Tropical Storm Irma (copy) (copy)

Huge waves crash over the High Battery on Sept. 11, 2017, as Tropical Storm Irma passed off the South Carolina coast. File/Brad Nettles/Staff

Florence became a hurricane Sunday morning and is expected to rapidly intensify into a major hurricane Monday.

Although the storm is still far out in the Atlantic Ocean, and it’s not known for sure whether it will make landfall in South Carolina, deliver a glancing blow or miss the Palmetto State entirely, preparing now for possible impact can mean the difference between escaping its impact unscathed and suffering damage, injury or both.

On Saturday, S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency and urged residents to start getting prepared. Local emergency preparedness officials from around the state also joined in on the message.

Whether you're a seasoned hurricane veteran or this is your first experience with hurricane season, it's important to follow these emergency preparedness tips.

Beginning Sunday, if you don't have an emergency kit, make one. 

Kits should include:

  • nonperishable item such as canned meat, fruits and vegetables
  • a manual can opener
  • high-energy foods such as peanut butter, jelly, crackers, granola bars and trail mix
  • food and supplements for infants, the elderly or those on special diets
  • a three-day supply of water made up of 1 gallon of water daily for each person in your group
  • a method of purifying water, either by boiling 5-10 minutes, adding 16 drops of unscented bleach (5.25 percent hypochlorite) per gallon of water, using purification tablets or filtration systems designed for backpacking 
  • food, water and medication for pets

All kits should have enough supplies to last each person in your group at least three days because it can take time for rescuers to reach trapped people.

If the power goes out, use perishable food in the refrigerator first, then use up items in the freezer and then move on to nonperishable items in your emergency kit.

Experts also recommend having any medications that people in your group need, as well as flashlights, batteries, a battery or crank-operated radio, cash or travelers checks and change, a tool kit, rain gear, sturdy boots or shoes, diapers, formula, bottles, powdered milk and toiletries.

Also, gather up important documents such as birth certificates, passports, marriage licenses, wills, Social Security cards, bank account numbers and insurance policies, and store them in a waterproof container.

Use Sunday and Monday to assemble your kit and other needed items. The earlier you get to grocery stores, hardware stores and anywhere else you need to go, the more likely you are to avoid long lines.

Check resources like the National Weather Service's Charleston office, the National Hurricane Center, your county's emergency management agency and local news media daily for updates on the storm's expected path and impact.

Links to emergency management agencies for South Carolina as well as in the tri-county can be found here:

Resources like statewide and local hurricane guides for 2018 can be found on each of the agencies' websites.

If you do not have access to the internet, call the state Emergency Management Division at 803-737-8500 for information.

By Tuesday, forecasters should have a better idea of Florence's potential impacts on South Carolina. Continue to check state and local agencies and news media for updates on the storm and whether McMaster issues evacuation orders. 

If you are ordered to evacuate, your county emergency management agency will have details about evacuation routes and other instructions on its website and in its hurricane guide. 

Officials in recent years have also reminded the public that the governor's office does not issue voluntary evacuation orders. If an evacuation order is issued for your area, leave. Anyone who stays after an evacuation order does so at their own risk.

Reach Gregory Yee at 843-937-5908. Follow him on Twitter @GregoryYYee.

Gregory Yee covers breaking news and public safety. He's a native Angeleno and previously covered crime and courts for the Press-Telegram in Long Beach, CA. He studied journalism and Spanish literature at the University of California, Irvine.