Gov. Henry McMaster warned that — although most of Tropical Storm Irma has passed South Carolina as of Monday afternoon — wind, floodwaters and falling trees remain a potentially dangerous issue.
“This has been a plan that has gone according to the way it was devised,” he told reporters during a briefing at the state Emergency Operations Center. “The hurricane gave us a little break by going in slightly another direction… but it’s still a dangerous storm.”
The governor said an evacuation order for eight coastal barrier islands in Beaufort, Colleton and Jasper counties remains in effect, including on Hilton Head and Edisto Beach. Flooding has been particularly severe in those areas and in downtown Charleston. Witnesses say the levels were higher in Charleston than for Hurricane Matthew last year.
National Guard commander Gen. Robert Livingston urges residents in those areas to stay home for now, even as the weather starts to clear. “This is the safety issue. Stay at your home,” he said during Monday’s briefing. “Don’t get out there and sightsee. Don’t go up and down the water in your boat.”
McMaster said there were no reported deaths as of Monday afternoon, but there have been several water rescues. The governor said he and others at the operations center watched one rescue unfold on live TV near Edisto.
More than 200,000 power outages were reported across South Carolina, as of Monday evening.
McMaster himself was personally affected by the storm: a large oak tree fell on a small apartment building he owns in downtown Columbia. The governor said nobody was hurt in the two-story building, but 6-8 college students had to leave their apartments.
A couple of other landmarks across the state have been damaged. The famous “Folly boat” along the road to Folly Beach near Charleston washed away during the strong storm surge. The concrete boat — which had been stranded decades ago by Hurricane Hugo — is a local landmark, with residents often painting on its side. Photos posted to social media show the boat had crashed into a private dock further down the marsh.
Irma’s winds also blew off the roof of the Wagener Town Hall in Aiken County on Monday. Mayor Mike Miller said nearly half of the building is now exposed to heavy rain and the peeling roof itself damaged the adjacent town museum.
“(Irma) certainly turned out not to be near as bad as they were thinking it was going to be, but it was bad for us,” Miller joked in an interview with South Carolina Radio Network. “It was terrible for us. I don’t know of any other building here in town that’s damaged.
He said the museum’s artifacts have been moved to avoid rain coming through the hole, as have several desks in the town hall offices. The offices had been closed Monday due to the oncoming storm.