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Charleston officials urge evacuations as Hurricane Florence approaches

Mayor John Tecklenburg speaks on Hurricane Florence, urges evacuations (WCIV)

Charleston leaders are urging people to evacuate, as the Lowcountry braces for what could be the worst impacts from a hurricane in decades should Hurricane Florence continue on its forecast track.

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg, Mount Pleasant Mayor Will Haynie and public safety officials from the City of Charleston all made pleas Wednesday morning for locals to heed Gov. Henry McMaster’s evacuation order and leave.

Updated forecasts for category 4 Hurricane Florence show the likelihood of major effects in the Charleston area have increased.

Latest forecast models have the storm likely making landfall near the South Carolina-North Carolina state line Thursday or Friday, stalling over the Carolinas coast, then moving on a southwesterly track across South Carolina.

(MORE HURRICANE COVERAGE | CLICK HERE)

If this forecast holds up, Florence could inundate South Carolina and the Lowcountry with rain over several days, leading to dangerous flooding.

“It’s going to be a lousy weekend here, and it’s a good weekend to be somewhere else,” Mayor Tecklenburg said Wednesday. “The governor issued the evacuation order the other day. It’s time for us to take heed, follow the evacuation order, and get out of town.”

“You can replace your property. We cannot replace you,” Mayor Haynie added.

Haynie and Charleston Police Chief Luther Reynolds stressed that law enforcement would be out in force during the hurricane, monitoring property and defending against potential looting and burglary.

“If you’re worried about leaving your property behind, if anyone wants to go through a neighborhood in Mount Pleasant looking for a house to rob, you will meet one of our officers,” Haynie said. “We have more than doubled our patrols.”

“We are out en masse,” Reynolds added. “We have all our officers in our entire office activated. They will continue to be activated until we’re through this entire event. They will be present in the communities protecting people’s homes after they evacuate.”

Reynolds and Charleston Fire Dept. Assistant Chief Joseph Roberts both stressed the unnecessary risks both for public safety and residents that are presented by not evacuating.

“If you live in a low-lying area that has flooded in the past three years, now is the time to evacuate,” said Roberts. “Once the storm strikes … if you are in need of rescue, chances are there will be no emergency services to come to rescue you.”

“Everyone in public safety will have a lot easier job if everyone evacuates now,” said Reynolds. “Life safety is the most important thing. The more people not in the city whenever (landfall) occurs, the safer not only they’ll be, but the safer we will be, and more capable we will be to do those rescues.”

Mayor Tecklenburg concluded Wednesday morning’s briefing with optimism, praising Charleston’s community strength, but again warning for the need to evacuate.

“We’ve got a strong community. We’re Charleston strong,” Tecklenburg said. “We’re a resilient community, and we’re going to recover from whatever comes. … We know how to handle this, but the safest thing to protect human life is to evacuate now. Make plans to get out of town for the weekend.”

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