For the second time in two days, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster held back from issuing an evacuation order ahead of Hurricane Irma, which is expected to hit Florida this weekend.
McMaster said he is delaying the final decision on an evacuation order until he receives more information from the National Weather Service, which updates the path of the Hurricane every three hours.
He advised coastal residents to still be prepared for an evacuation starting at 10 a.m. Saturday, but that may or may not take place, the governor said.
The next update from the weather service will be at 5 p.m. Friday. By 6 p.m., McMaster said he expects to give the public another update on a possible evacuation.
“We’ve been watching this very close with teams of professionals...You never know when a hurricanes going to go,” McMaster said. “We could wake up in the morning and it could double back on us...That’s why everyone, including the national guard, is still in place.”
Tolls on the Cross Island Expressway have been suspended as of 2:30 p.m. Friday, the governor said.
At a press conference on Thursday, McMaster opted not to issue an official evacuation, but encouraged residents to leave coastal areas as soon as possible.
Thursday afternoon he ordered an evacuation of healthcare facilities in multiple South Carolina counties, including Beaufort and Jasper counties. But at Friday’s press conference, McMaster rescinded the evacuation order for facilities in all counties except in Beaufort and Jasper counties.
As of Friday morning, Beaufort Memorial, Hilton Head and Coastal Carolina hospitals were all in the process of transporting patients across the state.
According to the National Hurricane Center’s 2 p.m. update, Beaufort County sits outside of Hurricane Irma’s “cone of uncertainty,” but effects, such as high winds, tides and storm surges, could still be seen in the area.
A representative from the S.C. Emergency Management Division said areas of Charleston County have already seen some flooding from higher-than-normal tides.
The expected path of Irma continues to shift, with its most recent track forecasting the storm moving over land as it moves up the Florida Peninsula. But still, the change in Irma’s track hinges on a turn forecast that will happen sometime Saturday, according to Weather Service meteorologist Blair Holloway.
Jasper County Sheriff’s Office is holding a press conference regard Hurricane Irma at 3:30 p.m., which will be followed by a Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office press conference at 6:30 p.m.