Current projections have Hurricane Irene hitting the Outer Banks of North Carolina Saturday, missing South Carolina.
Governor Nikki Haley said, while she’s still wary, the latest forecasts show that coastal residents in the Lowcountry and Grand Strand can rest easy.
“I won’t sleep until (Irene’s) back out into the ocean,” Haley said, “For me, I’m not letting my guard down at all.”
A midday advisory Wednesday from the National Weather Service makes it appear increasingly unlikely that Hurricane Irene will hit the South Carolina coast this weekend.
The storm passed near the southeastern Bahamas Wednesday morning, where the warmer water strengthened it to a Category 3 hurricane. The Weather Service is now predicting the storm will hit the Outer Banks of North Carolina, although its edge may clip the northeastern corner of South Carolina.
Officials are beginning to evacuate Ocracoke Island in North Carolina, but it looks unlikely they will do the same anywhere in South Carolina.
“Tourists can comfortable stay on the coast,” Haley said, “If something changes, we will have another press conference. But, we are hoping that our coastline is full of visitors.”
While the storm is expected to past eastward, there is still the risk of riptides forming in the waters off the Grand Strand.
Hurricane Irene now has winds of 115 mph. It’s moving to the NW at about 12 miles per hour. As of 11am, it was about 285 miles southeast of the town of Nassau in the Bahamas.
Horry County officials are still on Operating Condition Level 4 (OPCON 4). That means the county is on “alert” status while the storm approaches.
“They’re cautious, like we are right now,” South Carolina Emergency Management Division director George McKinney said, “They have personnel there that they need. They have not overmanned.”
It has been eight years since a hurricane last came ashore in South Carolina (Isabel in 2003).
Here are some helpful online links for the Hurricane Irene response efforts:
National Weather Service: Hurricane Irene
SCEMD’s main site: www.scemd.org
SCEMD on Facebook
SCEMD’s Twitter feed