South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency Saturday afternoon as Tropical Storm Florence nears the east coast with expectations that it will become a hurricane Saturday night., according to the National Hurricane Center.
Then the storm may become a major hurricane early during the week.
The state of emergency declaration allows emergency services and the government to prepare for the storm by moving assets throughout the state.
“We know that a hurricane is coming in our direction,” McMaster said during a news conference. “We know that it’s a strong one. We know that it’s coming and that we need to take precaution.”
McMaster said it is too early to ask for evacuations.
The track of the storm remains unknown, but there is a chance it will reach the east coast between northern Florida and the Carolinas.
“Wind shear is expected to weaken, which will allow (Florence) to strengthen and move west into warmer waters, which will help it develop into a hurricane,” Michael Stroz, a meteorologist for the NWS in Charleston, said Saturday morning.
According to the National Hurricane Center, the storm was moving west at 6 mph as of 5 a.m. Saturday with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph. The center’s five-day forecast shows the storm making landfall in North Carolina at 2 a.m. Friday. The exact path is still unknown.
“As of right now, it’s in that big cone,” Stroz said. “The cone itself isn’t touching the east coast yet. I can’t tell the probability of it hitting South Carolina. ... General tracking trends are making it more likely that the southeast coast could receive impacts.”
Large swells are affecting Bermuda as the storm moves west, according to the hurricane center. Portions of the east coast could see rip currents this weekend.
Risk to Beaufort and Jasper counties
The National Weather Service in Charleston has issued a Hazardous Weather Outlook for Beaufort and Jasper counties.
Both counties are at risk for moderate rip currents through this evening. The counties could also see elevated tide levels and shallow coastal flooding with the evening high tide.
As the storm is monitored over the next week, meteorologists warn people to review hurricane plans and have supplies ready.
“Keep a close eye on the forecast, and now is the time to make sure your hurricane kit is ready,” Stroz said. “Go over evacuation plans.”
Beaufort and Jasper county emergency personnel continue to monitor the storm.
Basic disaster kit supplies include water, enough food for three days, flashlights, a first aid kit, extra batteries, cellphone chargers and local maps.
A complete list of supplies to gather can be found at www.ready.gov/build-a-kit.
Another helpful source for knowing your evacuation zone, preparation tips, evacuation maps and how to return home after a storm can be found at scemd.org.