If you’re a coastal resident reading this online from points west of I-95, thank you. By evacuating on Monday or Tuesday ahead of Hurricane Dorian, you not only ensured your own safety; you reduced the danger to first responders, and you made it easier for everyone else to evacuate at the last minute. Which is the current time.
If you’re still in the Lowcountry or the Grand Strand this morning and you can get out, there’s still time to leave. Now.
We understand that packing up and leaving is stressful and disruptive and expensive. And after three coastal evacuations in as many years, and no hard direct hits to the S.C. coast, you’re suffering from evacuation fatigue. You think of the governor as the boy who cried wolf.
Perhaps you should think of evacuations as a small price for living in one of the most desirable coastal areas in the world. And recognize that it’s likely to become a more frequent demand as climate change increases the intensity of hurricanes and increases flooding even from smaller storms.
We are taking a detour this week from our usually Understand South Carolina podcast programming for an emergency episode on Hurricane Dorian.
Hurricanes kill people in their path; Dorian killed at least five in the Bahamas, with the number expected to rise. A hurricane can change paths in a matter of hours, and what’s predicted to be a near-miss over open water can become a direct hit, with landfall pumping tons of rainwater, ocean water and river water into coastal and even inland homes, knocking out power and rendering streets impassable. Even a near miss can do all that — and likely will. On Tuesday, forecasters were predicting up to 15 inches of rain along our coast, with storm surges of 4 to 7 feet and wind gusts up to 90 mph in Charleston. Recall that last year, the weak, slow-moving Hurricane Florence dumped more than 30 inches of rain on parts of the state and killed 52 people in South Carolina and North Carolina.
Even Charleston’s tall ship, the Spirit of South Carolina, is evacuating: It was making its way up the Cooper River on Tuesday morning, with plans to anchor near Bushy Park Boat Landing, where it has weathered previous hurricanes.
If you’re not worried about yourself, we urge you to worry about others. Every person who stays behind because he believes the threat is overblown is a person who could end up calling 911 from the attic, where the rising water is closing in. It’s a person who has to be rescued because she’s stuck in a car that was swept off the road by rushing water and can’t open the doors or windows. It’s a person who needs an ambulance because he had a heart attack from the stress or got hurt when that pine tree in the front yard crashed through the living room. It’s a person with congestive heart failure who needs assistance because the power is out and his backup oxygen supply is running out.
Everyone who made the choice to stay behind forces first responders to put their own lives in danger trying to rescue them or account for them. Everyone who stays behind diverts first responders from helping people who had no way to evacuate. And they put their loved ones through needless anguish awaiting word of their fate.
City and county governments have been preparing for Hurricane Dorian's approach by distributing sandbags, opening shelters, closing facilities and updating residents on emergency preparations. Here's what you need to know.
If you don’t have transportation, call the state or local emergency lines that are set up to help you evacuate. Someone can get you to an emergency shelter where the Red Cross and other volunteers will get you settled in and fed and help you through the storm. If you do have transportation, check before you leave to make sure your neighbors, family and friends have a way to get out; help them if they don’t. And don’t abandon your pets; some shelters now accept them if they’re in crates. The state evacuation hotline is 866-246-0133; information is available at scemd.org.
And wherever you live, if you own or control a dam and you haven’t already done so, please let your downstream neighbors know, and lower the water. Now.
If you insist on staying behind, make sure your gas tank is filled — if you still have that option — and that you have plenty of food, clean water, cash, fully charged cell phones and chargers.