MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The city of Myrtle Beach is bracing for the worst and hoping for the best.
Officials laid out their hurricane plans Thursday ahead of potential impacts from Hurricane Irma, and are urging everyone at home to prepare.
"We went through Hurricane Matthew, and that was not even a category one. This hurricane is the largest that's ever been recorded in the Atlantic Ocean," Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes stated at the press conference.
Myrtle Beach police, fire and city officials held a press conference Thursday afternoon to discuss evacuations and emergency operation center plans.
Although it doesn't look like Irma will directly hit the Myrtle Beach area, officials urge residents to get their papers, medications and plans ready now.
Myrtle Beach Fire Chief Alvin Payne said no evacuations have been issued yet, but if they are, they're voluntary. With that in mind, he said people who did not evacuate for Hurricane Harvey were hit hard, and he thinks that devastation will lead to a better response in Myrtle Beach.
"A tremendous impact (from Hurricane Harvey). I think that last year and Matthew, a category one storm, we had a lot of damage. We had as much debris removal as we did during Hugo. So when you like at that type of impact and you measure that to a category three, it's pretty significant," said Payne, who also serves as the city's emergency management coordinator. "So hopefully between that and Harvey, a picture's worth a thousand words."
Payne said he understands finding alternate plans for pets and accommodating family members can be difficult, but urged everyone to make their plans now.
According to Payne, many of the city's next steps, including opening the emergency operations center near The Market Common, depend on Gov. Henry McMaster's decision.
Later Thursday afternoon, the governor did say that any evacuations would happen Saturday at 10 a.m.
Payne said that, like when Hurricane Hugo hit the Grand Strand, authorities will try to know who does not leave evacuation zones.
"We will look and we'll notify police departments," he said. "In the past, during Hugo we actually took people's names. We'll know what lights are on at night. So we'll have a good idea. We hope that there will be few lights on and few people here if this storm gets to the magnitude that they're talking."
Payne added he will not put his first responders in danger.
"If there's any time we really need to be prepared, this storm is significant enough we need to take heed," he said. "I've seen so many storms where we kind of sit back and wait. Well, waiting may be too late. So please, please be prepared and take care of your families and your loved ones."