COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – Governor Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency on Wednesday ahead of Hurricane Ian’s arrival in the state later this week.

While Ian is forecast to be a tropical storm by the time it reaches the South Carolina coast on Friday, John Quagliariello with the National Weather Service said there is potential for the storm to be a low-end Category 1 hurricane, which is why a hurricane watch was issued for some coastal counties.

The declaration, signed by Gov. McMaster on Wednesday, activates the state’s emergency operation plan and enables state agencies to prepare for potential impacts from the storm.

“It’s still too early to know exactly how Hurricane Ian will affect South Carolina, but preparations at the state level are well underway, and this declaration of emergency is another step in that process,” said Gov. Henry McMaster. “We do know we’ll see a lot of rain and significant storm surge on our coastline over the coming days – now is the time for each South Carolinian to make plans for every contingency and be prepared.”

Gov. McMaster did not order any evacuations for Ian, noting that counties did not believe evacuations were needed. But they did highly encourage residents who live on barrier islands or areas that are prone to flooding to seek higher ground and find an alternative place to ride out the storm.

Charleston County leaders announced during a Wednesday afternoon briefing that two shelters will open in the North Charleston area on Thursday for those on barrier islands and low-lying areas who are concerned about flooding and storm surge.

A pet-friendly shelter will open Thursday morning at 3841 Leeds Avenue. A second shelter will open at noon on Thursday at Matilda Dunston Elementary School at 1825 Remount Road.

State emergency leaders said residents across the state should ensure they have an emergency preparedness kit ready, including water and food for at least three days, medications, and other items they will need in the event of power loss.