Beaufort County emergency officials braced Thursday for high winds, heavy rains and possible tornadoes from Tropical Storm Andrea, which was expected to strike overnight and into Friday morning.
The Beaufort County School District canceled classes for Friday.
Frank Alsheimer, meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the storm was expected to reach its peak in Beaufort County between 8 p.m. Thursday and 4 a.m. today, bringing three to five inches of rain.
Winds were expected to reach nearly 45 mph, and a National Weather Service storm advisory included warnings for isolated tornadoes in the area.
Beaufort County and Hilton Head Island emergency management officials issued several warnings about the storm's track Thursday, urging residents to secure their lawn furniture and for those who live in raised mobile homes to ride out the storm in safer structures. They said they were concerned about the possibility of falling trees and limbs, caused by the combination of ground saturated by rain and high winds.
Hilton Head emergency management coordinator Thomas Dunn said Thursday that localized flooding in low-lying areas on the island could also be a problem.
On Thursday night, about 2,500 SCE&G customers lost power, according to utility spokesman Robert Yanity. The outage occurred about 8:30 p.m., he said, and was power expected to be restored by 9:30 p.m.
AREA SCHOOLS CLOSED
The storm also caused the Beaufort County School District to cancel classes today, pushing back the start of summer break until Monday.
Friday's half-day has to be made up because state law requires 180 days of instruction, and today would have been the 180th day of the district's school year, acting superintendent Jackie Rosswurm said in a news release.
Monday is a "weather makeup day" built into the district's 2012-2013 calendar, the release said. Rosswurm said teachers needed the final day of school to complete their records with students.
Monday's half-day will begin at each school's regular start time, and buses will run on their normal schedules. Middle and high schools will be dismissed at 11:30 a.m., and elementary schools will be dismissed at 12:30 p.m.
The storm also caused the postponement of a half-dozen school promotion ceremonies from Friday to Monday. Beaufort High School moved its Thursday graduation ceremony into the school's gymnasium.
Whale Branch Early College High School will hold its graduation today at 7 p.m. as planned.
Spokesman Jim Foster said the district "erred on the side caution" by canceling school, as officials worried high winds could topple buses as they travel over bridges.
The S.C. Department of Education advised districts not to operate school buses if winds are expected to reach 30 mph or greater.
"Forces of this magnitude can greatly impact steering control and tracking of school buses in motion," according to a Department of Education memorandum.
ACROSS THE SOUTHEAST
Andrea hammered Florida late Thursday, bringing rain, heavy winds, and tornadoes.
Tropical storm warnings were in effect for a large section of Florida's west coast from Boca Grande to the Steinhatchee River and for the East Coast from Flagler Beach, Fla., all the way to Cape Charles Light in Virginia, and the lower Chesapeake Bay south of New Point Comfort. A tropical storm warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere inside the warning area within a day and a half.
As of 8 p.m. EDT on Thursday, Andrea was about 45 miles (72 kilometers) west of Gainesville after making landfall hours earlier in Florida's Big Bend area. Its maximum sustained winds had fallen to 50 mph (80 kph) and it was moving northeast at 15 mph (24 kph).
The storm was expected to lose steam by Saturday as it moves through the eastern United States, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.