City leaders from Charleston and its surrounding area are warning residents to heed Governor Henry McMaster’s evacuation order ahead of Hurricane Florence.
“Now is the time to evacuate,” Mayor John Tecklenburg said during a news conference Wednesday morning. “I know a lot of folks have been watching the weather reports the last few days and thinking well, we might just dodge this bullet. Well now’s the time to make that decision to go ahead and get out of town.”
Governor McMaster ordered evacuations for those living in flood zones in most coastal counties beginning at noon Tuesday. Eastbound lanes on Interstate 26 were reversed to allow for evacuation traffic. All lanes of I-26 continue to be configured westbound for hurricane evacuation traffic.
The latest update from the National Hurricane Center shows the storm is predicted to make landfall in North Carolina then move southward. The mayor of Mount Pleasant repeated Tecklenburg’s warning in the uncertainty of the ever-changing forecast.
“You have the power to introduce a degree of certainty to this situation and that is by heeding the evacuation order,” Mayor Will Haynie said. “When you choose to leave and get out if its way, you have more control over your destiny than you do if you choose to stay here.”
A representative from the Charleston Fire Department warned residents who live in areas that experienced flooding during smaller hurricanes the past three years to evacuate.
“If you live in a low-lying area that has flooded in the past three years, now is the time to evacuate,” Deputy Fire Chief Joseph Roberts said. “Chances are there will be no emergency services to come to rescue you.”
Roberts said the fire department’s experience responding to the 2015 floods after Hurricane Joaquin, Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Irma in 2017 gives insight on its capabilities during flooding disasters.
“For the last three years we’ve had major storms and this might be worse than what we’ve seen before,” Roberts said. “The emergency services might not be there to respond.”
To reassure those hesitant to evacuate because they want to protect their property, Tecklenburg, Haynie and Charleston Police Chief Luther Reynolds said law enforcement officers would be patrolling neighborhoods looking for suspicious activity.
Click here if you need information regarding Charleston County evacuations. Click here for a link to the South Carolina Emergency Management Division or call the emergency hotline at 1-866-246-0133.