Sanford touts individual readiness

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford listens as Kim Stenson, chief of staff for the South Carolina Emergency Management Division, explains the estimated evacuation time if a major hurricane should head to the South Carolina coast. Sanford and state and local

Brad Nettles

Gov. Mark Sanford said Charleston County residents need to take personal responsibility for hurricane preparedness.

"If the individual is not prepared, there's a piece of the puzzle that's missing," Sanford said at a news conference Monday in the Charleston County Emergency Operations Center.

At the start of a hurricane season that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts will be "near-normal," Sanford said he was concerned that coastal residents would become complacent.

"1992 was predicted to be a year of average storms," Sanford said. "That's also the year that Hurricane Andrew hit, and there were $25 billion worth of damage and 65 lives were lost. ... 'Average' can be catastrophic if a storm actually hits your neck of the woods."

Speaking as much about residents' plans as about the state's, Sanford urged individuals and families to be prepared with an evacuation plan and 24-hour hurricane preparedness kit, along with adequate savings to buy gas and inland lodging.

At the county level, Director Cathy Haynes said the Charleston County Emergency Preparedness Division was distributing guides in Spanish and English explaining evacuation routes and shelters. In the event of an evacuation, she said, county school buses would pick people up at all 75 transportation evacuation pickup points, marked by blue signs around the city. Haynes said she is not certain of the buses' combined capacity.

CARTA buses also will be available to pick up the disabled and to transport pets — in carriers, with leashes and shot records — to the North Charleston Coliseum during an evacuation.

S.C. Highway Patrol Col. Kenny Lancaster stressed the importance of following prescribed routes during evacuations to avoid traffic hang-ups.

"If you want to avoid the rush, leave early," Sanford said.

At the state level, Sanford said there are nine more disaster shelters than last year, bringing the total to 247 with a combined capacity of 156,000.

Sanford said he would use local resources before tapping into state and then federal funds for hurricane response.

"The emergency management model that really has been in place for about 200 years in this country has been that local knows best," Sanford said. "There's been some movement afoot since Katrina to sort of reverse that, which I think would be a disastrous mistake."

Nearly 20 years after Hurricane Hugo crashed the coast, Sanford said Charleston County was still at risk.

"We've been incredibly fortunate in South Carolina for a long number of years now in being spared a direct hit," Sanford said. "The reality is, whether it's this year or next year or some years into the future, we are going to get hit, and it's incredibly important that we all be prepared for that process."