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State officials have not yet made any decisions about whether to close S.C. schools as Hurricane Michael heads toward the Palmetto State.
The now-Category 2 hurricane — expected to strengthen to a Category 3 by landfall on Wednesday — is being monitored closely, S.C. Education Department spokesman Ryan Brown said Tuesday, adding, “Safety is our top priority.”
Before Hurricane Florence hit the state in September, Gov. Henry McMaster ordered the evacuations of schools in 26 counties along the coast and in the Midlands. McMaster ordered those closures, in part, to free up resources for emergency responses. Many of those schools served as shelters for coastal evacuees.
So far, the central portions of South Carolina are expected to get tropical storm-force wind gusts and potentially isolated tornadoes as early as late Wednesday. Wind gusts of 50 mph to 70 mph could be felt in parts of the state, the National Hurricane Center said.
Early Tuesday, Hurricane Michael was about 420 miles south of Panama City, moving at 12 mph with 90 mph wind gusts, according to the National Weather Service.
The storm is expected to strengthen to a Category 3 storm, the National Weather Service said, carrying with it strong winds, and the potential for flash flooding and isolated tornadoes. The highest threat in the Midlands is late Wednesday through Thursday. However, the impact of the tropical storm could be felt as early as midday Wednesday, staying through late Thursday.
Power outages and tree damage could occur.
State emergency and transportation officials are continuing to monitor Michael’s path, they said Monday.
With the state still dealing with Florence’s aftermath, the S.C. Department of Transportation said on Monday the agency has started to prepare for Michael, making sure enough equipment and personnel are ready should the storm hit South Carolina.
There are currently no concerns the state will run out of resources ahead of the storm, said Derrec Becker, spokesman for the S.C. Emergency Management Division.