(Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article had the incorrect NHC graphic, instead using an earlier forecast with the same file name. The correct image is now posted. We regret the error)
Hurricane warnings are now in effect along the southern South Carolina coast, from Charleston County to the Georgia border as Hurricane Matthew continues to draw closer.
The latest National Hurricane Center update had Matthew passing through the Bahamas as of 11 a.m. Thursday morning on a path that would bring it along the Florida coast on Friday. The storm has slowed again and forecasters do not expect it to reach South Carolina waters until Saturday morning.
Current forecast models have Matthew’s center passing roughly 70-80 miles off the Lowcountry shore before making a turn out to sea. While the National Weather Service warns that path could change after the storm reaches Florida, the “probability cone” that illustrates the error margin for Matthew’s potential path no longer includes inland South Carolina.
However, the National Weather Service is still warning those along South Carolina’s coast to expect strong winds and storm surges. A Hurricane Warning is now in effect for all coastal counties between Edisto Beach and Georgia: Beaufort, Colleton and Jasper, as well as inland Hampton County. That designation means hurricane conditions are likely in those areas within the next 36 hours.
Gov. Nikki Haley continued to urge Lowcountry residents to leave, reiterating an evacuation order she issued Wednesday. The governor extended the order Thursday morning to include Georgetown and Horry counties further up the coast. That order will take effect at noon Thursday.
“Storm surges are going to go much further inland than people realize and that’s a lot of water all at once,” Haley told reporters in a morning briefing. “The winds are going to be incredibly high. And the rain is what we’re concerned about. That may give us similar to what we had with the flood last year, when you’re talking about 8 to 12 inches and higher numbers past that.”
In addition to the hurricane warning, a hurricane watch remains in effect for Charleston County. Flash flood watches have also been announced in all the counties mentioned earlier, plus Berkeley, Dorchester, Florence, Marion and Williamsburg.
The governor revised downward an evacuation number she gave Wednesday, saying only about 175,000 people have evacuated so far and not the 250,000 she initially gave. She said the total is “not enough.”
“If you have not evacuated, gas stations are getting ready to close,” she said. “Your pharmacies are getting ready to close. Everything is going to leave, because people have to protect their own families.”
However, hotel vacancy remains a problem. The governor admitted rooms are full across most of South Carolina’s inland hotels as evacuees make their way north. She recommended anyone seeking a place to stay this weekend try looking for rooms in Charlotte or else use the rental properties website AirBnB for rental properties in the Midlands and Upstate.
Haley also reiterated that the usual 100-200 Highway Patrol troopers and other state law enforcement will not be available to work traffic and security for the University of South Carolina’s football game against Georgia on Saturday if school officials decide to play. The governor said any decision about playing the game on Saturday or rescheduling the date would be “a complete school decision.” USC has said it will announce game plans later on Thursday.