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Coastal Exodus: Will Nikki Haley Pull The Trigger?

SOUTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR HAS A BIG DECISION TO MAKE … S.C. governor Nikki Haley has handled the run-up to Hurricane Matthew about as well as can be expected.  She’s erred on the side of caution (exceedingly so, some would say) – adopting a “better safe than sorry” philosophy in preparing…

SOUTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR HAS A BIG DECISION TO MAKE …

S.C. governor Nikki Haley has handled the run-up to Hurricane Matthew about as well as can be expected.  She’s erred on the side of caution (exceedingly so, some would say) – adopting a “better safe than sorry” philosophy in preparing her state for this very dangerous tropical system.

That makes sense given a storm of this magnitude …

Haley has also (smartly) allowed herself some flexibility in planning for the storm – giving state officials time to gather more information on the projected path of the system prior to making irrevocable decisions.

That also makes sense …

Now we’re coming upon the moment of truth, though … when Haley is going to have to roll the dice.

The issue: Whether to evacuate 1.1 million people who could find themselves in harm’s way come late Friday or early Saturday as Matthew arrives in the Carolinas.

According to the current plan, Haley will initiate a state-run evacuation beginning at 3:00 p.m. EDT today (Wednesday).  This will include lane reversals on Interstate 26 and other major transportation arteries leading away from the coast.

The evacuation is mandatory (South Carolina ditched “voluntary” evacuations back in 2012 because no one heeded them).

If the evacuation proceeds it would represent the first major test of the state’s lane reversal procedures – which were implemented under the administration of former governor Mark Sanford.  Lane reversals have been attempted just once before on a limited basis prior to the arrival of 2005’s Hurricane Charley – which delivered a glancing blow to the Grand Strand.

South Carolina hasn’t been hit by a major hurricane since powerful Hurricane Hugo made landfall just north of Charleston in 1989.  A category three storm, Hugo killed 27 South Carolinians and did $19 billion in inflation-adjusted damage – making it the eighth-costliest hurricane in American history.

Since then, South Carolina has been lucky.  The state dodged a bullet in 2003 when powerful Hurricane Isabel skirted our coastline.  Then it dodged another one in 2011 when Hurricane Irene passed by the Palmetto State en route to North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

If current forecasts hold, Matthew could wind up charting a similar path.

Does that mean Haley will still pull the trigger on her evacuation?  And assuming the answer is “yes,” will Lowcountry residents heed her?

Stay tuned … it could wind up being a very crazy day in South Carolina.

UPDATE: The answer is “Yes.”  Haley has ordered the evacuation for Beaufort and Charleston counties to proceed as planned at 3:00 p.m. EDT on Wednesday.  Haley has pushed evacuations for Georgetown and Horry county back until tomorrow morning, though.

(Banner image via S.C. Governor’s Office)

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