COLUMBIA, SC (WMBF) – Governor Nikki Haley announced that potential evacuations in Horry and Georgetown counties will be pushed back to Thursday morning. All coastal schools will be closed starting Wednesday due to Hurricane Matthew, Governor Nikki Haley announced Tuesday.
While Gov. Haley stated at a news conference Tuesday that evacuations are ordered for all coastal communities beginning at 3 p.m. Wednesday, later, a news release from the Governor's office stated that residents should prepare for a potential evacuation of the coast in advance of Hurricane Matthew.
On Wednesday morning, Gov. Haley announced that potential evacuations for Zone A in Horry and Georgetown counties will begin Thursday morning, instead of Wednesday afternoon, as was previously announced. She said this was due to changes in the storm's track, which showed it slowing slightly.
On Wednesday morning, Horry County Emergency Management announced the Emergency Operations Center activated at 6 a.m. in anticipation of orders for a mandatory evacuation for Zone A.
The county government also stated that there will be no lane reversals, even in the event of an evacuation.
In Horry and Georgetown counties, residents in zone A should make preparations for a potential evacuation. The South Carolina Emergency Management Department has an interactive map of evacuation zones here: http://scemd.org/knowyourzone.
Tuesday night, an Horry County press release stated the Myrtle Beach International Airport will remain open. Travelers are encouraged to check with their airlines on flight status throughout the rest of the week and over weekend.
All Horry County government offices and circuit/family and magistrate courts will be closed Wednesday through Friday.
The release stated that while county offices were mandated to close, almost 60 to 70 percent of Horry County's workforce are deemed "essential" employees and will be working to support the Horry County Emergency Operations Center, the potential evacuation of Horry County and the needs of residents citizens and local businesses.
Additionally, Horry County will open its phone bank to assist the public with any questions or concerns regarding Hurricane Matthew on Wednesday, Oct. 5, at 8 a.m. That number is (843) 915-5150.
These plans follow a state of emergency being declared at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, Haley said, ahead of Hurricane Matthew, which is expected to hit the Grand Strand area early Saturday morning, according to the latest forecasts.
Over 3,700 law enforcement personnel will assist in the potential evacuations, which may start at around 3 p.m. Wednesday, Haley said, adding that time is subject to change.
Medical evacuations began at 3 p.m., Tuesday, according to Haley.
"We need you to understand, get all of the paperwork that is important to you and take it," Gov. Haley said.
All coastal schools will be closed starting Wednesday, including those in Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Georgetown, Horry, Marion, Marlboro and Williamsburg counties, Haley said. She added all government offices in those counties need to be closed as of Wednesday ahead of the planned evacuation.
Haley added that 1,700 sand bags have been requested for Georgetown.
A burn ban will also be in place starting Wednesday morning, Haley announced.
Randy Webster with the Emergency Management office, says a mandatory evacuation does not mean you necessarily have to leave you're home, although it is strongly advised and considered very dangerous to stay. It's also important to know if you do leave that area, you will not be allowed back to your home until the evacuation is lifted by the governor. .
"Make sure you're preparedness efforts are underway. Watch the storm carefully. It's a big storm, it could have a huge impact for us and it's something to be taken extremely seriously." said Webster.
Webster says if ordered, the evacuation area will be closed off to anyone except public workers, and county officials are urging anyone who can leave, to do it sooner rather than later.
Lisa Smith lives inside zone A, which Governor Haley has declared a potential evacuation zone if Hurricane Matthew continues on the same path.
"At this point if it's a going to stay a category two. I've got friends in Florida telling me you'll be fine it's just a category two. So I'm willing to take the risk." said Smith.
"If it does not go down to a category two, if it stays at a three, or looks like it's going to make landfall here....I'm out."
View Gov. Haley's State of Emergency Declaration below: