Despite mandatory evacuation, Wilmington Island residents still deciding whether to leave

WILMINGTON ISLAND, Ga. – On Saturday night thousands in Chatham County were under a mandatory evacuation.

The evacuation signed into order by Governor Deal on Saturday went into effect for those listed in ‘Zone A’ on Chatham County’s evacuation zone map which includes all those living, working, or visiting east of the Truman Parkway.

On Saturday, Highway 80 was spare with traffic but there remains no plan to allow for contraflow and Mayor Jason Buelterman told News 3 it would take an act of flooding to shut it down.

Over on Wilmington Island, a mixed reaction to the evacuation order. Businesses were boarded up, gas stations shut down with pumps covered in plastic.

Still some businesses stay open. Basil’s Bar owner, Ryan Grady, told News 3 he and his wife decided to keep their business open after seeing weather tracks, wanting to continue to support their staff and not want to lose inventory of food and beverage.

On Saturday, business was steady with people dining in who plan on staying during the storm or are waiting to see the storm’s path before making a final decision.

“No I’m not worried at all. After Matthew this is going to be a piece of cake,” Al Williams said as he and his family were leaving the bar.

Jon Roxen recently moved to the island and had initial doubts but decided to stay.

“You know we almost left earlier, but we decided that we were going to go ahead and stay just based on the track that it was going more towards the west. That we had enough for us to be safe, to where we were at right now, and I felt that getting out on the highway was probably not going to be best place for us right now. So we decided to just stay and wing it,” he said.

Despite people staying, the evacuation still is in place until further notice. On Saturday Chatham County leaders stressed that if winds exceed 39 mph in evacuation zones, 911 calls will not be immediately responded to because first responders are required to take shelter until the storm passes. Leaders also clarified the language of evacuations.

“Mandatory if you’re asked to leave and your don’t leave, technically you are guilty of a misdemeanor. We don’t go out and enforce those misdemeanors. Under a General Evacuation notice you’re not under evacuation, you’re not guilty of a misdemeanors,” Chatham County Commission Chairman Al Scott said.

Stay with WSAV for the latest on Hurricane Irma.


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