Don't wait until a hurricane is looming on the horizon — prepare now.

That was Gov. Mark Sanford's message when he traveled to the South Carolina coast on Wednesday.

"There's an above-average chance that the coast of South Carolina will be hit by a hurricane this year," Sanford said. "These storms are more than about losing a roof or having a tree in the yard. They can be absolutely deadly."

The governor urged coastal residents to learn evacuation routes. Now is also the time to call up friends or relatives inland and figure out where to stay, he said. Those who don't have anybody to stay with should look up hotels. Accompanying the governor were state and county safety officials.

The Highway Patrol's Col. Harry Stubblefield encouraged people to fuel up before hitting the road.

"If everybody waits until the last minute to get fuel, there's going to be a large run on (gas) stations," Stubblefield said.

He also encouraged people to bring water, medicines and food. Dick Jenkins, a state Department of Transportation safety and systems engineer, said vehicles leaving ahead of a storm should be able to travel around 45 mph if everybody follows the plan and the lane reversals work as planned.

During an evacuation, wreckers would be pre-positioned along traffic arteries to move disabled cars off the road.

In addition to the stop at Charleston County's Lonnie Hamilton III Public Safety Building, Sanford also visited Conway and Beaufort. Hurricane season started June 1 and ends Nov. 30.

Reach Noah Haglund at 937-5550 or