Hurricane Florence: "This is Still a Very, Very Dangerous Storm." says Governor McMaster.

Governor Henry McMaster addressed the public in a press conference from South Carolina’s Emergency Management Division (SCEMD) this afternoon at 2:30 p.m., Thursday, September 13, 2018.

The conference began with a reading and prayer from Chaplain and National Guard Captain, John Denny, calling for safety and unity in the coming storm.

"This is still a very, very dangerous storm." said McMaster. "Not only on the coast, but also in the interior of the state. The very unusual part [wind and heavy rainfall] is going to last for about two days. That means we are going to have to be patient."

McMaster went on to say that over 421,000 people have evacuated at this point, and will continue to evacuate, but when the hurricane and tropical storm force winds arrive, if you are in evacuation areas stay off of the road.

"If you have not left these evacuation zones, you should leave now." McMaster continued. "Time is running out."

McMaster has not reinstated the mandatory evacuation of Jasper, Beaufort and Colleton counties, which he lifted Tuesday, September 11.

Patience is important after the storm passes. Downed power lines, limbs, trees and debris all pose significant risk. Responders will be the first to return to assess and repair to ensure that roadways are safe to travel.

General Livingston of the National Guard called for situational awareness. Listen to a battery powered radio or weather radio, and consider that information before coming home. There will be the Initial wave of rain from the hurricane and then the flooding that happens after. Even when rain lets up, the risk is not necessarily over, particularly in low lying areas.

Power may be out for a significant amount of time. Make arrangements to charge your cellular devices, or stay somewhere with power, and keep extra batteries on hand for items like radios, weather radios and flashlights.

Avoid the use of candles in power outages. If you are using a generator, make sure it is placed in a well-ventilated area away from doors and windows. If your generator is hooked to the main breaker of your home, ensure you turn off of the main breaker before using the generator to ensure the safety of electric workers and linemen. Do not use a generator or charcoal grill inside of your home.

Make sure the eye of your stove is off when power goes off. When power is restored if they are not turned off they can cause kitchen fires.

A reminder 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.

South Carolina Emergency Management Division (SCEMD) is still in the evacuation and sheltering phase. There are 22 emergency operations centers open. 573 emergency requests have been made, and 408 of those requests are complete or in progress. SCEMD still ha 275,000 available sandbags.

Most likely requests in the phase after the storm hits will be debris management, generator requests and damage assessment.

South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) and State Law Enforcement partners are working together to ensure that no homes are businesses are looted. SCDNR requests that boat owners do not go sight seeing or joy riding in flood waters. The Pee Dee River Basin will be a focus and priority as this area will see rain water from South Carolina and North Carolina.

Many have asked about prisoners in correctional facilities in the evacuation zones. There is only one prison building in the evacuation zone, and it is currently deemed a sound shelter for those prisoners. Team South Carolina is working with Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling to ensure the best plan of action. All information being collected by SCDNR is also being sent to the team with the Dept of Corrections.

John Quagliariello from the National Weather Service explained there was some good news, as Hurricane Florence has been downgraded to a Category Two hurricane with wind speeds of 105 miles-per-hour. Quagliariello explained that it is important to understand that even though the storm is now a Category Two, the threat following Hurricane Florence is still very real. It is a very dangerous and large storm.

The hurricane strength winds extend out to the west of the center 50 to 60 miles, and the tropical storm force winds extend west from the center 110 to 140 miles. At the time of the conference, the storm was 175 miles east of Myrtle Beach. The storm is slowing down and moving northwest at about ten miles an hour. It is expected to continue slowing down as it approaches the coast of southeast North Carolina, and will likely make landfall in the Cape Fear/Wilmington area later this evening.

Slight changes in the track and the intensity of Hurricane Florence are still possible before making landfall. It should weaken into a tropical storm as it moves into South Carolina into Saturday, shifting across North Carolina, weakening through Sunday night. 

Winds and rain bands will likely arrive in the Grand Strand later this evening as well. Hurricane winds and tropical storm force winds will continue over the next two days, spreading across much of the rest of the state on Friday, and persist through the weekend causing power outages and downed trees.

Heavy rain potential will persist into Monday, bringing the possibility of 15-20 inches in parts of the state. Given expected rainfall totals, flash flooding is likely. River flooding is also possible, particularly in the Pee Dee River Basin through next week. Landslides could also occur in the South Carolina mountains.

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.

A threat of isolated tornadoes also exist. Quagliariello advised not to underestimate this hurricane. Much of the state will feel the impacts of damaging winds and torrential rainfall for a few days, followed by potentially significant river flooding.

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.