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As stress mounts, hurricane evacuation not an easy decision
hurricane evacuation graphic

For more than a week, Dorian has been on the minds of coastal residents, tormenting us with “what ifs?”

In this age of 24/7 news and social media comments, many have been glued to reports that monitored Dorian’s increased strength and projected path. The “Cone of Uncertainty” showing coastal Georgia within its sphere has become part of our everyday language.

Watching these storms from the time they are formed have no doubt caused stress and anxiety to many.

And now as mandatory evacuation orders are in place, we face even more anxiety as we wrestle with the ramifications of our decisions whether to stay or leave.

I’ve lived in coastal Georgia for more than 25 years, and it’s interesting to see the reactions of those who are new to the area versus longtime residents who have survived multiple hurricane scares, or came out relatively unscathed from our most recent (Matthew, Irma, Michael) impacts.

Simply put, the so-called veterans of these storms say to chill. Yes, it’s good to be prepared, but there’s no need to worry. Bryan County and coastal Georgia somehow manages to avoid the worst and unless a Cat 4 or 5 on a direct path to the area is forecast, they’ll ride it out.

City and county officials, meteorologists and others, feeling responsible for the safety of the citizens err on the side of caution. After all, unlike earthquakes and tornadoes that do not provide much warning, one would have to be living under a rock to not be made aware of a hurricane’s arrival, and because of that, there should never really be death or injury to anyone here as long as they follow the evacuation orders.

And yet, if things turn out like in the past, just as many residents in the mandatory evacuation area will stay, as those who leave. And although officials will point out the dangers of staying and remind us that there may not be any emergency services to help if we get in trouble, those who stay say they have given it a lot of thought, and it’s the best decision for them.

For some it might be the thought of having to travel hundreds of miles with an elderly or sick family member or with several pets not used to being in a vehicle. For others, they may not have the money or opportunity to find lodging west of here. Unless you managed to secure a hotel reservation days ago in places like Dublin or Macon, you may have to drive to the Alabama border to find an available motel.

Then there are those who fear that their residence will be burglarized while they are out of town. Or those who just don’t want to deal with the uncertainty of waiting to find out when they can return to town, or what type of massive traffic jams will await them.

When I first arrived here, pre-Internet and social media, I kept an eye on the Weather Channel each hurricane season, partly because I was a journalist, and that’s what we do. And I’ll admit it… these storms scared me.

During the mid-1990s we had a couple of hurricanes that we had to keep an eye out for, but it wasn’t until 1999 – and Hurricane Floyd – that things got serious. A Category 5 monster was headed here and my wife and I boarded our windows and fled with our two cats and a dog to Augusta, enduring a horrible 10-hour stop and go drive along the way.

As it turned out, Floyd headed far north and didn’t even deposit a drop of rain in the Savannah area. Many were upset that they had to go through such an inconvenience and some vowed they would never trust storm forecasters again.

Throughout much of the early part of the 21st Century, coastal Georgia did seem to be immune to being in the path of some major storms. Things were quiet for several years.

That changed in 2016 when Hurricane Matthew, followed by Irma and Michael in subsequent years, showed us once and for all that Bryan County and coastal Georgia is not immune or protected in some way from these storms. Yes, some areas of the county got by with hardly a scrape, while others suffered major damage. Those folks in the latter will tell you it’s not something they want to ever experience again.

So, wherever you are as you read this… perhaps you left town early or are getting ready to leave, or you’re deciding to stay and ride it out, the Bryan County News wishes you the best and to stay safe.



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