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Hurricane season approaching
Hurricane Matthew2 011
This file photo from October 2016 shows the destructive capabilities of hurricane-force winds.

Will Bryan County get a visit this year from Cindy, Don or Gert? How about Harvey, Maria or Tammy?

Those are just some of the names chosen for the 2017 hurricane season. The first named storm of the season — Arlene — occurred about a month ago but remained in the central Atlantic Ocean and had no land impact. Forecasters are calling for a total of 14 named storms this year, including seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes. That’s above the 30-year average for the Atlantic.

The official hurricane season begins June 1 and runs through Nov. 30.

Just eight months removed from Hurricane Matthew, Bryan County Emergency Services Chief Freddy Howell has this advice in case another such storm heads our way: “Evacuate, evacuate, evacuate.”

Howell said that is the main take-away after Matthew.

“If the potential is high that one will be close enough to hit us, the best thing to do is to leave,” he said. “Have a plan in place and a place to go.”

Howell added that Hurricane Matthew’s impact on Bryan County could have been much worse.

“We only got brushed, and if it had been at high tide, we’d have had significant flooding,” he said. “

The National Weather Service recommends taking several steps well ahead of time, including reviewing the season’s forecast, understanding evacuation routes and assembling a disaster kit.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency says such a kit should include enough non-perishable food, water and medicine for each person in the family to last one week. You should also include in the kit extra cash (ATM and credit card machines won’t work if the power is out), a battery-powered radio and flashlights. A portable crank or solar powered USB charger can help keep cell phones and laptops functioning.

You can also check with your insurance agent to make sure your property is fully covered. Even if you don’t live in an area of Bryan County that requires flood insurance, you can still purchase a policy through the National Flood Insurance Program. Those policies require a 30-day waiting period before they become effective.

If you decide to stay and ride out the storm, make sure you have the appropriate materials cut to size to board up windows and doors. And if there is a mandatory evacuation and you still choose to stay, be prepared to go it alone as emergency services personnel will not respond to calls during that time.

“If you stay and something happens, there’s no guarantee you’ll even be able to get to a hospital,” Howell said.  

Residents who have functional, access or medical needs that prevent them from evacuating and have no other resources such as friends or family to help them, the Bryan County Health Department offers a registry. Those on the registry would be evacuated to an American Red Cross shelter. People living in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and personal care homes are not eligible for the registry and instead should follow their facility’s evacuation plans. Call (912) 756-2611 for details.

The remainder of the storm names for this year are Bret, Don, Emily, Franklin, Irma, Jose, Katia, Lee, Nate, Ophelia, Philippe, Rina, Sean, Vince and Whitney.

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