COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina’s emergency preparedness officials have begun preparing for Hurricane Matthew, one of the most powerful Atlantic storms in recent history and one that could affect the East Coast.

In a news release issued Sunday, the South Carolina Emergency Management Division recommended that the state’s emergency response team review plans. Officials in four counties — Horry, Beaufort, Georgetown and Charleston — said they were on alert status. However, emergency operations centers are not yet operating.

“It’s too soon to rule out any possibilities,” division director Kim Stenson said. “Hurricane Matthew has quickly strengthened into a dangerous storm and its projected path could put South Carolina in harm’s way. Fortunately, people in South Carolina have time. While we hope we never see a hurricane head our way, we all need prepare for the possible effects.”

Stenson held conference calls this weekend with county emergency managers, emergency response team agencies and local National Weather Service offices. Tropical storm-force winds and flooding are possible even if Matthew remains at sea, local weather service forecasters said.

Emergency management officials recommend that people in potentially vulnerable areas review personal safety plans, become familiar local evacuation zones in coastal counties and locate the nearest hurricane evacuation routes. The 2016 S.C. Hurricane Guide has those details and is available at all Walgreen’s stores statewide, at all rest areas along interstates and for download at

Matthew was a powerful Category 4 storm Sunday with winds of 140 mph as it swirled across the Caribbean Sea on a track that authorities warned could trigger devastation in parts of Haiti.

The storm was expected to pass across or very close to the southwestern tip of Haiti late Monday before reaching Cuba, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Matthew briefly reached the top classification, Category 5. The hurricane center said it appeared to be on track to pass east of Florida through the Bahamas, but it was too soon to predict with certainty whether it would reach the U.S. coast.