Hurricane warnings have been issued in Beaufort, Hilton Head ahead of Hurricane Matthew.
The deadly storm has already killed dozens of people in the Caribbean, according to a report inReuters, and is set to strengthen over Florida before barreling toward the Carolinas.
Much of the rest of the South Carolina coast is under a hurricane watch that is expected to turn into a warning. Florida is likely to be pounded by the storm today and early tomorrow. Gov. Rick Scott warned residents they could be killed. “Time is up. You have to evacuate now."
What happens in South Carolina largely depends on what the storm does over Florida, according to Hurricane Specialist Carl Parker with The Weather Channel.
On Charleston’s normally busy King Street, most businesses were closed Thursday in advance of the approaching storm, as well as the city’s famed market.
Some store fronts were protected with plywood sheets, taped windows and sandbags. A few chose hurricane shutters or flood panels.
A few businesses remain open, including Grady Ervin & Co., a men’s clothing store whose owner, Chip Ervin, from Greenville, said he has had customers Wednesday and Thursday. He said he and the business have been through other storms.
“We really can’t afford to give up four days of business,” he said. “We kind of evaluate it day by day. Our plan is to stay safe and be smart but to be open as long as we can.”
South Carolina officials expect dangerous storm surges of 4 to 8 feet along the coast that could inundate inland areas causing massive flooding. The storm surge coupled with 8 to 14 inches of rain and high winds are expected to down trees and cause extensive power outages well inland of the coast.
The storm's path is as dangerous as it is unpredictable with latest projections from the National Hurricane Center showing Matthew is now expected to be a Category 4 Hurricane over Florida before riding the coast from Florida to southern North Carolina then taking a turn back out to sea.
South Carolina can expect its biggest impact Saturday afternoon into Sunday. Roughly 175,000 people evacuated Wednesday ahead of the storm. "That's not enough," said Haley. The Governor earlier predicted 250,000 were leaving.
Haley urged anyone tempted to stay to get out of town now. Hotels, restaurants, stores, gas stations and pharmacies will close, she said. Lane reversals that were put in place Wednesday on I-26 will remain in place until further notice, though SCDOT is holding off on issuing lane reversals on 501 leaving Horry County until traffic is a bit heavier.
An evacuation order was issued for residents and tourists in Georgetown and Horry counties. That begins at noon Thursday.
Gov. Nikki Haley urged residents to get at least 100 miles from the shore, reminding residents who've decided to stay that they could be putting the lives of law enforcement and emergency responders in danger, not just their own.
At a strip mall two blocks off North Myrtle Beach, Woody Bullock and a small crew boarded up windows of a medical center under restoration Thursday morning.
A Rite Aid Pharmacy anchoring one end of the line of storefronts also had been boarded, though the glass on a hot dog shack, real estate store and other shops remained unprotected.
They should be covered, Bullock said, noting that many of the stores aren’t outfitted with impact glass made to withstand winds over 100 miles per hour.
“There’s a lot of people not taking all this serious,” he said. “Once it gets closer, I think that’ll change.”
Home improvement stores in the Myrtle Beach area remained well-stocked Wednesday and most homes and businesses in this beach community are not covered, but as the path of Hurricane Matthew becomes more certain, Bullock predicts items will run low.
He intended to purchase particle board to cover the clinic windows, but sheets of the material were sold out Thursday morning, leaving him to settle for more expensive plywood.
“Someone’s boarding up,” he said.
Temporary shelters in the Upstate, including the Spartanburg Expo Center, Anderson Civic Center and TD Convention Center are prepared to take evacuees.