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Locals split on evacuating
I95 Fri
Northbound I-95 Friday morning as seen from the Belfast Keller Road overpass. - photo by Ted O'Neil

Don Lusk was cutting his grass Friday morning ahead of the rain and wind that Hurricane Irma will bring. Whether or not he and his family will evacuate remains to be seen.

“The condition of a person’s lawn in the face of disaster says a lot about their character,” he joked. “At this point we’re planning to stay, but we’re prepared to leave if we decide to.”

Gov. Nathan Deal on Wednesday issued a mandatory evacuation order for all residents living east of I-95 and placed Bryan County — along with 29 others — under a state of emergency.

Recent forecasts show the storm hitting Florida Sunday as a Category 4 or 5, then traveling northward into Georgia. It could be weakened to a Category 1, the same as what Hurricane Matthew was last October, as it moves to the west.

“I don’t think we’ll experience much worse than we did with Matthew,” Lusk said. “We are packed up though and can leave Sunday if we have to.”

Finding gas in the area can be hit or miss, and grocery stores are seeing shelves start to empty. Northbound traffic on I-95 is beginning to slow, especially as Florida evacuees creep closer to the South Carolina line where the highway reduces from three lanes to two.

A majority of vehicles at the BP station and adjoining Subway restaurant on U.S. 17 Friday morning had Florida license plates due to its proximity to exit 87, and vehicles were lined up two and three deep at the pumps. The only gas available there was regular.

Larry West was enjoying some time with his young daughter in their driveway Friday morning as they prepared to leave.

“We’re heading to the mountains,” he said. “I’m pretty apprehensive about what will happen.”

West said he and his family were living in Pooler when Matthew hit. He did not have plans to board up any windows before evacuating, although several of his neighbor’s homes already had plywood covering their windows.

“We didn’t board up in Pooler and it was fine,” he said. “The trees in our yard are pretty small.”

West had concerns, however, after talking to a Bryan County News reporter and contacted his HOA wondering if people were “casing the neighborhood” ahead of residents evacuating.

Raphael Brooks, who did not evacuate during Hurricane Matthew, is planning on staying put this time around, too.

“We’ve got plenty of batteries and plenty of food,” he said. “Besides, I’ve been through worse (while serving in the military). I’ve been in the desert with no running water, no power, eating food caked in sand.”

Brooks’ next-door neighbor, Rei Osorio, is leaving again just as he and his family did during Matthew. He said the main reason is because of an elderly mother and mother-in-law. They plan to stay with family in Virginia until Irma passes.

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