Elected officials hear about new Myrtle Beach area evacuation zones

troot@thesunnews.com June 25, 2012 

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— New evacuation zones that go further inland will create issues not only for coastal residents, but for those living in towns such as Conway where people evacuating will seek shelter or pass through on their way out of town.

Conway Mayor Alys Lawson was among more than a dozen elected officials to attend a Coastal Alliance meeting Monday in Myrtle Beach to hear about the new changes.

Lawson and Conway City Administrator Bill Graham, who also attended Monday’s meeting, each lost their homes in flooding along the Waccamaw River in Conway from the after effects of 1999’s Hurricane Floyd.

“Our road situation is not the greatest, so an evacuation will require extra days,” Lawson said. “We lost some shelters in Conway [under the new plan], but there will be extra shelters opened inland in Marion County.”

Webster addressed the basics of the new evacuation zones, which changed this year following the release of a study that used the latest technology to map storm surge impacts. Horry and Georgetown counties were among the first in the country to undergo the mapping by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Army Corp of Engineers.

“The land hasn’t changed, the technology has changed so we can see the surge,” Webster said and noted the evacuation zones are based on worst-case scenarios. “Not every storm is going to create this problem, but there will be storms that can. It’s a planning tool we use to plan for the worst and hope for the best.”

Where once the Intracoastal Waterway served as the boundary between coastal danger and inland safety, new storm surge models showed that areas of Horry and Georgetown counties that had never been under a mandatory evacuation order could be impacted by waters pushed inland by a surge, and should be evacuated, Webster said.

Residents living in Bucksport, the Waccamaw Neck, Carolina Forest 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 until Nov. 30, is that Gov. Nikki Haley will only issue mandatory evacuation orders. No more voluntary evacuation orders will be given.

Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes noted that Louisiana officials declared a state of emergency on Sunday and now Tropical Storm Debby has turned away from the state. The same situation could occur along the Grand Strand.

“We never know what to expect when there’s a storm along the coast,” Rhodes said.

George McKinney, director of the S.C. Emergency Management Division, told the group that a state of emergency is declared before a mandatory evacuation is issued to allow officials to get necessary resources in place to get people out of harm’s way.

“If the storm does turn, we can always bring you back in,” McKinney said.

Marilyn Hatley, North Myrtle Beach’s mayor, said she plans to discuss setting up an alternative emergency operation center at the county’s EOC so city leaders would be able to provide services if evacuated.

“We have got to make sure all our citizens are educated on these changes,” Hatley said after the meeting. “We all are going to have to prepare for the worst-case scenario.”

If you go

What | Know Your Zone Hurricane Town Hall meetings

When |

• 6 p.m. Tuesday, South Strand Community Center, 9650 Scipio Lane, Socastee

• 6 p.m. July 5, James R. Frazier Community Center, 1370 Bucksport Road, Bucksport

• 6 p.m. July 12, South Strand Community Center, 9650 Scipio Lane, Socastee

Contact TONYA ROOT at 444-1723.

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