Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island is poised to evacuate about 6,000 recruits from the South Carolina Lowcountry if Hurricane Matthew moves up the East Coast as expected.
Matthew was a Category 4 storm late Tuesday as it slammed into parts of the Caribbean, and has been forecast to move north through Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas later this week.
The evacuation of all non-essential Department of Defense personnel was authorized Tuesday afternoon by the South Carolina training center's commander. Parris Island lies on the Atlantic, not far from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, and is vulnerable to storm surge.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley announced plans to issue an evacuation order Wednesday so the 1 million residents living near the coast could evacuate before the weekend.
Highway lanes on major evacuation routes in South Carolina will be reversed to make way for traffic. It would be the first major evacuation in the state since 1999's Hurricane Floyd, which choked evacuation routes to a standstill.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has declared a state of emergency in 13 counties, including those surrounding Fort Stewart, headquarters of the 3rd Infantry Division. The installation is about 30 miles inland from the coast.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency Monday for 66 counties in the central and eastern part of the state, home to Fort Bragg and Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, the Raleigh News and Observer reported. Areas around Fayetteville and north of Albemarle Sound are still cleaning up after flooding from last month, the report said.
At Parris Island, buses have been ordered to possibly take recruits to Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Ga., about 270 miles inland.
"We sent an advance party of Marines to Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany in case we do need to send Marines, sailors and recruits to Albany," said Capt. Greg Carroll, a Marine spokesman at Parris Island.
"We have an emergency operations center stood up at Parris Island, which is continually monitoring weather conditions and updates the leadership aboard the base," he said, adding that a decision to evacuate the recruits will be made based on the storm's actual path.
Parris Island personnel train annually for such situations, Carroll said.
An outdoor graduation ceremony scheduled for Friday at Parris Island has been moved indoors for Wednesday.