- Associated Press - Friday, September 8, 2017

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - The Latest on Hurricane Irma’s impact on South Carolina (all times local):

8:20 p.m.

South Carolina’s governor has ordered the evacuation of seven barrier islands, including Hilton Head Island, because they could be inundated by Hurricane Irma.

Gov. Henry McMaster said Friday that 4 to 6 feet (1.2 to 1.8 meters) of storm surge is possible on the islands in the southern part of the state even though the center of Irma is forecast to move 200 miles to the west.

With about 40,000 residents, Hilton Head Island is by far the largest island evacuated. It also has a number of resorts, golf courses and hotels.

South Carolina Adjutant General Robert Livingston estimates 20,000 people have already left Hilton Head Island.

Edisto Beach is also being evacuated, along with Harbor, Hunting, Fripp, Daufuskie, Tullifini and Knowles islands.

McMaster says a change in Irma’s track back east might require more evacuations.


3:40 p.m.

Inland counties in South Carolina are also preparing for Hurricane Irma.

Richland County officials say they will close county offices on Monday as forecasters predict up to 7 inches of rain, winds as high as 60 mph and possible tornadoes as the center of Irma moves to the west.

The closing of county offices in South Carolina’s capital led the University of South Carolina to cancel its classes on Monday.

South Carolina Electric and Gas officials say they are also getting ready for possible widespread power outages across the state.


3:25 p.m.

Gov. Henry McMaster is urging South Carolinians to avoid traveling on the state’s “big highways” as people escape Hurricane Irma’s path.

McMaster said Friday tens of thousands of extra vehicles are on South Carolina’s roads, particularly Interstate 95, which stretches from Florida up the East Coast.

The governor says forecasters westward shift of Irma’s projected path added to the traffic, as Georgians are fleeing north, not west, “bringing them right up I-95.”

Department of Transportation Secretary Christy Hall says there were 92,000 more vehicles than normal on Interstates 95 and 20 as of noon Friday.

Hall says traffic is heavy on Interstates 95 and 26 and U.S. Highway 321 but traffic is still moving.

McMaster is awaiting the next update from the National Hurricane Center before deciding whether to order anyone to evacuate their homes.

He says 2,400 National Guard soldiers and nearly 2,800 state and local law enforcement officers are on duty awaiting potential orders.


2:30 p.m.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has yet to decide whether to order residents to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Irma.

McMaster said he is awaiting the next update from the National Hurricane Center. He has scheduled another news conference at 6 p.m. Friday.

Federal forecasters have shifted the center of Irma well west of South Carolina. But western parts of the state are still in Monday’s forecast cone as Irma diminishes from a hurricane to a tropical depression.

McMaster says if he orders people to leave their homes, the evacuation would take effect at 10 a.m. Saturday.

The governor also rescinded parts of an order signed Thursday requiring health care facilities in all coastal counties to move patients inland and not take new, non-emergency patients. The order still applied to two counties.


11:15 a.m.

South Carolina emergency officials have opened a toll-free phone hotline to answer any questions residents have about Hurricane Irma.

The hotline’s number is 1-866-246-0133, and the state Emergency Management Division says it will be staffed 24 hours a day as long as it is needed.

Division spokesman Derrec Becker says operators can answer questions such as the best way for people to secure their homes before they head inland or get information about potential evacuation orders.

Gov. Henry McMaster plans a 2 p.m. news conference Friday where he will likely announce whether he will order evacuations.

The latest National Hurricane Center forecast has the center of Irma moving well west of South Carolina, but the western part of the state is still in the forecast cone.


10:45 a.m.

Hotel rooms are filling in central and western South Carolina as Hurricane Irma approaches the United States.

Crystal Pace with the Spartanburg Marriott says it has more than 400 overnight stays are booked for the weekend and early next week from people evacuating Florida, parts of Georgia and the South Carolina coast.

Pace said the hotel is taking pets for the first time and will not charge cancellation fees if people check out early.

Hotel rooms are also booked in Columbia as well.

Tourism officials in Charleston say they are losing tourism dollars because of the threat from Irma.

The sales manager of the King Charles Inn in downtown Charleston said he’s had cancelations and some groups that planned to be in the city are among those that canceled.


7 a.m.

Emergency officials in South Carolina are warning residents to remain alert as Hurricane Irma approaches.

Forecasts early Friday showed the storm likely to head north through Florida and into Georgia and Tennessee. But Derrec Becker with the South Carolina Emergency Management Division said the path is too uncertain for people to relax.

Becker said Friday morning it is important for South Carolinians to review emergency plans and to prepare for high winds and heavy rains.

He noted South Carolina is still recovering from Hurricane Matthew last year and massive flooding in 2015.

A decision on evacuations could come Friday afternoon. Those evacuations could start Saturday morning and include some lane reversals on roads leading from the coast.

McMaster said the state is prepared to open 200 shelters if needed.

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