COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – Thousands of people in South Carolina are seeking shelter at evacuation shelters across the state as Hurricane Matthew approaches.
The South Carolina Emergency Management Division reports that there are almost 70 shelters open across the state with more than 4,200 people being sheltered. Three of the shelters – two in the Lowcountry and one in the Upstate accept pets.
Officials say that there are 17 shelters on standby ready to open if the other shelters have become filled up.
Tropical storm force winds and rains have already moved into the state as the hurricane approaches from the southwest.
Power is out to Kiawah and Seabrook Islands just down the coast from Charleston, but it’s not because of storm damage.
Berkeley Electric Cooperative announced that on Friday afternoon power was turned off at substations that power homes and businesses on the upscale islands. The substations were powered down to prevent damage from storm surge from Hurricane Matthew.
The cooperative said it will take some time to repower the substations after the storm. But repairing damage from storm surge if the power was on would take even longer.
The islands have a combined population of about 3,500 people.
Several more communities on the South Carolina coast are imposing curfews as the winds and rains of Hurricane Matthew approach the state.
The worst of the storm is expected to move in overnight and Matthew is expected to be just off Charleston about daybreak Saturday as a Category 2 hurricane with 100 mph winds.
Charleston, North Charleston and Mount Pleasant are all imposing curfews from midnight Friday through 6 a.m. on Saturday. Officials say they don’t want people driving or walking around while law officers and emergency workers have to deal with issues related to the storm.
In Beaufort County, a curfew will be in effect from dusk Friday through dawn on Saturday.
A tornado watch has been issued for seven counties in southern South Carolina as Hurricane Matthew moves closer.
Forecasters warned that tornadoes could quickly spin up in the bands of the storm as they move onshore from east to west. A few tornado warnings have already been issued for Beaufort County and surrounding areas, but no damage has been reported.
The rain and winds have steadily been increasing in the Lowcountry Friday, and forecasters warn conditions will only get worse over the next 12 hours as Hurricane Matthew approaches.
Charleston is imposing a curfew starting at midnight Friday and extending until 6 a.m. Saturday as the brunt of Hurricane Matthew moves along the South Carolina coast.
Police Chief Greg Mullen told a news conference that officials expect unusually high tides driven by the storm along with the torrential rains that Matthew is expected to bring. Mullen said no cars or pedestrians will be allowed on the streets during the overnight period.
Mayor John Tecklenburg reassured Charlestonians that after days of watching, Matthew will soon be past. He said Charleston has shown its resilience time and time again throughout its history and in the face of disaster and struggle the city is at its best.
As the mayor put it: “It’s time for us to hunker down and ride out this storm.”
The approach of Hurricane Matthew is closing some of the major tourist attractions in the Carolinas.
The Carowinds them park on the South Carolina-North Carolina state line said it would not hold its SCarowinds nighttime Halloween event Friday night to ensure the safety of guests and staff. The theme park said any tickets purchased for Friday’s event will be honored for any other Scarowinds event through October 23.
Park officials said they were monitoring the weather and make a decision later on whether to open the park for regular hours on Saturday.
In Columbia, Riverbanks Zoo and Garden said it would be closed Saturday because of the weather. The park planned to reopen on Sunday.
A few people on Hilton Head Island took the opportunity late Friday morning to take one last look at the angry sea, as the rains and winds from Hurricane Matthew increased.
William Frank and Heather Wilson rode their moped a half-mile to Coligny Beach, using Facebook live to show the already unusually high surf to family back in Athens, Georgia, and to promise they would be on the last bus out to evacuate at noon.
Frank said they wanted to take a look at Mother Nature’s power. He said you don’t often get to see the ocean like this.
Every few minutes, another person or two would walk down the boardwalk to the sand. Most took selfies or videos, then hustled back to their cars before the rains picked up again.
Marcos Reyes brought his dog, who seemed skeptical about the rain, strong winds and surf. He too was evacuating, but reluctantly, to his parents’ home about 25 miles inland.
Reyes said he would like to stay and watch, but he said his parents would kill him.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley says “there is nothing safe about what is getting ready to happen” as Hurricane Matthew spins toward the state.
Haley said at a news conference late Friday morning that the situation seems to have gotten worse. There are now hurricane warnings for the entire South Carolina coast and the latest projections from the National Hurricane Center show the center of the storm very close to the coast near Charleston early Saturday morning. Earlier projections had the hurricane farther offshore.
Haley warns the state is now looking at major winds, major storm surges, flooding that could compare to the historic floods of last October. Power outages are also expected.
Haley said an estimated 310,000 people have now fled from coastal areas and said “this is the last time you will hear my voice when I am asking you to evacuate.” She said everybody along the coast needs to consider getting inland.
Historic downtown Charleston was eerily quiet Friday morning, much as it was almost 30 years ago before Category 4 Hurricane Hugo and its 135 mph winds smashed into the city.
