For South Carolinians facing what forecasters are calling an “above average” Atlantic hurricane season, Gov. Henry McMaster is certain early preparation is the best defense.
Especially for residents of Beaufort County. After all, there’s a reason it’s called the Lowcountry.
“It’s low, which means water can get here a lot faster than anywhere else,” McMaster said Friday in Beaufort during his final stop of a statewide flyover through hurricane-prone areas.
Low-lying areas are particularly vulnerable to flooding where water can sink faster than in upstate counties. And to add fuel to the fire, a growing population in Beaufort in recent years means that if a hurricane forces an evacuation, it can be harder to get out of the area.
Even since Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Irma a year later, South Carolina’s landscape has changed, Beaufort County Sheriff PJ Tanner said during the governor’s visit.
“When you look at coastal South Carolina, on the real estate side, there’s not a lot of real estate left to buy, so we know we’ve had a huge influx,” Tanner said. “The challenges for us … are evacuations as we move South Carolina citizens inland for safety reasons, we have a lot more people than we are moving.”
The problem? Traffic backups during evacuation.
But state and local agencies say they are “very well prepared,” McMaster said. However, it could be a tumultuous few months, with forecasters from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicting that there is a 65% chance of an “above average” hurricane season in the Atlantic.
Palmetto State is one of the most vulnerable to hurricanes and tropical storms throughout the season, which runs from June 1 through November, according to the South Carolina Division of Emergency Management. Specifically, in Beaufort County, notable hurricanes in recent years have caused downed trees, extensive flooding, and costly structural damage.
NOAA outlook for the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season:
▪ 14 to 21 named storms with winds of 39 mph or more.
▪ Six to 10 could become hurricanes with winds of 74 mph or more.
▪ Three to six could become major hurricanes with winds of 111 mph or more.
May the forecast hold, Kim Stenson, the state’s top emergency management official, urged residents to prepare. Not when strong winds are blowing. Not when the rain is falling. And not when the time has passed to evacuate.
“Hurricanes are not just a coastal event,” Stenson repeated Friday, adding that the state is certain to have a hurricane event its year, although it may not be a direct hit in Beaufort County.
As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is better than cure. Or, in the case of a hurricane, not being stranded, flooded, and helpless to come to the rescue.
Essentially, preparing for a hurricane is a “timing thing,” Tanner said — the sooner the better.
How to prepare for a hurricane
Find the right area: Hurricane evacuations are based on areas in coastal counties. Find yours with the SC Emergency Manager mobile app and Hurricane.sc.
Prepare the house: Do a security check to make sure your home is able to withstand the effects of the hurricane. This includes a roof inspection, double checking hurricane shutters, and ensuring that insurance policies cover the types of damage caused by hurricanes.
Create an emergency plan: South Carolina residents should create a family hurricane emergency plan. It should include an evacuation destination and agreed meeting places. Residents should keep phones charged when possible and ensure they have a way to find the latest information. Include all pets in the family emergency plan. For safety and planning recommendations, consult the DCDS Hurricane Guide.
Remember an escape route: Find the closest hurricane evacuation route as early in the season as possible to allow for a more efficient and safer route out of the hurricane’s path. Once you have learned your route, stick to it and remember it.
Considerations related to COVID-19: Residents are encouraged to get vaccinated and do initial booster shots, which are important when evacuating to other states to prevent the likelihood of spreading COVID-19. To track disease activity in the county you are evacuating to, use the CDC County Check map to see the level of community spread. Residents are encouraged to travel with rapid home antigen test kits in case family members begin to experience symptoms.
State, local preparation
Since February, national and local authorities have been preparing for the season, their methods with “great thought and analysis”.
This month, Beaufort County residents should keep their eyes peeled for a large-scale exercise in the county that simulates an evacuation. This is expected to happen on June 9, officials said.
The public should pay attention, the lieutenant colonel said. Travis Manley of the South Carolina Highway Patrol. However, he assured, the exercise would not close the roads.
South Carolina has 35 escape routes tested and cleared, officials said. To find which one to take, residents should visit 511sc.org, identify the color of the closest route, and follow it to leave.
“Don’t take secret shortcuts,” McMaster urged, adding that while most information on Facebook is well-meaning, it can be wrong.
Get ready now. Listen. And follow the orders of law enforcement and government officials.
As Stenson said: Be your own emergency manager.
Will the incoming tropical storm hit SC?
Just days into hurricane season, a tropical storm is heading toward Florida this weekend. However, South Carolina will be spared — for the most part.
The tropical storm will not have a substantial impact on South Carolina, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.
“It will head too far to our southeast to bring wind, rain or storm surge to the state if the forecast holds, and it likely will because it is a high confidence situation with nearly all of our computer model guidance in agreement on the behavior of this storm,” a SCDNR press release said.
However, from Sunday the Lowcountry could see an onshore swell that will bring rough seas and waves, which could cause problems for boaters and beachgoers.
This story was originally published June 3, 2022 5:42 p.m.