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McMaster reports successful evacuation, warns of Irma storm surge

BREAKING: Gov Deal expands state of emergency, issues mandatory evacuation order

Irma is expected to be downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it brushes by South Carolina Monday and into Tuesday, according to the National Hurricane Center, but heavy rains - up to 10 inches - and winds up to 50 miles per hour are possible.

Approximately 44,457 SC residents are affected by the evacuations that went into effect Saturday morning on barrier islands in Beaufort, Colleton and Jasper counties, with the vast majority on Hilton Head Island.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, dressed in his military fatigues as a member of the state national guard, reminded residents that the state's price-gouging laws are in full effect, prohibiting anyone from selling goods or lodging at an "unconscionable price" during the emergency situation.

Traffic was also a topic during the briefing. He said fuel is continuing to be delivered to all branded gas stations such as Exxon and BP.

"The state of emergency allows one of the best, most experienced emergency response teams in the entire world to begin organizing response efforts", said Gov. Henry McMaster.

McMaster did not give a clear timeframe for when evacuation orders might be lifted, and pledged thorough inspections of state infrastructure following Irma to ensure the safety of citizens.

McMaster urged drivers to follow evacuation signs posted along the highways, "no matter what they say on Google maps".

The South Carolina Emergency Management Division has opened a hotline for state residents who have questions about Hurricane Irma.

The governor has rescinded part of his executive order calling for the evacuation of health centers along the coast. Hernandez thinks people might be overreacting in the wake of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, which sat over that city for days, dumping rain and causing rushing floods.

Select personnel from SCEMD's Operations and Preparedness sections continue to monitor Hurricane Irma from the State Emergency Operations Center in West Columbia.

Forecasts early Friday showed the storm likely to head north through Florida and into Georgia and Tennessee.

Bulletin High School and Battery Creak High School in Beaufort County will open as shelters at 9 a.m. Sunday.

Richland: Dent Middle School, 2721 Decker Boulevard, in Columbia. But Derrec Becker with the South Carolina Emergency Management Division said the path is too uncertain for people to relax. That track could take Irma west of SC.