COLUMBIA, S.C. — In a story Sept. 6 about South Carolina’s preparations for Hurricane Irma, The Associated Press relying on information from the state Attorney General’s Office reported erroneously that the state’s price-gouging law remains effective for 15 days. Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office issued a correction Sept. 7, stating the law instead will be in effect until the state’s emergency declaration ends.
A corrected version of the story is below:
South Carolina governor declares state of emergency for Irma
South Carolina 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
BY SEANNA ADCOX
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Gov. Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency in South Carolina for Hurricane Irma on Wednesday after the official forecasts for the storm shifted east, raising the chances of the first major hurricane strike for the state in almost 28 years.
He stressed he’s not ordering anyone to leave their homes — at least not yet.
“It is a precaution. This is not an order of evacuation,” McMaster said at the state’s Emergency Management Division.
But he urged residents to get ready now for that possibility. McMaster said the call on whether to evacuate could come Friday.
“Assume it’s arriving tomorrow morning and get ready. When that hurricane is coming, when it gets close, it’s too late,” he said. “If we say go, that means it’s time to go.”
The declaration allows the state to begin putting hurricane preparations into effect and allows McMaster to use the National Guard if necessary.
Adjutant General Robert Livingston said National Guardsmen have not yet been activated, but soldiers helping out with Hurricane Harvey in Texas are returning to South Carolina.
McMaster made the declaration around noon Wednesday after the National Hurricane Center’s forecast on Irma’s track put the prospect of a major hurricane just off the coast of Florida — about 200 miles (320 kilometers) away from Charleston — next Monday morning.
“We got this,” McMaster said Wednesday at an already scheduled summit on the state’s opioid problem. “We can’t stop the hurricane. If it comes, it’s going to be here, but we can be ready for it.”
The last major hurricane to hit South Carolina was Hugo in September 1989. It came ashore just north of Charleston with winds of 135 mph (215 kph), causing 13 deaths in the state and $6.5 billion in damage in 1989 dollars.
Irma on Wednesday had winds of 185 mph (300 kph), making it the strongest Atlantic Ocean hurricane ever measured.
South Carolina evacuated much of its coast last October when Hurricane Matthew skirted the shoreline before coming ashore just north of Charleston with winds of 75 mph (100 kph).
In October 2015, much-feared Hurricane Joaquin missed the East Coast but fueled what experts called a “fire hose” of tropical moisture that aimed directly at South Carolina, dumping up to 2 feet (600 millimeters) of rain over several days and killing 19.
Beaufort County Sheriff’s Lt. Col. Neil Baxley said officials there are preparing for the worst case scenario, which would be a landfall near Hilton Head Island with a storm surge of up to 15 feet (5 meters) of water.
That would be a scenario no one in South Carolina’s southernmost coastal county of 180,000 has ever experienced.
“A 15-foot tidal surge in Beaufort County means everyone’s foot is wet,” Sheriff P.J. Tanner said.
The county was brushed by Hurricane Matthew last October, and that storm’s 4-foot (1-meter) surge sent boats from a harbor 4 miles (6 kilometers) onto the runway of an airport, Baxley said.
“This is not Matthew,” Baxley said.
If there is an evacuation, everyone who leaves should plan to be gone at least five days, he said.
It has been more than 100 years since a major hurricane struck Beaufort County.
Officials encouraged residents near the coast to review the state Emergency Management’s hurricane guide.
McMaster’s declaration triggered South Carolina’s anti-price-gouging law, which remains in effect until the emergency status ends. Taking advantage of the storm by unfairly hiking prices for food, gasoline, hotel rooms or other needs is a misdemeanor punishable by a $1,000 fine and 30 days in jail, said Attorney General Alan Wilson.
Associated Press writer Jeffrey Collins contributed to this report.