Jade McDuffie // The Post and Courier

To Ray Green, from Johns Island, the only thing he would worry about if a natural disaster strikes is his life. Everything else is replaceable, he said.

The dark clouds have rolled in, the wind is picking up and the sirens are sounding.

Could you decide in 10 minutes or less what your most valuable possessions are? Most important, is everyone in your family accounted for?

This has been the reality for many people in the South and Midwest who have been the victim of recent violent storms.

Many people have time to save only one possession in a sudden natural disaster: their life.

"I don't put that much value on things, only my life. Life is not replaceable," Johns Island resident Ray Green said.

When asked what possessions they would save, some across the Lowcountry said family and pets are all that matter.

Dennis Price, a contractor from Georgetown, said the first things he would worry about are "my wife and my pet. The rest I don't really care about. I've been down to Katrina and Ike and I've seen a lot of people lose things."

Other Lowcountry residents, like rising second-year MUSC student Lindsey Johnson, said they worry about family being able to find them.

"I would be worried about my cell phone and my camera so I could communicate with everyone," Johnson said.

If you can get to a computer after a disaster, the Red Cross has a place on its website where people can post their whereabouts so family members will not have to worry.

Mary Bos, a five-year Lowcountry Red Cross volunteer, and Barbara Melton, a 13-year volunteer, also have seen firsthand the damage natural disasters can cause. When it comes to possessions, they agree that different people value different things.

People across the Lowcountry said that family photos and heirlooms are next after family and pets.

"The things that were important to them were not so much material things, but things that were irreplaceable," said Melton, a Summerville resident.

Melton is a psychologist and was recently deployed to Tennessee and Mississippi to help flood victims cope with their losses.

She also helped victims of Katrina, and remembers a widower whose most valuable possession at the time was a rock his wife gave him emblazoned with the word "Faith."

She also remembers a woman who recently lost her daughter, an artist, to cancer, and had no time to pack her daughter's paintings.

"To her that was everything," Melton said. "It was like she lost her daughter all over again."

Some people even endanger themselves to save their most valuable possessions.

"People are afraid to leave things behind. They want to take their personal items," said Bos, a North Charleston resident. "Things can be replaced, so don't wait too late before it's time to leave."

Although the area is vulnerable to hurricanes, residents have the benefit of knowing ahead of time when and where the storm may hit. People should use this to their advantage by planning now.

Some ways to be prepared for a storm are to keep copies of your most important documents and pictures in a safe. You also could digitize your photos and backup computer files online. In addition to a list of basic survival items, also include sentimental items that you might forget in a hurry.

Other things you could invest in are a weather alarm or a tracking device for your pet.

"If every family would just take 15 minutes with a pencil and paper and play 'what if?' there would be so many people who would be prepared," Bos said.