Hurricane Dorian, a Category 5 behemoth with winds of 185 miles per hour, became the strongest hurricane in modern history to strike the Northwestern Bahamas this week.
Exactly how strong the storm will be in three days — when some forecast models show it close to South Carolina — remains unclear, but state and local officials are urging residents to make preparations now.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Gov. Henry McMaster, speaking at a news conference Sunday afternoon. “We don’t know how strong the storm or hurricane could be when it gets here, if it gets here. We don’t know if it’s going to be out on land or in the ocean. It’s just too early to predict those things. But as you know, last time with Hurricane Florence we had a lot of flooding that we had never seen before. … We are preparing for the worst but hoping for the best.”
McMaster said he spoke with President Donald Trump earlier in the day and the governor asked the president for a federal emergency declaration that would allow state officials to access federal resources to prepare for the hurricane. McMaster said he expects that declaration will be granted soon.
At the state level, National Guard troops, State Law Enforcement Division agents and first responders have begun moving into position to prepare for the storm. The state Department of Transportation also has about 2,000 employees ready to help.
Forecasters expect Dorian will begin to slowly turn north as it nears the Florida coast. The latest forecast shows the storm staying just off the South Carolina shore late Wednesday and into Thursday, although it likely would still be a powerful hurricane at that time and could bring high winds and drenching rains.
“It’s important to remember that this track can change over the next couple of days,” said meteorologist John Quagliariello of the National Weather Service. “Only a small change in a track will have large implications on the potential impacts here in South Carolina. At this point, everyone should be preparing now for potentially significant impacts along the coast Wednesday and Thursday.”
Many Horry County residents are still recovering from Hurricane Florence, which caused flooding that damaged about 2,000 homes countywide last year.