The National Weather Service has issued a hurricane warning for the northeast South Carolina coast, as it becomes increasingly likely Hurricane Florence could make landfall not far across the North Carolina border.
The warning — which means hurricane conditions are likely in the next 36-48 hours — covers Georgetown and Horry counties. Forecasters warn Florence could be a Category 4 storm when it reaches the Carolinas on Thursday morning. That means the potential for winds gusts between 74-112 miles per hour in the Grand Strand and Pee Dee regions.
Horry County emergency management director Randy Webster said thousands of residents have followed evacuation orders so far. “We feel like we did see pretty good traffic out (Monday) night and it continued overnight into (Tuesday) morning,” he told reporters in a briefing. “So far, I think that’s been very helpful.”
The state Department of Public Safety has reversed the eastbound lanes of U.S. Highway 501 outside Conway to help evacuate traffic from the Grand Strand.
Horry County Fire Rescue Chief Joey Tanner has requested assistance from the National Guard. He urged those who still remain in the region’s coastal evacuation zones to get out.
“When the sustained winds get to 40 miles per hour, we will restrict our response into the community,” he said. “And at 60 miles an hour, we will suspend our operations. With sustained winds over 60 miles an hour for an extended period of time, nobody will be able to get to you.”
Although forecasters are still not sure where Florence will make landfall, their projections increasingly suggest it could occur in southeastern North Carolina. The storm’s potential path has not varied very much in the past 24 hours. The Grand Strand remains in the potential path for Florence’s center, although the National Weather Service cautions the storm’s path could change at any time.