After Hurricane Matthew a year ago came up the coast from Florida and hit hard in South Carolina, Palmetto State residents have to be feeling a sense of déjà vu.

All eyes have been on Hurricane Irma as it came across the Atlantic and now wreaks havoc in the Caribbean. Where it goes by this weekend remains the question mark, but tracks have it mimicking Matthew.

It appears no matter what course the gigantic storm that is setting records for intensity takes, it will impact South Carolina and the East Coast. While there remains hope that Irma will move away and spare populated areas the worst, there is no more time to count on such.

S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster decided just that on Wednesday, issuing an executive order declaring a state of emergency. He joined the S.C. Emergency Management Division in urging South Carolinians to prepare for the possibility of the hurricane impacting the state. The executive order enables all state agencies to coordinate resources in preparation for Irma.

“The state of emergency allows one of the best, most experienced emergency-response teams in the entire world to begin organizing response efforts,” McMaster said via press release. “South Carolina is fortunate to have time to allow us to prepare for Hurricane Irma’s potential landfall.”

People in potentially vulnerable areas should review personal safety plans, become familiar with local evacuation zones in coastal counties and locate the nearest hurricane evacuation routes, McMaster advised. This information is detailed in the 2017 S.C. Hurricane Guide, currently available at all Walgreen’s stores statewide, at all rest areas along interstates and for download at scemd.org.

Along South Carolina’s coast and inland in locations such as Orangeburg, it appears memories of Matthew have many people preparing already. Stores have been out of stock in portable electric generators for days. Buggies loaded with bottled water and other staples are regular sights at grocery stores.

By way of further preparation, AAA Carolinas on Wednesday after these lists:

Before a storm

• Locate all of your important records (such as passports, birth certificates and insurance documents) and secure them in a bank safety deposit box to avoid damage.

• Plan your family’s evacuation route and have an emergency plan.

• Comprise an emergency kit of bottled water, non-perishable food, batteries, flashlights and first aid supplies.

• Secure your property by tying down any freestanding outdoor items. Reinforce your garage doors.

• Keep trees and shrubs trimmed to improve their wind resistance.

• Inventory your belongings and keep valuable belongings in a waterproof pouch, including documents and photos.

During a storm

• Pay close attention to hurricane alerts. Know the difference between a hurricane watch (hurricane-type conditions are likely in your area) and a hurricane warning (a hurricane is expected within 24 hours).

• Evacuate if told to do so. Use the evacuation plan you’ve already prepared, leave early and during daylight hours.

• Stay calm.

After a storm

• Return home only after emergency management officials say it is OK.

• Keep in mind that flash flooding can occur and that roads and bridges may be damaged.

• To verify road conditions after a hurricane call, call 888-877-9151 in South Carolina.

• Be aware of hazards relative to power lines, polluted water and the possibility of fire due to low water pressure.

• Expect damage-assessment teams to do an extensive review of all areas and insurance representatives to be on the scene immediately following a hurricane to expedite the handling of claims.

SCEMD Director Kim Stenson sums up the situation: “It’s too soon to rule out any possibilities. Hurricane Irma is a dangerous storm and its projected path could put South Carolina in harm’s way. Fortunately, people in South Carolina have time. While we hope we never see a hurricane head our way, we all need prepare for the possible effects.”

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