A day after South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency related to Hurricane Irma, he announced plans for a likely evacuation that would start Saturday morning.
Although he didn’t announce an official evacuation at his news conference on Thursday, he encouraged residents to leave coastal areas immediately if they could.
McMaster said he expects to issue an evacuation order on Saturday that would go into effect at 10 a.m. Lanes will be reversed at that time.
He also said it is likely he will announce on Friday that schools will be closed on Monday and Tuesday in all 46 counties.
As of 2 p.m. Thursday, an evacuation order was issued for health care facilities in multiple coastal counties, including Beaufort and Jasper counties, the governor said.
Jasper County Sheriff Chris Malphrus also ordered volunteer evacuations Thursday afternoon. He told residents to get out early if they could and follow the state’s instructions related to more evacuation notices.
Earlier Thursday afternoon, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal issued a mandatory evacuation order starting Saturday for Savannah, Chatham County, all counties east of I-95 and some counties west of I-95. A total of 30 counties in Georgia are currently under a state of emergency.
Hurricane Irma already has caused devastating effects in the Caribbean, where at least 11 people have been killed. Irma likely will make landfall in Florida, where evacuations are already under way, before approaching the Lowcountry, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The NHC’s current most likely track, as of Thursday evening, sees Irma setting its sights on the Georgia and South Carolina coast late Monday before rapidly weakening to a Category 1 storm, according to Blair Holloway, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston.
High winds, levels of rainfall and extensive flooding are expected along the coast of South Carolina.
Before Hurricane Matthew last year, an evacuation order was issued on Tuesday, Oct. 4, and the hurricane hit Beaufort County on Saturday, Oct. 8.