Gov. Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency Wednesday in anticipation of Hurricane Irma’s potential movement towards the South Carolina coast this weekend.
McMaster’s declaration enables the state Emergency Management Division (SCEMD) to launch its emergency operations center and makes its easier for various agencies to coordinate ahead of any storm.
“The state of emergency allows one of the best, most experienced emergency response teams in the entire world to begin organizing response efforts,” McMaster said in a statement. “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.”
McMaster’s office said he will speak to media outlets at the SCEMD headquarters around 2 p.m. Wednesday. He will be joined by other state emergency response officials.
As of 11 a.m. Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center said Irma was still an unusually strong Category 5 hurricane with sustained winds topping 185 miles per hour as it moves through the U.S. Virgin Islands towards Puerto Rico. The National Weather Service believes Irma’s center could reach South Florida by Sunday morning. After that, forecasters believe it will rotate northeast and towards the Southeast coast. The storm’s outer walls could reach South Carolina waters by Sunday evening, with the center arriving Monday afternoon.
SCEMD on Wednesday increased its readiness to OPCON 4, one lever higher than normal operations.