South Carolina residents have been keeping a close eye on the forecast heading into the weekend as Hurricane Matthew approaches the Palmetto state. Conditions are already predicted to be so serious that Governor Nikki Haley addressed the issue in a live press conference on The Weather Channel Tuesday afternoon.
In this meeting from the South Carolina Emergency Management Division, Haley said that a verbal declaration of a state of emergency was issued this morning at 7 a.m. The current plan is for residents in Zone A, which includes coastal cities like Charleston, to receive a firm call for evacuation on Wednesday at 3 p.m. If evacuation is confirmed, residents are instructed to head at least 100 miles inland to avoid the wrath of Matthew.
During Tuesday’s emergency presser, Haley was asked whether she believed the South Carolina contest against Georgia at Williams-Brice, which is set for 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, would proceed as scheduled.
“It’s a complete decision based on the schools,” Haley said. “As of now, I can’t imagine that happening, but certainly we are going to continue to watch this. Look, I would love nothing more than for this to just suddenly take a right hand turn and go out to sea, but as it looks right now we are looking at Friday night into Saturday or Friday afternoon into Saturday being pretty brutal.”
With the storm quickly approaching the Atlantic coast of Florida, winds have been reported in the 145 miles-per-hour range when Matthew touched down in Haiti and Cuba, meaning it hit land as a category 4 storm. All signs point to a messy weekend in Columbia whether the game is held on time or not, and the traffic situation will be a legitimate concern for the SEC to consider. In fact, as of 3 p.m. Wednesday, all traffic on highway 23 will be directed westward and one side of road will be reversed as 1.1 million residents are expected to be evacuated.
South Carolina is no stranger to the impact of a menacing storm, though, as the Gamecocks faced a similar situation last year when flooding devastated the Columbia area. Because of the heavy onslaught of rainfall that stuck around in 2015, South Carolina’s home game with LSU was moved to Baton Rouge in light of the volatile weather conditions.
Since South Carolina has a game on the schedule this week one way or another, Will Muschamp was asked about the upcoming storm during Tuesday’s media availability.
“Our administration is handling all of that through the SEC office,” Muschamp said. “All of my energy is gameplanning for the game. Whatever happens, happens. I’m not the least bit worried about it.”
Last year, South Carolina practiced in Columbia all the way up until Friday before leaving the state for Louisiana. It is unclear what the practice schedule would look like if Saturday’s contest were to be shifted away from Williams-Brice.
And although coach Muschamp is not concerned with the hurricane’s impact on his matchup with Georgia, Chris McGrath from Florida Power and Light is.
“The big thing is to stay informed, take this seriously and make sure you have a plan,” McGrath said on The Weather Channel’s Weather Center.