As Hurricane Irma continued to move farther west Saturday, its expected impact on the Upstate decreased slightly.
Doug Outlaw, meteorologist with the National Weather Service at the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport, said the area could experience winds of 30 to 35 mph and up to 3 inches of rainfall as the storm’s center passes through Georgia. Conditions should begin to improve Tuesday morning in the Upstate, he said.
Counties closer to the South Carolina-Georgia border should anticipate higher rainfall totals, Outlaw said.
Officials in South Carolina continue to prepare for stormy weather associated with Irma.
Spartanburg Water announced that public landings at Lake Bowen and Lake Blalock will be closed Monday and Tuesday.
“With the considerable rainfall and high winds that the Upstate could experience, we want to keep everyone safe,” Spartanburg Water spokesman Chad Lawson said.
Mandatory evacuations continued Saturday at Edisto Beach in Colleton County; Daufuskie, Fripp, Harbor, Hunting and Hilton Head islands in Beaufort County; and Knowles and Tullifiny in Jasper County. The National Weather Service said Irma could cause high winds, heavy rains and localized flooding from storm surge of 4 to 6 feet in coastal areas.
According to the weather service, most areas in the state will likely experience tropical storm-force winds, with areas south and west of Interstate 26 experiencing higher wind gusts. Rainfall totals across the state could reach 4 to 7 inches, with 10 inches of rainfall possible in southern parts of the state. Flash flooding is also possible in the mountains in the Upstate, according to the weather service.
The chance for tornadoes is strongest in areas south and west of I-26, according to the weather service.
Gov. Henry McMaster said no major problems were reported with the mandatory evacuations at the coast, which affected 44,457 residents.
“We have a lot of hotel rooms available for people who are leaving the coast or our friends from Georgia and Florida who are coming through,” McMaster said.
There were only a few reports of fuel shortages at independent gas stations in the state, he said. Fuel is being delivered to stations from terminals in Charleston, Augusta and Belton.
“If you know where the gas stations are, if it happens one is out, there ought to be another one close by that has got plenty of gas, and we ask people, you don’t need to be topping off your cars every day. It’s just not necessary at this point,” McMaster said.
Traffic on I-26 and I-95 in the state increased Friday and Saturday as residents in the path of Irma evacuated from the coast and affected states, according to Christy Hall, secretary of the South Carolina Department of Transportation.
Hall said there were 124,000 additional vehicles on the interstates, with traffic volume on I-95 doubling on Friday into Saturday morning. By Saturday night, traffic had decreased on both interstates, with most drivers reaching their destinations, she said.
Members of the South Carolina Emergency Management Division are also standing by to help.
“Our mission is to continue supporting local authorities in whatever they might need in terms of resources,” said Kim Stenson, Emergency Management Division director. “We have got a number of requests in, ranging from tires to generators to food to water, and we are actively filling those right now.”
The state launched a toll-free hotline Friday that is available 24 hours a day to provide updated information about Irma. The number is 1-866-246-0133.
Coastal waterways will be patrolled by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. DNR encouraged boat owners along the coast and inlets to secure their vessels.
On Saturday, state Attorney General Alan Wilson said his office had received more than 210 complaints about price gouging, mostly related to the cost of gas, water and lodging. Wilson said increases in price aren’t necessarily gouging, but he encouraged anyone with a complaint to report it to his office.
South Carolina is also prepared to help Florida residents recover from the hurricane.
McMaster announced the state has signed an agreement with Florida Gov. Rick Scott to provide assistance, including sending first responders, law enforcement, National Guard and state fire rescue teams and other agencies as needed.