'We're hoping for the best but preparing for the worst'
With Hurricane Florence swirling and gaining strength off the east coast, Governor Henry McMaster had a clear message for South Carolinians at a press conference on Monday.
“We are expecting more wind than we had with Hugo, and more water than we had with Matthew,” he said. “…This is a high velocity hurricane.”
“We’re in for a real episode here,” added McMaster. “We want everybody to be prepared…Our goal is to protect lives and property.”
“We’re hoping for the best but preparing for the worst,” stated Mayor John Tecklenburg, at a City of Charleston press conference Sunday.
Daniel Island businesses Refuel and Publix were buzzing with activity as customers stocked up on hurricane supplies.
“Our Daniel Island Publix has been busy as customers are making preparations now,” Publix Media and Community Relations Manager Kim Reynolds told The Daniel Island News early in the week. “Water, ice, batteries, bread, snacks and canned goods are some of the top items customers are purchasing. We have been and continue to ship additional supplies to our Daniel Island Publix including water so that we can continue to meet our customers’ needs to the best of our ability. At this time, the store is operating under normal business hours.”
Refuel Manager Kyle Phelps said that his place of business is preparing in a similar way.
“We double ordered a lot of things for the fact that we might not get a truck when we’re supposed to because of flooding,” he said. “I suspect we’ll know more the closer it gets to the hurricane what we’re going to do. But for now, we ordered a little extra water, and by ‘a little extra,’ I mean a lot more water, and we kind of double stocked on some tobacco products and other things people really, really want in times of crisis.”
Daniel Island resident Alex Fuller said that she is preparing for the storm “just in case because you never know…The chances are there and I’ve got kids, so better safe than sorry.”
Anthony Noury stopped in at ReFuel on Monday to fill up his gas tank.
“I don’t want to get caught unprepared,” he said.
Daniel Island resident Caroline Smith took a short trip to Edisto Beach earlier this week to check on her family’s home there and begin preparations.
Hurricane Florence is expected to make landfall, most likely on the coast of North Carolina, late Thursday or early Friday morning – but as the paper went to print on Tuesday, South Carolina remained under a Hurricane Watch. The powerful storm became a category four hurricane on Monday, a day earlier than expected. Florence is expected to bring incredibly heavy rain, winds of up to 130 miles per hour, flooding, and powerful storm surges potentially up to 10 feet. Significant river flooding is possible throughout the state.
In response to the storm’s potential impacts, Governor McMaster issued a mandatory evacuation for eight coastal counties, including Charleston County and Berkeley County, beginning at noon on Tuesday, September 11. Westbound lanes on I-26 from Charleston to Columbia were reversed to accommodate the expectedly high traffic.
“About a million people, we think, will be leaving the coast trying to escape this big hurricane,” McMaster said on Monday.
State government offices, except for essential and emergency offices, and schools were closed beginning Tuesday in 26 counties across the state. McMaster also ordered the mandatory evacuation of medical facilities, including hospitals and nursing homes, in the coastal counties.
“I know that this evacuation order that I’m issuing is going to be inconvenient for some people,” said McMaster. “But, we do not want to risk one South Carolina life in this hurricane, so we’re willing to suffer some inconvenience.”
Florence has the potential to be the first category four storm to hit the South Carolina coast since 1989’s infamous and devastating Hurricane Hugo.
While many officials at the state level are urging evacuation, residents that plan to ride out the storm are encouraged to educate themselves on proper preparation. The Daniel Island Property Owners Association (POA) told residents in a newsletter on Monday to stock up on canned goods, bottled water, and batteries. Citizens were also discouraged from leaving any potential debris out in their yards.
“It is always important for residents to listen to local and state leaders in terms of emergency preparedness,” said Jane Baker, vice president of community services for the POA. “While the track looks fairly good for Hurricane Florence not immediately impacting Daniel Island, tracks can change, and with the size of this storm, it is imperative that residents monitor changes closely and adhere to state officials’ recommendations.”
The City of Charleston held a press conference at its offices on Calhoun Street shortly after McMaster’s announcement, where Mayor John Tecklenburg stated that the City would support the state’s evacuation plan in any way that they could.
“The big picture is that it is better to be safe than sorry…and that’s how we want all our citizens to be,” said Tecklenburg.
“Daniel Island and Cainhoy residents are encouraged to continue preparations and to pay attention to local weather forecasts and any announcements or orders given by Governor McMaster,” said City of Charleston Assistant Director of Communications Cameron Wolfsen.
The Mayor warned citizens to stay off of I-526 and I-26 at every chance they can, if they are not going to use those roads to evacuate.
“If you’re not leaving town, just yet, and you’re still local traffic, avoid the Mark Clark and I-26,” he said on Monday.
For a lot of Daniel Island residents, evacuation is something to play by ear.
“If I didn’t worry, I’d be silly,” said Virgil Virga on Monday. “I’m certain that it’s probably going to at least rain a lot. Now, if you talk about McMaster and our good folks up at the Capitol saying that we need to leave by noon tomorrow, I think that’s a little aggressive.”
But Governor McMaster stood by his decision, choosing to err on the side of caution.
“This is a very dangerous hurricane,” he said. “We are not gonna gamble with the lives of the people of South Carolina. Not a one. That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing.”