Hurricane Irma Heads for the U.S. | South Carolina Declares State of Emergency

A day after Florida declared a state of emergency, South Carolina has followed suit, as Hurricane Irma heads for the U.S. Now is the time to review safety plans in case they are needed, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said.

“The state of emergency allows one of the best, most experienced emergency response teams in the entire world to begin organizing response efforts,” said Gov. Henry McMaster. “South Carolina is fortunate to have time to allow us to prepare for Hurricane Irma’s potential landfall, and it is important that families and individuals in vulnerable areas use that time to review safety plans in case they are needed.”

Florida residents await Irma

A sign on a business reads, “Be Prepared, Go Away Irma,” as people prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Irma on September 6, 2017 in Miami, Florida. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

McMaster declared the state of emergency Wednesday after the National Hurricane Center’s forecast of Irma’s path shifted east, predicting a major hurricane near the coast of Florida about 200 miles from Charleston Monday morning.

If residents are forced to evacuate, offers tips, including:

  • Leave early, for the sooner you leave, the safer you’ll be.
  • Map a route. (Note that Florida does not have many highways that allow for evacuation to the north, and these likely will be crowded.)
  • Fill up your gas tank.
  • Book a hotel, or plan to stay with friends or relatives if possible.
  • Pack cash, clothes, food and water, cellphones with chargers, medications, maps, a first-aid kit, flashlights with extra batteries, copies of insurance policies, and ID cards.
Pointe-a-Pitre hit with winds from Hurricane Irma

Residential buildings in Pointe-a-Pitre, on the French overseas island of Guadeloupe, on Sept. 6, 2017, as high winds from Hurricane Irma hit Guadeloupe. | Helene Valenzuela/AFP/Getty Images

Residents who are not ordered to evacuate who choose to ride out the storm in their homes are advised by to do the following:

  • Prepare to lose power and running water.
  • Have adequate supplies for up to a week.
  • Expect access roads to be flooded.

The last major hurricane to hit South Carolina was Hugo in September 1989 with winds of 135 mph. The state evacuated residents on the coast in October when Hurricane Matthew skirted its shoreline before coming ashore near Charleston.

As of 2 p.m. EST Wednesday, Irma, a Category 5 storm, was passing over the northernmost Virgin Islands and was 90 miles east of San Juan, Puerto Rico, with winds of 185 mph. The storm is forecast to move north of Puerto and the Virgin Islands this afternoon, not directly hitting the islands but slamming them with strong winds and heavy rain.

The storm is expected to move through the Bahamas Friday into Saturday morning, before curving north toward Florida by late Saturday afternoon. By the time it approaches just south of Miami, Irma is expected to be a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 145 mph. It is forecast to move up the Florida coast as a Category 3 hurricane with winds of 125 mph.