Coastal Georgia is overdue to be hit by a hurricane, making it imperative for coastal residents to be prepared for the worst, according to Liberty County Emergency Management Agency Director Mike Hodges.
“Weather patterns are changing,” Hodges said as he and Assistant Director Larry Logan discussed the agency’s plans for National Hurricane Preparedness Week, May 27–June 2. “I honestly feel what we have not had (in Georgia) in over 100 years is due to happen.”
Hodges said it’s a challenge to convince residents to take seriously the threat of hurricanes and the subsequent flooding and tornadoes.
“We do a tremendous amount of educating,” Hodges said. “We go out and talk to a lot of people, telling them they need to prepare and how to prepare. In fact, we had our annual hurricane briefing (May 15) at the Liberty County Courthouse Annex.”
Hodges said Dr. Bill Gray, a professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University, is predicting a below-normal hurricane season, but fewer hurricanes doesn’t necessarily mean weak storms. He described Hurricane Andrew, a category-5 hurricane that hit south Florida in 1992, as “tiny but intense.”
According to GEMA, a hurricane hit the northern Georgia coast in August 1893, killing 2,500 people and leaving another 30,000 homeless. The last category-3 hurricane to hit the state came ashore October 1898 in Savannah, causing 179 deaths. A 16-foot storm surge was recorded in Brunswick.
“We were at a hurricane conference last week,” Hodges said. “I had a long talk with Bill Massey, a (FEMA) Region 4 officer. We discussed the notion believed by a lot of people that we’re relatively safe here due to our barrier islands. He showed me a model in which a 33-foot storm surge could converge right at Blackbeard Island.”
With information from the National Hurricane Center, Logan said models show that storm surges may not be as bad as predicted, or they may be far worse.
Both men said every resident should have a “basic ready kit,” a collection of items necessary to survive a minimum of three days without power or being away from home.
“A good plan is nothing more than knowing what you’re going to do,” Hodges said. “If you’re going to go to Uncle Jim’s because he lives in a safer area, make sure the whole family knows.”
He said many people think an evacuation order is something he and Logan decide. In reality, it involves local and state leaders. How far you go to escape a storm depends on the size of the storm and what you can afford, he added.
Logan said information about preparing for hurricane season can be found at www.ready.ga.gov/prepare, or by calling the Liberty County EMA at 368-2201.