South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency Saturday ahead of a hurricane that could make landfall this week on the Southeast coast.
Florence strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane on Sunday, the National Hurricane Center said, and is forecast to approach the coast by Thursday.
“It’s a beautiful day outside, people playing football; the last thing on people’s mind is a hurricane,” McMaster said Saturday at a news conference held at the State Emergency Operations Center. “Just like they got ready to play these football games today, we’re asking people to get ready.”
The declaration means the state can put hurricane preparations into effect and begin coordinating resources, and it allows the use of the National Guard if necessary.
“This is not an evacuation. It is way too early for that,” McMaster said. “We know that it’s coming and we know that we need to take precautions.”
McMaster on Saturday called the storm “a very unpredictable hurricane,” saying: “We are preparing for the worst and, of course, hoping for the best. Being prepared is always the best strategy.”
John Quagliariello, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Columbia, said to expect “rapid intensification” of the storm in the coming days.
The storm has the potential to be a full-state hurricane rather than just affecting the coastal counties, according to S.C. Emergency Management Division Director Kim Stenson.
“If you experienced Hurricane Irma last year, Hurricane Matthew in 2016, or even the flood in 2015, think about all the supplies you didn’t have or safety measures you didn’t have time to implement,” Stenson said. “Now is the time to make sure you have everything you may need: Check your emergency supplies, prepare your home and your property and have a plan for where you will go if the worst-case scenario becomes reality.”
The storm as of Sunday morning was still projected for a possible East Coast landfall, with both Carolinas now in the five-day forecast in what’s known as the “cone of uncertainty.” The storm had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph. The latest projection for the path of the storm is centered on Wilmington, North Carolina.
“We don’t know if it is going to come to South Carolina, and if it does we don’t know when and we don’t know how strong it will be,” said McMaster. “It has the potential to get very strong.”
South Carolina’s law against price gouging is in effect with the possibility of tropical weather in the coming week, the state attorney general’s office announced Saturday.
“We can expect normal price increases, but we may see businesses and individuals looking to unfairly take advantage of the situation through price gouging of food, gasoline, lodging and other commodities as defined by the statute,” S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson said in a statement. “By our law, that’s a criminal violation and an unfair trade practice.”
According to forecasters at the National Hurricane Center: “Rapid intensification is expected to start on Sunday, and Florence is forecast to be a major hurricane by Tuesday. On the forecast track, the center of Florence will move over the southwestern Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda and the Bahamas Tuesday and Wednesday, and approach the southeastern U.S. coast on Thursday.”
North Carolina declared a state of emergency on Friday. McMaster defended his decision to do the same for South Carolina a day later.
“There is a big one headed our direction,” said McMaster, who reminded people to fill prescriptions and make plans for pets. “We want all of our people to get ready just in case.”