S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster said Friday afternoon there are no plans to issue any evacuation orders or declare a state of emergency for South Carolina in response to Hurricane Isaias at this time.
“It looks like it will not be necessary,” he said during a news conference. “We certainly hope not, but we will certainly keep you informed.”
John Quagliariello with the National Weather Service (NWS) said Isaias strengthened to a hurricane overnight and is currently moving northwest across the southern Bahamas.
The storm is expected to remain a hurricane with some changes in intensity as it moves across the Bahamas and then near Florida’s east coast through the weekend.
The forecast, he said, has been consistent in showing the system turning to the northeast before accelerating up the southeast coast of the United States, passing South Carolina on Monday.
“There is some uncertainty as to how strong the system will be as it nears, but the current forecast indicates Category 1 hurricane strength,” he said.
Quagliariello said there is an increasing risk of impacts from winds, heavy rainfall and storm surge in the state based on the newest forecast trends, which take the center of Isaias closer to South Carolina’s coast.
More changes regarding the track of the storm and timing should be anticipated with Isaias’ approach still a few days away, he added.
Officials stressed that South Carolinians, primarily those on the coast, should prepare for potential impacts.
They advise monitoring information from media outlets. One can also get updates from the state Emergency Management Division (SCEMD) at scemd.org and the National Hurricane Center by visiting hurricanes.gov.
Also, the SC Emergency Manager mobile app can be used to write a hurricane plan, store important numbers and list supplies.
McMaster encourages state residents to look out for their neighbors who are new to the state and remind them of the necessary precautions.
“We’re hoping this storm will not hit us hard,” he said, “if it hits at all.”
Kim Stenson of the SCEMD said folks should act as emergency managers themselves and develop their own plans for safety and identifying threats.
The agency has been working with county emergency managers, state partners and the NWS, he added.
A major part of the EMD’s recent planning includes how to conduct emergency operations in a COVID-19 environment.
The department has worked closely with the state Department of Health and Environmental Control and other state partners to prevent the spread of the coronavirus during any kind of storm response, Stenson said, developing and publishing a separate plan.
That plan includes providing transport and shelter along with screening and isolation measures and adjusting seating arrangements at shelters to maintain social distancing.
“We’ve never actually conducted hurricane operations during a pandemic here in South Carolina,” he said, “but we are confident that those plans that are in place right now that we have will be carry us through that and be successful.”
Officials were able to test those plans on a small scale in April during a tornado outbreak in the state, according to Stenson. About 200 residents were sheltered at the time.
On Thursday, the EMD started conducting daily conference calls with counties to identify any issues or unmet needs. “To this point they have none in that area,” he said, so no support from the state is required as of now.
While no evacuations are planned at the moment, Stenson said he expects some people in structures they believe are unsafe to stay in amid potential tropical storm or hurricane force winds to be sheltered.
“That will be as requested by the local authorities.”
He said it is important to have emergency supplies such as bottles of water, enough nonperishable food for at least three days, flashlights, extra batteries, weather radios and important documents such as one’s insurance information and birth certificate on hand.
One can also prepare their home by making sure gutters are cleaned out, storm drains are cleared and lawn furniture is secure.
Stenson also recommends keeping cellphones and other mobile devices charged in case of a power outage as well as pet owners having a plan for their animals.
Check back for updates.