The National Hurricane Center (NHC) says there’s a 50% chance for cyclone formation in the Atlantic as a storm system continues northeast of the Bahamas. This has Bluffton emergency teams reminding neighbors to plan ahead of storms this hurricane season.
In a meeting on Wednesday night, Bluffton Police’s Emergency Management Lt. Christian Gonzales spoke to citizens on preparing for storms.
‘Where would you go?’ they asked residents, and ‘Do you have family or friends that are inland?’ Officials say it’s best for people to have a plan in place to cover their routes taken out of the Lowcountry, and to leave town ahead of any mandatory evacuations.
Gonzales recalls evacuating the area in 1999.
“We boarded up the windows, packed up our documents…unfortunately we waited ’til they gave the mandatory evacuation, and we were stuck in traffic for 17 hours,” he says.
Gonzales remembers sleeping in his truck with his wife, child, and dogs those years ago. Now, he speaks to classes on taking the different approach. In a series of public meetings, the police department invites citizens to come ask questions.
Once the governor orders evacuations, law enforcement control traffic patterns, mandating which vehicles take certain routes.
Gonzales warns against evacuating late also because of the hazards that come with a hurricane, like flooding, tornadoes, high winds, and debris flying about.
He says officials will stay in town at the EOC (Emergency Operations Center) likely until a hurricane becomes a Category 1, unless county officials move-out before then. However, that doesn’t mean his team will be out looking to protect any residents who remain. He says it’s his job to give advice now so that people can pack and plan.
“Who wants to be standing in their living room…you hear an evacuation order, and all of a sudden it hits you of ‘I don’t have anywhere to go?’” Community Relations Manager Joy Nelson says. “Also, it’s not one of things where, a second comes and you throw a few things in a bag,” she adds.
As for what to bring, police recommend packing clothing and supplies like nonperishable foods to last for at least five days, and to take important documents and medication in waterproof storage bags and containers. They recommend fueling all vehicles, and to make arrangements for pets.
In the event of a tropical storm, storm shelters will be open across Beaufort County at public schools. However, there are no shelters open in Beaufort County for hurricanes; shelters during that time will be in neighboring counties like Jasper and Hampton.