South Carolina declared a state of emergency Saturday as powerful Hurricane Dorian could rake along the coast by the middle of the week.
Declaring an emergency activates the state's emergency operations plan and gives Gov. Henry McMaster the authority to mobilize the S.C National Guard and state agency employees, such as Highway Patrol troopers, to prepare for the storm.
The state’s anti-price gouging laws go into effect. The declaration also helps South Carolina win federal aid after the storm.
The emergency declaration does not mean the governor is calling for evacuations. McMaster's office is weighing whether to ask thousands of residents and visitors to leave the coast. The governor ordered the evacuation of 760,000 people along the coast in September for Hurricane Florence.
"Given the strength and unpredictability of the storm, we must prepare for every possible scenario," McMaster said. "State assets are being mobilized now and Team South Carolina is working around the clock to be ready, if necessary.
"We encourage all South Carolinians who may be impacted by Hurricane Dorian to be vigilant and prepare now. There is no reason for delay."
Charleston officials also declared a state of emergency on Saturday, citing the governor's earlier declaration.
The forecast was still uncertain and leading computer models diverge on where Dorian will turn after Monday.
Landfall could now be anywhere from Florida to North Carolina, if the storm makes landfall at all.
As of Saturday night, Dorian was heading west toward the Bahamas with winds up to 150 mph, just below being a catastrophic Category 5 storm.
The S.C. Emergency Management Division is preparing to activate an emergency operations center in West Columbia on Sunday where state agency representatives gather to coordinate storm preparation and cleanup. South Carolina's Emergency Response Team stands at operational condition level two, which means a disaster is likely.
Georgia issued an emergency declaration for 12 counties closest to the coast on Thursday. North Carolina declared an emergency in all of the state’s 100 counties on Friday to remove weight restrictions on trucks transporting recovery supplies and crops.
McMaster has declared states of emergencies for four storms since taking office in 2017. The last declaration came in October for Hurricane Michael out of concern for more flooding a month after Hurricane Florence overflowed rivers in parts of the Pee Dee, causing more than $600 million in damage.
The S.C. Emergency Management Division has started a web page dedicated to Dorian with storm-preparation advice. The page will include news and alerts when the storm strikes South Carolina, division spokesman Derrec Becker said.