Though Georgia’s coastline hasn’t been hit by a hurricane since 1978, public safety officials continually warn against complacence while urging residents to be prepared.
“It only takes one hurricane to change everything,” said Jim Anderson, director of Bryan County Emergency Management Agency.
Anderson, who heads up local efforts at preparedness, will lead any response if a hurricane impacts Bryan County. He said getting people to take the threat of a hurricane seriously remains a challenge.
“One of the biggest issues we have is convincing people that a hurricane may strike coastal Georgia, because it hasn’t happened in so long,” he said.
But if there’s a time to pay attention, it’s now. Though hurricane season runs from June until November, the season typically gets more intense as August approaches.
So what happens if a Category 5 hurricane – the biggest there is with sustained winds in excess of 155 mph − makes landfall somewhere in Georgia?
In a worst case scenario, Anderson said the storm surge would carry with it 18 feet of water, swamping much of Georgia east of I-95 – and Hwy. 204 as far inland as the bridge at the Ogeechee River “will have some water on it.”
Trees will be toppled, power lines downed and homes and businesses destroyed, and there could be serious wind damage as far inland as Pembroke. The resulting damage to infrastructure will be severe, to say the least.
“Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months,” according to the National Weather Service. “Long-term water shortages will increase human suffering. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.”
Even smaller hurricanes could wreak similar long-term damage, leaving coastal portions of Bryan County uninhabitable for weeks rather than days.
“You’ve always hear that people will be able to return home in three days after a hurricane,” Anderson said. “In three days we’ll just be getting back into the county and getting things cleared up.
“That’s why people need to project that there will be weeks before they’ll be able to come back home.”
This is the second in a multi-part series on hurricane preparedness. Up next: How emergency officials will respond in the event a hurricane impacts Bryan County.