In a way, talking about hurricane season in Georgia is like crying wolf. Or beating a dead horse. About this time each year, public safety officials warn the public to prepare for hurricane season.
But a hurricane doesn’t come.
After a while, the public tends to ignore the warnings. In fact, a recent press release from AAA reported a survey found nearly 70 percent of Georgia residents don’t prepare for a hurricane.
But that’s not a good idea, according to Bryan County Emergency Services Director Freddy Howell.
His advice? Be like the Boy Scouts. Be prepared.
“Preparation, that’s the name of the game,” he said. “Be alert of situations and when they name a storm in the ocean, keep monitoring it and if it starts looking like it’s coming this way, start taking all the necessary precautions.”
And with the 2014 hurricane season getting under way Sunday, it’s as good a time as any to start thinking about what one would do were a hurricane to impact Bryan County.
Resources available to help
There’s a world of information available online and in many cases there are apps for what you might need.
For starters, Bryan County residents can visit www.bryancountyga.org/departments/emergency_services/ or the Ready Georgia website at www.ready.ga.gov to help get prepared.
Ready Georgia enables users to create a personalized kit checklist and communications plan, making it simple to take those first steps toward being prepared. There is also detailed information about hurricane-elated hazards, as well as tips on how to protect the home and find local evacuation routes.
Bryan County Emergency Services suggests residents start by creating a ready kit of emergency supplies and essential documents and keep it in a waterproof container. Included should be items for any elderly or disabled family members, and pets.
In addition, keep a portable ready kit in case you need to evacuate. Be sure the gas tank is at least half full.
Also, be ready to bring in all outdoor possessions not tied down. Secure windows with pre-cut plywood or hurricane shutters. And keep trees and shrubs well maintained.
Inside, make sure to move those irreplaceable family photos to a high shelf or an attic. And make sure property insurance covers hurricane or flood damage.
Visit floodsmart.gov for information on the National Flood Insurance Program.
The last time a mandatory evacuation of the Georgia coast was ordered was in 1999, when Hurricane Floyd threatened.
It was, to put it mildly, a mess. Roads were jammed and trips that usually took about an hour — say from Richmond Hill to Glennville — took up to seven or eight hours, or longer.
Since then, emergency management and transportation officials have worked to make any necessary evacuation smoother — one such solution was to “contraflow” traffic on I-16, making the eastbound lanes open to westbound traffic to accommodate the number of motorists expected to head that way — but there’s also been a sizeable increase in the population since 1999, and Bryan County’s population has nearly doubled in that time, so it’s unclear just how an evacuation will go until one is ordered.
What’s more, it’s likely that any evacuation of Georgia will be immediately preceded by one in Florida, launching millions of motorists up I-95 and into inland Georgia. That means it will get crowded on the roads, and leaving at the last minute probably isn’t a good idea.
In the meantime, knowing where to evacuate to and how to get there is key, officials say.
Residents should know how to get out of Bryan County in the event an evacuation is called. Information on the state’s evacuation routes are at the Georgia Department of Transportation website at www.dotga.gov and there’s also a Ready Georgia mobile app.
It’s also a good idea to download the DOT’s hurricane season safety information brochure and print out a copy to keep as a reference in case of an evacuation. And for real-time travel information, call 511.
Scout out and identify places you can stay in an emergency — a friend’s home inland or at a motel somewhere. During an emergency, a list of shelters will be found on the Georgia Emergency Management Agency website or the Ready Georgia app.
Pet owners should remember that emergency shelters can’t accept pets due to public health reasons, so it’s a good idea to identify a motel that accepts pets or boarding facilities near the shelter.
A good idea is to find friends or relatives willing to lodge you and your pet during an evacuation. But never leave pets behind. They can be hurt, lost or killed.
Stay on top of things
Knowledge is power, and with the abundance of technology available today, there’s plenty of ways to stay informed about hurricanes.
Bryan County residents can even register to receive SMS text alerts — just text “follow Bryan County EMA” to 40404 to sign up.
In addition, know what the terms used to identify hurricanes mean. A hurricane watch means hurricane conditions are possible within 48 hours. A hurricane warning means hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours.
And if local officials advise you to evacuate, consider leaving immediately.
Stay away until safe
It’s likely any hurricane that impacts Bryan County — and that may mean any hurricane that hits Georgia’s 100-mile coastline — will have an impact on more heavily populated South Bryan.
Flood maps show a major storm surge could put much South Bryan under water, at least temporarily.
So, once evacuated, expect to stay evacuated until you’re allowed to return. Depending on the severity of the storm, the area might not be safe for residents to return to for several days or even longer, officials say. Roads and buildings could be unstable, power lines could be down and drinking water could be contaminated.
In short, official caution residents to be prepared to be away from home for an extended period in the event a storm mandates an evacuation.
For more information on specific risks and how to prepare for them, visit www.bryancountyga.org or call 445-0411.