BLUFFTON, SC (WTOC) - South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster says an estimated 300,000 people have evacuated the state. So far, there is no mandatory evacuation in place right now for Beaufort or Jasper counties.
The state of South Carolina has been working around the clock to make sure people stay safe during Hurricane Florence. The governor and his cabinet are thinking of everything from lane reversals to shelters. They are also making sure first responders such as police and firefighters are ready during and after the storm.
Four-hundred-and-fifty officers have been deployed to our coastal region. Those officers, right now, are participating in traffic and lane reversals and the evacuation process. They will be transitioning to a security job post-storm.
"We now have about 750 rescue personnel rostered and ready to respond to this storm," said Chief Mark Keel, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. "That personnel consists of teams of in-state firefighter rescue personnel as well as we have several teams from the states of Tennessee and Louisiana that have responded to South Carolina.
Bluffton officials say they're in a waiting game since Hurricane Florence is so unpredictable, but they have plans in place for whatever happens.
The mayor says the biggest concern she thinks Bluffton will see will be flooding.
Beaufort County held a press conference Wednesday and wanted to stress that if anyone is in a flood zone or possible evacuation zone, then they should get out. With the shift in this storm, it makes preparations a little more difficult, so the state is covering all angles when it comes to preparedness. The mayor says the highways will flood and it will make it impossible for cars to travel the roads and highways. State officials say South Carolina will likely see more rain than they ever have in the area before, so if you are in an area that usually floods, then you need to get out now. You can also check your evacuation zone on the South Carolina emergency app.
"We've pretty much canceled everything this week," Mayor Lisa Sulka said. "I don't see that town hall is going to open and I don't foresee that any government office is going to open for the rest of the week. It's gonna put a little inconvenience on some people but I just think it's safe because they too have families that need to figure this out."
"We're in a full readiness posture. All of our law enforcement, our South Carolina DOT partners, our public works partners in the county and municipalities, we're all absolutely primed and ready to go. That's why you're seeing the trucks on the side of the road because if we had them where they're normally staged at, the DOT guys, for example, come from Aiken. That's 100 mile trip. We don't want to have to wait for them to make that trip, so we are primed and ready to go if the governor orders it, if we have to throw a reversal into place to move a lot of traffic in a hurry, we can. That's what planning and preparation is all about," said Lt. Col. Neil Baxley, Commander, BCSO Emergency Management.
"What we know is that the storm is twice the size of our state, and you can see that on any of the maps that you see on the internet," Mayor Sulka said. "Twice the size of our state. That's not something we mess with, and Col. Baxley had said prior, any tiny movement right now, isn't a tiny effect on our state. It's hundreds of miles that it can affect, so just be smart. Be aware. Be present. We plan. We prepare. I would ask all the residents to do the same, and just be smart."
Mayor Sulka says they will also be putting a curfew in place if they have to when the storm hits to make sure people do not get out on the flooded roads.
Over on Hilton Head Island, many are just getting done with cleaning up from hurricanes Matthew and Irma. President of Sea Pines Bret Martin says just like everyone else, they're on standby. He says a lot of their families who live there have evacuated.
Last year, Sea Pines was damaged mostly from flooding. Martin says they are just waiting on the governor to say the word and they will leave. He also says he encourages residents who live in the areas that flooded last year to go ahead and evacuate.
"We provide it for our staff to be able to move closeby to Bluffton to other accommodations, so I'm able to stay here on site, and if it really gets bad, we can go down to Jacksonville, Florida," Martin said.
We spoke to some visitors from Ohio who say they come to Hilton Head around this time every year, and the hurricane isn't going to run them away from a good time.
"We're just going to kind of wait and see if there's an evacuation plan that's ordered. If there's a mandatory evacuation, then we will leave, but right now it's like the weather is beautiful and it's hot and the waves aren't high," the visitors said.