Summer has arrived, and many coastal Georgia families are preparing for their annual vacation. However, the heart of hurricane season also is upon us, and between now and Nov. 30 instead of leaving their homes for fun in the sun, some families may hastily depart at the urging of local emergency management officials in the face of a major hurricane.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center warns that an "above normal" Atlantic hurricane season is brewing, with 13 to 17 named storms, including seven to ten hurricanes. Forecasters say three to five of the hurricanes could be major storms, ranked as Category 3 or higher.
Too often, residents become complacent, believing that Georgia will always be spared from the direct hit of a major storm. A hurricane of any magnitude can cause death and destruction. According to NOAA records, a total of four Category 2 hurricanes slammed the Georgia coast between 1911 and 1979 near Savannah, resulting in a total of 68 deaths.
While it’s true that no major hurricane made landfall on the Georgia coast in the 20th century, three major storms pummeled it in the later half of the 19th century. In fact, one of the deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history was the devastating Category 3 "Sea Islands" hurricane of August 27, 1893, which made landfall near Savannah and killed upwards of 2,000 people in Georgia and South Carolina.
Georgia has been lucky so far this century. But our luck could run out this hurricane season. The Georgia Emergency Management Agency and local emergency management agencies in Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Glynn, Liberty and McIntosh counties urge all coastal residents to update their plans now, before a storm is bearing down on them.
We encourage all individuals, who are able, to prepare and take care of themselves and their families so that government resources can be directed to those who need assistance.
First, learn how residents in your area are warned about severe weather and other potential disasters. Find out your vulnerability to flooding by determining the elevation of your property.
Next, meet with your family to create an evacuation plan. Learn the evacuation routes in your area, and know where you will go if ordered to evacuate. Choose the home of the nearest friend or relative outside a designated evacuation zone and discuss your plan with them. Or, you may opt to evacuate to a hotel or motel outside of the vulnerable area. Then, map out your route. Prepare a separate pet plan or determine where pet-friendly shelters are located.
If you live in an evacuation zone and local officials ask you to evacuate, do so as quickly as possible. Waiting will only increase your chances of being stuck in traffic, or even worse, not being able to get out at all.
Create a disaster supplies kit. Include a three-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day) and food that won’t spoil, one blanket or sleeping bag per person, a first-aid kit, prescription medicines, a battery- powered NOAA Weather Radio and a portable radio, a flashlight and extra batteries, an extra set of car keys and a credit card or cash, and special items for infant, elderly or disabled family members. Program all of your emergency contact numbers into your cell phone, including the police and fire departments, hospital and family members.
If you evacuate, do not return home until advised by local authorities. Be aware that the risk of contaminated drinking water or utility disruptions could make re-entry extremely dangerous.
For more information about how to prepare for hurricanes, contact your local emergency management agency or visit GEMA’s Web site at www.gema.state.ga.us.
Charley English, Director
Georgia Emergency Management Agency
James Anderson, Director
Bryan County Emergency Management Agency