MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes has a message for city residents – "pay attention to Hurricane Irma."
Rhodes took to the city's Facebook page to encourage locals to start preparing for the storm, which was still a Category 5 hurricane Wednesday evening as it lashed the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico's northeast coast.
"As of tonight, South Carolina is in its path," Rhodes said.
The National Weather Service's latest forecast track indicates Irma will turn to the north near or along the east coast of Florida through Sunday and Monday. That puts much of South Carolina in its path.
Rhodes stressed that those who experienced Hurricane Matthew, a Category 1 storm, in October 2016 will note that Irma is "much bigger" and "much stronger."
"Now is the time to act," Rhodes said.
He encouraged residents to think about where they would go in the event of an evacuation, and to make sure that vehicles are fueled up, important documents are gathered up and plenty of food is packed for all family members.
The mayor said city leaders have been in contact with state and county emergency management offices, and that they may learn on Thursday when an evacuation order could come.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency Wednesday ahead of a potential impact from Irma. So far, no evacuation orders have been issued.
According to Rhodes, it would take about 30 hours to get everyone safely away from the coast if an evacuation order is issued.
He stressed that important updates will be posted on the city's Facebook page.
"You have a few days now, so use the time wisely. Put your plans into action," Rhodes said.