the evacuation zones in Charleston, Georgetown, Dorchester, Horry and Berkley counties to leave now. Residents can view those zones here. Over 300,000 people have already evacuated. Highways are moving smoothly, and lane reversals are working well, McMaster added. "We're getting people out of harm's way."

The governor also warned that should residents in that area stay, after the storm begins to take effect, there may be no way for rescue officials to assist and rescue in those evacuation zones. Rescue assets will begin to be removed as the storm draws closer.

McMaster has not reinstated the mandatory evacuation of Jasper, Beaufort and Colleton counties, which he lifted yesterday. McMaster said it was possible that this could change and stated that Sheriff P.J. Tanner and Mayor Keyserling and other officials in those counties have said if residents are in an area that usually floods or is low-lying, even without an evacuation order, they should leave and find higher ground. 

"Everything we do is based on solid facts." stated McMaster. "We are careful to be precise and do exactly what we need to do when we need to do it."

The governor added that what is so unique about this particular storm is that there will be so much rainfall. While winds will be high, potentially as high as they were during Hurricane Hugo, there will likely be more rain than South Carolina saw with Hugo or hurricanes since.

Periods of heavy rainfall are expected Friday through at least Monday. Rainfall amounts are currently forecast to be 10 to 15 inches in far northeast portions of the state, six to 10 inches across the Midlands, and two to six inches across the rest of the state. Locally, amounts could be higher than that, resulting in dangerous flash flooding. This heavy rainfall may cause river flooding, especially in the Pee Dee Basin through next week.

As flooding is likely to occur, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is continuing to perform pre-storm dam assesments across the state, and 181 assessments have been completed so far. Dam owners, whether state-regulated dams or otherwise, are encouraged to take steps to lower the water levels in their ponds or reservoirs in anticipation of the heavy rainfall, and to ensure that spillways are clear of debris.

Military assets are poised and ready to deploy as the storm arrives, and aid in rescue and relief efforts as it passes. General Livingston of the National Guard said that they have partnered with surrounding states for a coordinated response to the storm. Federal military assets have also been made available including a helicopter carrier and littoral ship after the storm that will be available to assist. It is the first time the South Carolina has had these off-shore assets available.

According to John Quagliariello from the National Weather Service, Hurricane Florence is expected to be a "long-duration. high-impact event for much of South Carolina, including areas well inland from the coast. The Hurricane Watch and Storm Surge watch remain in effect from Edisto Beach north, and have been upgraded farther north beyond the North Carolina/South Carolina state line earlier this morning."

Florence has only weakened slightly to a Category 3 hurricane with wind speeds of 125 miles-per-hour. As of the conference, the storm was located 470 miles east southeast of the Myrtle Beach coast and is moving west northwest at 16 miles-per-hour.

Florence is expected to slow down or stall as it approaches the coast as a major hurricane on Friday, and linger near the Carolina coast into Saturday while weakening. This will result in a period of damaging wind, storm surge inundation and flooding rainfall across the northeast part of the state.

The forecast track of the storm has shifted further south into South Carolina, and is now expected to travel inland across the state through the weekend into next week.

Florence is a large hurricane, so portions of the storm bands may reach the Grand Strand by Thursday with tropical storm force winds beginning Thursday evening, and potential hurricane force winds on Friday night. Tropical storm force winds could reach the southern part of the coast and into the midlands during the day on Friday. Damaging winds could spread across the state resulting in downed trees and power outages.

Storm surge values could reach six to nine feet above ground level in some locations north of Myrtle Beach, four to six feet in some locations North Myrtle Beach to the South Santee River, and two to four feet in some locations from South Santee River to Edisto Beach.

While the latest track could result in damaging winds, storm surges and flooding, Quagliariello said the "good news is the slower approach still provides an opportunity for residents in evacuation zones to leave, and others across the state to complete their preparations."

As of 2:15 p.m., there are 34 open shelters with a capacity of 35,000. There are 1800 people in shelters at this time. There are 19 shelters on standby to accomodate another 33,000 people as necessary. There are three pet-friendly shelters available: Cane Bay High School in Berkeley, Marion High School in Orangeburg and DuBose Middle School in Dorchester. See the live list of shelters here. A paw next to a shelter on the list indicates it is pet-friendly. Residents going to shelters are reminded to bring pillows, blankets, comfort items, any necessary medicines, particularly if you have high blood pressure or diabetes, identification documents and food for restricted diet. 

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.