- Associated Press - Thursday, September 7, 2017

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - The Latest on preparations for Hurricane Irma in South Carolina (all times local):

1:25 p.m.

Communities all along South Carolina’s coast are getting ready for Hurricane Irma.

In Beaufort County, officials are closing all offices at noon Friday.

Charleston County schools and surrounding systems are cancelling classes from Friday until Tuesday.

In Myrtle Beach, Fire Chief Alvin Payne says he is breathing easier with forecasts steady in showing Irma coming ashore between Hilton Head Island and Charleston. But he says residents should not let their guard down yet and evacuations could still be necessary.

Gov. Henry McMaster has yet to issue any evacuation orders.

Officials along South Carolina’s coast are most worried about storm surge. Forecasters have not given a prediction on how high the water may rise. But they do say tropical storm force winds could arrive on the South Carolina coast as early as Sunday evening.

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10 a.m.

The threat posed by Hurricane Irma has prompted officials at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor to drop all tours.

Dawn Davis with the Fort Sumter National Monument said in a news release Thursday that no tour boats will make the trip from Charleston or Mount Pleasant out to the fort until after the threat of the storm has passed.

The National Hurricane Center has said that Irma could hit South Carolina early next week.

The Fort Sumter National Monument marks the spot where the first shots were fired in the Civil War in 1861.

Gov. Henry McMaster on Wednesday declared a state of emergency and said evacuations might be ordered on Friday.

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7:50 a.m.

Leaders at Joint Base Charleston say they are monitoring the approaching Hurricane Irma and are reviewing checklists of storm preparations.

Capt. Leah Brading said in a news release Wednesday night that base officials are reviewing plans to secure equipment. Brading said the Air Force is also considering the evacuation of its aircraft, personnel and their families.

She said base officials are working with state and local authorities about the possibility of evacuation.

Gov. Henry McMaster issued a state of emergency Wednesday as the state prepares for a possible landfall early next week. McMaster has not ordered evacuations but said that could happen Friday.

Adjutant General Robert Livingston said National Guardsmen have not yet been activated, but soldiers helping with Hurricane Harvey in Texas are returning to South Carolina.

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7:30 a.m.

South Carolina officials are urging residents to prepare for Hurricane Irma, which the National Hurricane Center says could strike the state early next week.

Gov. Henry McMaster on Wednesday declared a state of emergency because of the storm already responsible for at least 10 deaths in the Caribbean.

South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. said Wednesday it’s releasing water from Lake Murray northwest of Columbia to reduce the possibility of flooding when Irma’s rains arrive.

The utility warned residents and those who use the lake and Saluda River for recreation of fluctuating water levels.

The city of Charleston said a limited number of free sandbags would be available Thursday for residents hoping to keep flood waters out of their homes and businesses. Residents are limited to 10 bags each.

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