County evacuations still advised as Hurricane Irma forecast shifts west
Despite Hurricane Irma’s projected turn west, Jasper County Fire Chief Wilbur Daley said the storm is still a threat to the county and he advises residents to leave.
The storm headed to Florida is a Category 4, with 150 mile-per-hour winds, and its center could move west of South Carolina, but Daley stressed that the storm could still significantly impact the county.
“That doesn’t mean that it can’t turn back toward us or toward our area,” Daley said at a Friday press conference.
Gov. Henry McMaster has yet to call for a mandatory evacuation (he’s waiting for an update from the National Hurricane Center later today) but Daley urges citizens to go.
“We still would advise you to leave,” he said. “I want people to understand: it is important to get out. I’d rather it be safe for you, instead of you being here caught in that storm.”
McMaster said a mandatory evacuation will likely begin 10 a.m. Saturday.
Daley said the latest projections put Jasper County in danger of receiving high winds, heavy rain and a strong storm surge.
“We are not trying to say the storm has moved on,” he said. “It is taking a slight turn, but we still want you to be safe. We still want you to leave. This could still turn back to our county.”
Daley “highly” encourages those in southern Jasper to evacuate because a storm surge could greatly affect that low-lying area.
The hurricane has forced Florida residents to evacuate which has led to increased traffic in Jasper County and the state.
The state said there are 92,000 extra vehicles on the roads as of today and locally U.S. 17 has seen stop-and-go traffic for several days. U.S. 321, U.S. 278 and Interstate 95 have been jammed with motorists.
Hardeeville Police Chief Sam Woodward estimates 100,000 cars have been through Hardeeville in the last few days.
“I’ve never seen traffic like this in my 33 years in law enforcement,” Woodward said.
“Traffic has been phenomenal,” Daley said. “If you need to get out, you need to patient because you are not getting anywhere too fast.”
The shelter at Ridgeland-Hardeeville High School in Ridgeland will only open if a mandatory evacuation is announced by the governor.
Those who go to the shelter should bring their own clothes, blankets, and other necessary supplies. Cots will not be provided.
No pets are allowed.
Those who would need a ride to the shelter are asked to go to their nearest fire department to get a ride or call 843-726-4421.
A dusk-to-dawn curfew could be enacted if Jasper County is hit directly by the hurricane. Sheriff Chris Malphrus said the curfew would only be implemented in an “extreme” circumstance.
“If the storm hits our area, there will be a curfew in place if the sheriff chooses to,” Daley said.
The county will have another update 3:30 p.m. Saturday.