COLUMBIA, S.C. — The Latest on South Carolina preparing for Hurricane Irma (all times local):

3:15 p.m.

Officials say South Carolina’s southernmost county is getting ready for Hurricane Irma.

Authorities say the forecast of the storm is still uncertain and any possible evacuations are a few days away.

Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner said Wednesday if they do require evacuations, the order will cover all of the county’s 180,000 residents.

Tanner says a possible worst-case-scenario with a 15-foot (5-meter) storm surge from Irma would inundate every part of the county.

Beaufort County was brushed by Hurricane Matthew in October, and that storm’s 4-foot (1-meter) surge sent boats from a harbor 4 miles (6 kilometers) on to the runway of an airport.

Officials say if there is an evacuation, everyone who leaves should plan to be gone at least five days.


2:45 p.m.

Gov. Henry McMaster says he is not ordering an evacuation in South Carolina “at this time,” but residents must prepare now as if Hurricane Irma will strike the state.

The governor says he issued an emergency declaration earlier Wednesday as a precaution for Hurricane Irma, which roared into the Caribbean early Wednesday. McMaster says a decision on whether to evacuate the coast may come on Friday.

McMaster said “If we say go, that means it’s time to go.”

McMaster plans to seek a federal emergency declaration later Wednesday.

Adjutant General Robert Livingston says National Guardsmen have not yet been activated, but those helping with the recovery from Hurricane Harvey are heading back to South Carolina.


2:15 p.m.

Attorney General Alan Wilson says South Carolina’s anti-price-gouging law is in effect for the next 15 days.

Wilson announced that Gov. Henry McMaster’s emergency declaration earlier Wednesday triggered the state law that makes it criminal to unfairly hike prices amid a disaster.

Wilson says some price increases can be expected, but price gouging is punishable by a $1,000 fine and 30 days in jail. People who think they are victims can contact the attorney general’s office.

McMaster declared a state of emergency to help prepare for a possible strike early next week from Hurricane Irma.

Charleston Southern University announced Wednesday it will close as of 9 p.m. Thursday. The college ordered a mandatory evacuation of students by noon Friday.


12:30 p.m.

Gov. Henry McMaster has declared a state of emergency in South Carolina to help prepare for a possible strike early next week from Hurricane Irma.

McMaster made the declaration Wednesday after the National Hurricane Center’s forecast on Irma’s track shifted east, putting the prospect of a major hurricane just off the coast of Florida about 200 miles (320 kilometers) away from Charleston by Monday morning.

The declaration allows the state to begin certain preparations for an emergency and allows McMaster to use the National Guard if necessary.

South Carolina evacuated much of its coast in October when Hurricane Matthew skirted the shoreline before coming ashore just north of Charleston.

The last major hurricane to hit South Carolina was Hugo in September 1989 with winds of 135 mph (215 kph).