Tropical Storm Beryl was a reminder that hurricane season is here. Officially, the season begins this week, but storms have been churning in the Atlantic for the past two weeks.
The South Carolina Emergency Management Division this year is streamlining its hurricane evacuation plan to save resources and manpower. This includes eliminating the call for a voluntary coastal evacuation, mainly because few people followed it, says Derrec Becker, SCEMD spokesman.
Yet, voluntary evacuation warnings meant calling on law enforcement, local emergency managers, first responders, and state agencies–and tapping them out earlier than necessary.
“We may get a few people who leave but studies shown that those are people who would leave early anyway…but just very little impact, not anything really above normal traffic congestion on the coast in the middle of summertime. So with eliminating voluntary and switching to this one evacuation recommendation, what we’ve been able to do is streamline our decision-making, condense our procedures and save our resources for when they are going to be needed the most,” Becker says.
It’s been more than 20 years since South Carolina was smacked head-on by a hurricane. Since then, measures and technology are better able to predict the effects of such a storm to states on the East Coast.
“This all started as a result of a study that the Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) have recently completed of our coast looking at the potential impacts from a hurricane. Using updated technology, using modern mapping, it looks like our potential impact from a hurricane in terms of flooding and surge zones were approximately double of what we had originally believed,” says Becker.
Becker says the study and discussions with local emergency managers, SC EMD decided to adopt the process that has been working for neighboring states.
Between 36 and 48 hours before a storm becomes imminent, the EMD will call for a mandatory evacuation. If the public does not respond to the warning, the governor can issue an evacuation order from her office. However, no one will be removed from their homes. These orders are to make the best use of state resources.
If a citizen waits too late to evacuate, the safety of the first reponders will become a consideration.