COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Gov. Jim Hodges ordered a mandatory evacuation of as many as 800,000 people in coastal areas today as Hurricane Floyd aimed for South Carolina's coast, just a week shy of the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Hugo's destructive run through the state.
Hodges said the evacuation area was generally east of the Intracoastal Waterway and including the barrier islands in Beaufort, Jasper, Colleton, Charleston, Berkeley, Georgetown and Horry counties. Among those already leaving were 7,000 Marine recruits from Parris Island near Beaufort.
Hodges initially asked people to leave voluntarily, but made it mandatory at noon after shelters had time to open and National Guardsmen and police got into positions along the coast. More than 2,000 guard troops and state law enforcement officers were in the area, he said.
"They have begun the process of an orderly evacuation of those communities," the governor said. He estimated it would take about 12 hours to evacuate the areas.
Hodges said shelters would be open as far inland as Columbia, about 100 miles from the coast. The Red Cross said it was prepared to open 96 shelters in schools and churches across the state.
That Floyd, in total, was bigger than South Carolina, should be "enough to scare people sufficiently" to take his evacuation order seriously, Hodges said. However, Hodges said he also would fly to coastal areas later in the day to reassure people that there was a sufficient presence by the Guard and police to ensure an orderly evacuation and to protect the property they leave behind.
On Folly Beach near Charleston, Chad Boyd painted "Floyd, go away," on a boat that has been used as a community bulletin board since it was washed ashore by Hugo.
Floyd was a Category 4 hurricane, capable of causing extreme damage and bringing a storm surge of 18 feet. Hugo was also a Category 4 storm, though weaker than Floyd, when it hit South Carolina's coast on Sept. 21, 1989.
Hurricane watches covered the entire South Carolina coast. At 11 a.m., Floyd was 530 miles southeast of Charleston, moving west-northwest near 14 mph. Winds had diminished slightly to 145 mph and the storm was expected to make a gradual turn to the northwest later today and Wednesday.
Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. said Tuesday he expected that entire city to be evacuated, anticipating the eyewall of the storm passing over the metropolitan area.
"Take advantage of the time you have today to leave," Riley said. "We need you to leave. There's no reason for anyone to stay."
Riley's concerns were echoed by North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey.
"You need to take this seriously," Summey said. "We're going to have flooding and you need to get out."
There were long lines at gasoline stations and banks in Mount Pleasant and on James Island.
Patrick Floyd, the owner of Floyd's Aquatics on James Island, was busy taking down a 10-foot sign in front of his store. He has 75 tanks of fish in the business he opened 18 months ago, but isn't optimistic there will be much left.
"It looks like my fish are probably going to swim out into the ocean," said Floyd. "I'll tell you that damn thing has my name on it, but for the record, I don't claim it, it's not my brother."
The sound of power saws and hammers echoed through Charleston's historic district Monday as residents boarded up in preparation for Floyd. Schools and colleges canceled classes.
The National Hurricane Center projected Floyd could make landfall on the South Carolina coast sometime late Wednesday.
The state activated a special phone number, 1-800-256-8535, to provide information on shelters and evacuation routes.
Residents of coastal nursing homes were moved inland and military bases were being evacuated.
Sixty planes were flown from Shaw Air Force Base, 90 miles inland from Charleston, to Wright-Patterson Air Force base in Ohio. The Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort dispatched 57 FA-18 jet fighters to Fort Worth, Texas, to wait out the storm.
The Coast Guard told ships of more than 200 tons to plan to leave Charleston Harbor. Officials warned that drawbridges would not operate when winds exceeded 25 mph.
"How do you prepare for a storm that's going to wipe you out?" asked Buster Browne, who rode out Hugo's 135 mph winds as water rose into the second story of his home near the marsh in McClellanville.
"Category one or two, you run out and buy plywood and do what you can. If a category five's going to hit you, what the hell are you going to do? Get the stuff you want to save and leave town," said Browne, who operates Buster's Back Porch Restaurant.
"People need to understand this is a very large-size storm," whose effects will be felt over a large area of the state, said Dennis Clark, the director of emergency preparedness for Charleston County.
"For those of us who remember Hurricane Hugo 10 years ago almost, it is that kind of storm," he said. "I'm not trying to alarm anyone, or scare anyone unnecessarily. But people need to understand it is not a hurricane like that which brushed our coast in recent weeks."
Clemson University, which runs the state's extension service, advised livestock owners to prepare their animals for evacuation. If the animals could not be evacuated, they should be turned out from barns that could collapse in high winds and owners should paint their telephone or Social Security numbers on the animals and provide several days of food and water, the university said.