Loretta Cergol clearly remembers driving down Gardner Lacey Road to U.S. 501 to find traffic at a standstill during the third largest evacuation in U.S. history when Hurricane Floyd threatened the East Coast.
Cergol and her husband, who had moved to the Horry County only months before, turned their car around and decided to weather the storm in their new home inside South Creek at Myrtle Beach National.
It was a move area emergency management officials would warn against.
Cergol fears traffic will be worse during the next evacuation nw that hurricane evacuation zones have been expanded in Horry and Georgetown counties. So, she asked Horry County’s Emergency Management Director Randy Webster to come speak to residents in her community about the new zones.
“We have some new residents who have never been in a hurricane, so I thought it would be really beneficial for them to hear from him,” Cergol said. “When we first moved from Michigan in 1999, a couple months before Floyd, we debated whether we should go or stay. We heard all these terrible things about backups on 501 and they were true.”
Webster and his emergency management team on Wednesday will host the first of several town hall style meetings in the community to inform residents about their new evacuation zones and what to do when a storm threatens the area.
“With all the changes from the hurricane evacuation study and through the Know Your Zone campaign … we are trying to reach residents impacted by the zone change,” Webster said. “A lot of folks who have felt like they were out of harms’ way, and now we see they are in harm’s way.”
Georgetown County emergency management officials are meeting with church groups and residents in their homeowner associations, but have not scheduled any public meetings, said Sam Hodge, director. Those meetings could be scheduled later, but if residents want to host Georgetown County officials for a meeting, they can call the emergency management office at 545-3273.
Officials changed evacuation zones for this season after using the latest technology, officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and an Army Corp of Engineers released a study showing storm surge impacts to better map out a model of which areas were most at risk during a storm.
Where once the Intracoastal Waterway served as a line of demarcation between coastal danger and inland safety, new models showed that areas of Horry and Georgetown counties that had never been under a mandatory evacuation order could be impacted by rising waters and should be evacuated, Webster said.
Residents living in Bucksport, the Waccamaw Neck and other inland areas away from the ocean, but near waterways such as the Waccamaw River and Intracoastal Waterway, also are now in evacuation zones.
Another change this hurricane season, which began June 1 and runs through Nov. 30, is that Gov. Nikki Haley will only issue mandatory evacuation orders. No more voluntary evacuation orders will be given.
Webster said his department is taking requests for meetings to discuss the changes, but will schedule them as time permits. They also are planning more public meetings across the county.
“It’s still early. We still get inquires every day with people wanting to know what zone they are living in,” Webster said. “We’ve got them scheduled and are scheduling more.”
Even though Cergol’s home isn’t in one of the new evacuation zones, she said attending the meeting was helpful because she learned what she should take when evacuating for a storm.
“He gave some really good pointers on how to get ready for it, things you should have like cash in small bills, and be ready so if you had to evacuate, you can go,” she said of her meeting last week that had about 40 residents in attendance. “I was surprised so many people showed up, but this is important.”
Contact TONYA ROOT at 444-1723.