Gov. Haley, local officials urge residents to prepare for a hurricane now

State and local officials gathered Friday to urge Grand Strand residents and those visiting the area this hurricane season to get prepared now for a storm.

Hurricane season begins Sunday and continues until Nov. 30.

Gov. Nikki Haley made her annual “hurricane fly around” to the coastal areas of the state Friday meeting with local leaders and the media to discuss hurricane preparedness and public safety.

“In Horry County, your emergency management division is stellar. They absolutely are always on target whether it’s fires, whether it’s hurricanes or any other disaster,” Haley said. “Horry County is always ready, but what we need you to know is that while Horry County is ready and the state and all our agencies are ready, we need the people to be ready. This is the time we need you to really do your family planning.”

Residents should begin their family planning by packing their emergency survival kit, plan where they will evacuate to if told to do so and know if they live in an evacuation zone, officials said. Residents should also plan for their pets and be ready to help the elderly members of their family.

Randy Webster, Horry County’s emergency management director, said even though forecasters are predicting fewer storms this season, it does not mean the area will avoid impact from a hurricane.

“Now is the time to start getting prepared for whatever the season may present us this year,” Webster said. “We all know the forecast, to be honest with you I don’t put a lot of effort or a lot of credence into what the forecast is. It only takes the one that will impact us at some point in time. That’s our mission, that’s our goal is to be prepared for that one whether it’s this year or next year or in years to come. It’s happened in the past and its going to happen again.”

Two years ago, emergency officials created new evacuation zones in Horry and Georgetown counties based on a new study of storm surge impacts, evacuation times and the topography of the area.

From the study, emergency officials eliminated voluntary evacuation orders, instead the governor will only issue mandatory evacuation orders for coastal residents, which also includes some inland areas that are predicted to be vulnerable to surge and wind.

Where once the Intracoastal Waterway served as a line of demarcation 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 rising waters and should be evacuated, according to officials.

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.

Kim Stenson, director of the state’s emergency management division, said residents should evacuate their homes when they are told to do so during a hurricane.

“Most of the fatalities that are going to result from a hurricane scenario are probably going to be because of surge or because of flooding,” Stenson said. “When you get the word to evacuate we need to do that, all of us.”

Capt. Robert Woods with the S.C. Highway Patrol said officials have been planning for a hurricane evacuation since January, and officials will practice their plan on June 3. That practice includes placing troopers and transportation officials at key points along U.S. 501 where lanes will be reversed when an evacuation is ordered.

“We’re going to have everything in place to assist, to manage that evacuation traffic, but it’s critically important that each family has an evacuation plan,” Woods said.