By Gregg Bragg, The Island Connection Staff Writer
The Seabrook Island Club played host to Disaster Awareness Day for the third consecutive year on June 15. Maybe it was the “free lunch?” Yes, when the time came, Seabrook Mayor Pro Tem John Gregg invoked the running gag to knowing chuckles. There were also door prizes, lots of giveaways and a raft of intermittent raffles, all of which brought a good mix of Seabrook and Kiawah residents to the Island House. The focus shifted this year even more heavily to early departure in the event of a hurricane.
Captain Rob Woods with the South Carolina Highway Patrol reiterated last year’s takeaway; “leaving early is the only guarantee you get to pick your own route.”
Asked if the route had changed from last year to this, he said it had not. His demeanor suggested they would be polite about it, but waiting for an evacuation notice precludes negotiating a turn with state police, who have a job to do.
“The route hasn’t changed and the thing to keep in mind is that we’re all going to the same place,” said Woods in describing the bottleneck at Betsy Kerrison and River road. The road narrows to one lane at the Bohicket/Betsy Kerrison and River intersection. The idea is to keep traffic moving beyond the bottleneck at the first instance of River Road and bring cars back around to the second Bohicket/Main and River intersection, where the route resumes two outgoing lanes.
The rest of the evacuation route for our area is:
1. Main road to route 17
2. 17 SOUTH to Jacksonboro
3. RT. 64 to Walterboro
4. 321 to Olar
5. Continue on 321 by turning right to Denmark
6. US 78 to Aiken, (the designated “Point of Safety” after which you can choose your direction.)
Woods reiterated, “Leave early or you will be at the mercy of designated routes. Know your route. Manage your expectations; there are approximately 1.5 million of your best friends in the area, and everyone will be trying to evacuate at the same time. You will be inconvenienced if you wait for a mandatory evacuation period, end of story,” he concluded. Oh, and “respect mandatory evacuation orders.”
Derrec Becker, Public Information Officer with the South Carolina Emergency Management Division, (the state’s arm of the Federal Emergency Management Agency), urged preparation.
Their website (scemd.org/) includes a wealth of information on disaster recovery and preparation, including what to have in your family’s emergency kit.
Include at a minimum:
• Two gallons of water per person per day for at least three days
• Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
• Battery-powered or hand crank radio
• Flashlight and extra batteries
• First aid kit
• Whistle to signal for help
• Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
• Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
• Manual can opener for food
• Local maps
• Cell phone with chargers
• Prescription medications and glasses
• Infant formula and diapers
• Pet food and extra water for your pet
• Insurance policies, ID and bank account records in a waterproof container
• Emergency contact information
• Cash or traveler’s checks and change
Asked why people should prepare for a storm when the emerging trend is requests call for evacuation, Becker said, “yeah, that’s for a category 1 hurricane. Anything else [higher] you should plan to leave.”
Virtually all of the emergency responders stressed the UN-availability of emergency services during a storm.
Several reminded attendees that in the event of a serious event, even fire and Emergency Medical Services will move inland, and will not be available. Patience was urged over and over with the caution “it could be days, maybe weeks, before you can come back and your expectations may be unrealistic,” which is the real rub, at the end of the day.
Hurricanes can seem like spontaneous, impromptu vacations at first. However, leaving early often means the cost of hotel rooms for the “days, maybe weeks,” you were warned of. The added expense of maintenance crews to attend to residents who decide to stay, is an issue municipalities will struggle to mitigate.
For more information please contact your local municipal officials or visit their websites.