South Carolina’s governor called out the National Guard and ordered a half-million people evacuated from the coast Wednesday as Hurricane Fran swirled toward land with 115 mph winds on a path alarmingly similar to Hugo’s seven years ago.
“Fran is a large and brutal storm, and she is not to be trifled with in any shape, way, fashion or form,” Gov. David Beasley said.
The storm is most likely to hit land tonight north of Charleston, the National Hurricane Center said. That’s where Hurricane Hugo, packing 140 mph winds, came ashore with devastating effect in 1989.
In Charleston, workers hurried to put plywood over the windows of the pastel-colored houses overlooking the harbor. Storm shutters were already closed on some buildings.
Cars were lined up at gas stations while traffic on Interstate 26, the main road inland, was bumper-to-bumper. Batteries, flashlights and other supplies flew off store shelves as nervous residents prepared for the storm.
“It’s been pretty hectic. We’ve already sold four truckloads of plywood,” said Wendy Coletrain, a manager at the Home Depot building supply store in North Charleston.
She said people were waiting in line for the arrival of a shipment of 260 generators late Wednesday.
“I’ve ridden them all out, but I’m debating whether to go this time,” 76-year-old Joe Lipsitz said as he stood outside his store in Beaufort, about 70 miles southwest of Charleston. His son wasn’t hesitating.
“This one I’m getting out, after seeing what Hugo did to Charleston,” Neil Lipsitz said.
Hugo caused almost $8 billion in damage and killed 35 people as it tore through the Caribbean and up the East Coast. Most of the damage was in South Carolina.
At 11 p.m. Wednesday, Fran was about as large as Hugo and had the potential to become just as strong as it passed over warm water, the National Hurricane Center said.
“I do believe this one is going to get us, that’s the way it’s heading,” said John Gallop, dockmaster at Beaufort’s marina, where workers boarded up windows.
National Guardsmen directed traffic, and at least 1,000 were arriving in the coastal towns.