Weather News

Major coastal flooding from Dorian could shut down SC coast Wednesday, officials say

South Carolina emergency management officials say coastal residents who have not yet evacuated could begin to see major flooding beginning Wednesday morning and carrying on into the afternoon.

Hurricane Dorian will track close to the South Carolina coast Wednesday night and into Thursday before pulling away from the coast late Thursday night and early Friday morning, according to the latest forecasts. The storm will bring tropical storm force winds to parts of the eastern Midlands. There will also be periods of showers with heavy rain and possible localized flooding.

All coastal counties in the Palmetto State are under a hurricane warning, and a storm surge and flash flood warnings have been issued for the entire S.C. coast, according to the National Weather Service.

Tropical storm force winds are expected to spread up the coast to Beaufort County beginning mid-day Wednesday, reaching Charleston by mid-afternoon, and Georgetown and Horry counties by late Wednesday, according to the forecasters.

Hurricane conditions are expected to develop Thursday morning and continue into the afternoon, with the greatest wind speed expected from Charleston heaving north to Myrtle Beach and the state line, according to the National Weather Service.

The eye of the storm is expected to pass about 45 miles off the S.C. coast, with hurricane force winds extending 50 miles from the center of the storm. Tropical storm force winds are expected to extend about of 100 miles from the center of the storm.

Storm surge will be the biggest concern, with forecasts calling for 4 to 7 feet of inundation above ground level in the Charleston area and 5 to 8 feet of inundation in the Myrtle Beach area, according to forecasters.

While the state’s central and southern coasts can expect the greatest storm surges, major coastal flooding could occur with Wednesday afternoon’s high tide, said National Weather Service meteorologist John Quagliariello.

“So roads might become inaccessible from late morning into early afternoon in the Charleston area ... and the true storm surge will come in later tonight,” he said.

In the Myrtle Beach area, the worst of the storm surge should occur with Thursday afternoon’s high tide.

Areas along the coast also could see as much as 6 to 12 inches of rainfall, with isolated areas of up to 15 inches of rain.

That heavy rainfall will lead to flash flooding and could spawn tornadoes mainly east of Interstate 95, he said.

As of 8:30 a.m., 15 general population and four special needs shelters were open across the state housing 690 people. The shelters can house up to 10,000 people.And more shelters were set to open Wednesday morning and afternoon, according to the S.C. Department of Social Services.

Open evacuation shelter locations are available on and in the S.C. Emergency Manager mobile app as soon as they are opened.

Lane reversals on Interstate 26 from Charleston to Columbia will cease at noon Wednesday so that crews can seek shelter at safe locations outside of the storm’s projected path, according to the S.C. Department of Transportation.

Bridges all along the South Carolina have also been closed due to high winds, and the Charleston International Airport is suspending operations beginning at 3 p.m.

The S.C. National Guard has over 1,100 soldiers and airmen activated to assist with storm response, and the Guard’s military police are assisting state law enforcement with security in evacuated areas, according to U.S. Army Captain Jessica Donnelly, public affairs director for the S.C. National Guard.

Check back at throughout the day for more updates on Hurricane Dorian.

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Tom Barton covers South Carolina politics for The State. He has spent more than a decade covering local governments and politicians in Iowa and South Carolina, and has won awards from the S.C. Press Association and Iowa Newspaper Association for public service and feature writing.