Despite an evacuation order taking effect at noon Tuesday, many coastal residents — particularly in Charleston — say they intend to stay.
Those Lowcountry residents staying behind believe Hurricane Florence’s shifting path towards North Carolina keeps them safe, even though forecasters still warn of storm surges and potential flooding if they remain. Many saw Gov. Henry McMaster’s decision to release the southern coast of Beaufort, Colleton and Jasper counties from the order as vindication.
“I have no idea what is going through the governor of South Carolina’s mind,” CBS News Weather Producer David Parkinson said during Monday’s broadcast. “Every coastal resident in the state of South Carolina does not need to evacuate.”
Parkinson argued the evacuations of the southern South Carolina coast could clog the roads for evacuees from North Carolina and the Grand Strand. He also had concerns about inland flooding if forecasts were accurate on the amount of rain potentially falling from Florence.
But McMaster said Tuesday he stands by the order. “This is a very dangerous hurricane and we do not want to gamble with a single life of a single South Carolinian,” he told reporters during a morning briefing. “We live on the coast. So we’re going to have hurricanes. And we must take precautions.”
National Hurricane Center models project Florence will reach Carolinas waters likely as a Category 4 storm on Thursday evening. Meteorologists warn coastal residents to potentially expect storm surges of up to six feet and lots of rain, even those areas nowhere near the storm’s center. That could also mean power outages as strong winds topple trees and power lines. A Category 4 storm has not made landfall in South Carolina since Hurricane Hugo in 1989.
South Carolina National Guard commander Adjutant Gen. Robert Livingston said the governor did not issue the order too early, emphasizing it takes 36-48 hours to evacuate the South Carolina coast, but only a few hours for a hurricane to change course.
“One life is not worth an economic advantage somewhere else,” Livingston said at the briefing. “Inconvenience is part of a hurricane response. But so is caution.”
More than 1,800 National Guard troops have been activated to assist with evacuation efforts. That includes Democratic gubernatorial candidate James Smith, according to Smith’s campaign, and state Attorney General Alan Wilson.
McMaster did lift the original order for the southern coast, including Beaufort, Colleton and Jasper counties. Mandatory evacuation orders are still in effect for the isolated Edisto Beach community, however. The governor noted that, while the original order had been lifted, it had not yet taken effect when the decision to rescind it was made around 11 a.m.
The governor also said schools would resume in western South Carolina. School districts in Aiken, Allendale, Barnwell, Bamberg, Beaufort, Colleton and Jasper could resume again Wednesday. However, Beaufort County officials indicated they plan to stay closed Wednesday.