Streets throughout the business district were deserted and many stores and shops had plywood boards protecting their windows while others had white sand bags stacked up in front of their doors.
In residential areas in the historic district there was so little traffic that people were walking their dogs down the middle of streets – something that would be impossible on sunny autumn days when the city is full of tourists and horse-drawn carriages ply the streets.
On the Battery at the end of the Charleston peninsula most homes had their permanent storm shutters closed. About two dozen or so people were out on the Battery seawall taking pictures with their cellphones or walking their dogs in nearby White Point Gardens.
The U.S. Coast Guard has closed the Port of Charleston as Hurricane Matthew approaches South Carolina. The agency says no vessels may leave Charleston or enter the port.
The Coast Guard also announced that its smaller boats have been removed from the water and larger ones have moved to safe harbor.
The Coast Guard said it will be suspending search and rescue missions during the height of the storm and its helicopters will not be flying.
Tropical storm force winds are expected to be felt along the South Carolina coast later Friday.
Rains from the outer bands of Hurricane Matthew are spinning onto the South Carolina coast.
The National Weather Service says tropical storm force winds of more than 40 mph will begin raking the coast Friday afternoon – extending farther into inland areas Friday evening.
Although Matthew is projected to stay offshore, sustained hurricane gusts of 80 mph are expected on the immediate coast. Forecasters say winds from the storm will likely damage trees and weaker structures and bring widespread power outages.
The forecast calls for between 8 and 14 inches of rain in places along the coast with as much as 4 inches in locations father inland. Dangerous waves and rip currents are expected along the coast storm surges of up to 11 feet.
Joint Base Charleston has been closed until further notice as Hurricane Matthew approaches South Carolina. The base consists of Charleston Air Force Base, the Charleston Naval Weapons station and two other facilities near Charleston.
The base web site states that that between active duty and civilian workers, dependents and retirees, there are about 90,000 people associated with the base.
An announcement from the base says those who live on the base must evacuate.
Only personnel assigned to what the military calls “Ride Out Teams” will remain at the facilities.
Authorities on Hilton Head Island are warning residents that firefighters and rescue squad members will leave the island before the winds from Hurricane Matthew get too strong.
Hilton Head Fire and Rescue spokeswoman Joheida Fister said all emergency workers plan to leave by noon Friday, before the island starts to experience tropical storm force winds.
Rains from the storm started Friday morning.
Some people among the 40,000 permanent residents on the island said Thursday they still planned to ride out the storm.
Authorities say anyone who stays on the island will be on their own during the height of the storm overnight Friday into Saturday morning.
Beaufort County sheriff’s deputies will monitor the weather and evacuate parts if not all of the county if conditions get too dangerous.
Four islands in Beaufort County will lose their water service because officials worry the storm surge from Hurricane Matthew could damage the system.
The Beaufort Jasper Water Authority said it will shut off the water to Hunting Island, Fripp Island, Coosaw Island and Harbor Island at 3 p.m. Friday. The islands are east of Beaufort.
The authority says the water will remain off until the storm passes.
All of Beaufort County is under an evacuation order. Forecasters say the storm surge could cover much of the county, with up to 9 feet of water in the hardest hit areas at the peak of the storm Saturday morning.
As Hurricane Matthew approaches South Carolina, state transportation officials say they are ending the lane reversals on Interstate 26 between Charleston and Columbia.
The eastbound lanes were reversed Wednesday allowing all traffic on the interstate to drive away from the coast.
The Department of Transportation says that the reversal will end Friday morning as work begins removing barricades on exits. They will start in Charleston and work their way west until the eastbound lanes are again open.
Officials say they are ending the reversal because the law enforcement officials and other workers manning the barricades are being pulled back to safe locations during the storm.
The time has been set for the Georgia-South Carolina football game in Columbia on Sunday.
South Carolina officials announced late Thursday that the game will be played at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
The game had been scheduled Saturday night in Columbia but is being delayed because of Hurricane Matthew.
School officials say they consulted with Georgia and the Southeastern Conference before making the decision.
Officials say they are consulting with the governor’s office and state and local law enforcement. Haley said earlier this week that state troopers would not be available to help with traffic for the game. But Richland County sheriff’s deputies and Columbia police are expected to help.
The school says it will be able to handle traffic, security and other game day operations.
South Carolina officials are making another plea for residents to flee the coast as Hurricane Matthew approaches.
Derrec Becker with the state emergency preparedness office said Friday morning people need to evacuate immediately. Becker said dangerous conditions are expected along the East Coast.
Officials are especially worried about the storm surge of water that will flow in from the ocean, driven by strong waves. The storm surge is expected to reach as much as 11 feet anywhere south of Georgetown. A surge of up to 6 feet is possible from Little River south to Georgetown.
He says those leaving the coast should head Upstate or find a shelter in the Midlands.
A hurricane warning is in effect south of Georgetown. A tropical storm warning is in effect north of Georgetown.
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10/7/2016 5:52:53 PM (GMT -4:00)