All of South Carolina’s coast is now under a hurricane warning as the latest forecast models predict Hurricane Matthew will now travel further up South Carolina’s coast than forecasted on Thursday.
Thursday’s models predicted Matthew would veer east out to sea shortly after passing offshore of Charleston. However, the latest models released at 11 a.m. Friday now expect that veer to happen off the coast of North Carolina. The models predict Matthew will reach South Carolina waters near Savannah overnight on Friday night/Saturday morning. Its center is expected to be closest to shore along the barrier islands immediately south of Charleston.
As a result, Hurricane Warnings will now be in effect for inland Dorchester and coastal Georgetown and Horry counties in addition to the warnings already announced for Beaufort, Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton and Jasper counties. Tropical Storm Warnings will be in effect for Allendale, inland Colleton, Darlington, Dillon, Dorchester, Florence, Hampton, Marlboro, Marion and Williamsburg counties. Flood warnings are also in effect for many of those same counties as 8-14 inches of rain is expected to fall along the coast over the weekend, leading to potential inland flooding and worse storm surges.
Gov. Nikki Haley warned in a Friday morning briefing that the time to evacuation was drawing to a close. “This is the last time that you will hear my voice when we are asking you to evacuate,” she said. “We need everybody to consider evacuating and really take this very seriously.”
The governor said 310,000 people have evacuated from the coast through Friday morning, but she said the number needs to be closer to a half-million. She expressed concern for those living along the low-lying barrier islands around Beaufort and Charleston who are planning to weather out the storm, singling out Daniel Island and Daufuskie Island as particular holdouts (Daufuskie’s only connection to the mainland is via ferry). The governor said about 100 islanders have elected to stay, but she worries Daufauskie will be “under water.”
“We understand the situation that is before us. And it’s not a good one,” Haley said. “Please evacuate. Even if it’s to a shelter… we have shelters in Charleston and every county along the coast that can take care of you during this process.”
The National Weather Service is warning residents to expect storm surges up to 11 feet in some areas, making things especially dangerous around high tide, which will occur around 1:20 a.m. in the Hilton Head area. In fact, meteorologists are warning the winds from a Category 1 hurricane will not be as dangerous as the potential for serious flooding.
Charleston County officials emphasized Friday morning that they will not close bridges which connect barrier islands with the mainland. Traditionally, those bridges close once wind speeds reach 40 miles per hour. Instead wind advisories will be posted warning drivers not to cross. State Department of Transportation Secretary Christie Hall told reporters she was not aware of any bridge closures as of 11 a.m. Friday.
Lane reversals have now ended along Interstate 26 between Columbia and Charleston. SCDOT and the Highway Patrol are in the process of reopening the eastbound lanes so equipment and emergency vehicles can travel towards the coast as Matthew gets closer.
Haley said 712 Highway Patrol troopers are working the roadways, along with 2,700 DOT maintenance personnel and upwards of 2,000 National Guard troops.
The Charleston harbor closed at 10 a.m. Friday.