Irma grows to powerful Category 5. But how and where could it hit South Carolina?

Cat 5 hurricanes to make landfall in the United States

Hurricane Irma has been graded a Category 5. From Hugo to Matthew, Cat 5 storms have had serious impacts on the U.S.
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Hurricane Irma has been graded a Category 5. From Hugo to Matthew, Cat 5 storms have had serious impacts on the U.S.

Hurricane Irma is approaching Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and several of the computer models put Irma crossing over South Carolina at some point. If a direct impact occurs in South Carolina, it could happen Monday or Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

On Tuesday, Irma became a Category 5, the strongest on the Saffir-Simpson scale, with maximum sustained winds of 185 mph as it approaches the eastern-most Caribbean islands, according to the National Hurricane Center. The question for South Carolina is over when the giant storm will take a turn to the north.

National Weather Service meteorologist Steven Pfaff said that models show the storm’s path reaching the U.S. around the Florida Keys.

After that, models of the storm’s path diverge, and Pfaff said forecasters will have a better idea of whether Irma will hit the Carolinas by Wednesday or Thursday.

An earlier turn to the north could send it barreling toward South Carolina through the Atlantic, while a later turn could mean the storm rakes up through the center of Florida. Or Irma could cross Florida and make another landfall along the Gulf.

If Irma hits the U.S. as a Category 4 hurricane, it would be the first time in more than 100 years that two Category 4 storms hit the states in one year, according to Accuweather.

Hurricane Harvey hit Texas as a Category 4 on August 26.

What should you do to prepare?

Know your zone:

Orders to evacuate are usually issued by zones, denoted by zones A, B, and C.

In Myrtle Beach, Zone A is closest to the shore, generally located on the ocean side of Kings Highway. Zone B generally falls between Kings Highway and and Highway 17 Bypass and Zone C is west of the bypass.

A detailed map of the zones, complete with evacuation routes and shelters can be found online.

Protecting the home:

To help prevent damage to your home, Horry County Emergency Management recommends sealing up your home — boarding up the windows, closing and bracing your garage door, and sealing up any opening where wire or pipes enter the home.

Residents should make sure their trees or shrubs are pruned — just make sure branches are discarded before the storm hits, or they may be blown around by the storm and cause more damage.

Riding out the storm:

According to, anyone riding out a storm should have an emergency kit with supplies to last up to 72 hours.

Make sure you have plenty of non-perishable food and water. Remember that electricity may go out, so foods stored in a refrigerator or freezer could go bad.

People should have at least one gallon of water per person per day.

Other items people should have to ride out a storm include:

  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
  • Flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Extra batteries
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery

In addition, make sure you have a full tank of gas and plenty of cash in case of an evacuation, because gas stations and banks may not be open.

According the Federal Emergency Management Agency, families should have a communication plan during a hurricane, with out-of-town contacts and phone numbers for everyone in the family.

Make sure you have a place to meet after a hurricane in case you get separated from your friends or family, and have phone numbers physically written down in case you have to use a pay phone.

Helpful resources:

If you’re tracking a storm, or trying to recover from a storm, there are a number of helpful websites, phone numbers and apps you should know about

Tracking the storm:

Hurricanes can be tracked via the National Hurricane Center, or free apps such as the Hurricane Tracker app from the Hearst Corporation or the NOAA Now app.

Finding a shelter:

If a mandatory evacuation order is given, 15 Horry County schools will be opened as shelters. Collectively, the school can hold 13,416 people. The schools are:

  • Aynor middle, elementary and high schools
  • Blackwater Middle School
  • Conway High School
  • Green Sea Floyds elementary, middle and high school
  • Loris elementary, middle and high school
  • North Myrtle Beach High School
  • Palmetto Bay Elementary School
  • Pee Dee Elementary School
  • Whittemore Park Middle School


Last year, several counties in South Carolina experience major flooding from the rains that came with Hurricane Matthew.

Only 12 percent 1,605,700 households in South Carolina have flood insurance, according to the the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, which administers the National Flood Insurance Program in the state.

And if you haven’t bought flood insurance yet, it may be too late to cover any flooding this month. There’s typically a 30-day waiting period before the flood insurance goes into effect.

Charles Duncan: 843-626-0307, @duncanreporting

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