Horry County emergency management planners worked with local schools and disaster officials this winter to triple the amount of shelter capacity in the county before the start of the Atlantic hurricane season.
Ten new evacuation shelters were added to the existing eight housed in area schools, said Horry County’s Emergency Management Director Randy Webster Friday during Gov. Nikki Haley’s annual hurricane tour of the coastal communities.
“Storm surge is the major killer,” Webster said. He added that even though a below average hurricane season is expected this year, it takes one storm making landfall in Myrtle Beach to devastate the area.
Hurricane season begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30.
A study released in 2012 spurred coastal emergency managers to redraw the evacuation lines for residents and businesses. Evacuation zone maps were produced based on the information provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Those groups used the potential for storm surge from hurricanes rather than wind speed to map new areas where residents could be impacted. So 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.
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.
Also in 2012, state officials eliminated voluntary evacuation orders and now Haley will only issue mandatory evacuation orders.
That study also showed that some evacuation shelters were vulnerable to storm surge, so officials reduced their capacity until schools further inland could be evaluated as potential shelters.
Now, shelters exist in Aynor, Conway, Galivants Ferry, Loris, Green Sea, Little River and Myrtle Beach.
“Our shelter went down to capacity of 4,000 and from 10 to eight shelters,” Webster said.
During the winter, officials increased the capacity to house 14,000 people in 18 shelters, he said.
That will help keep those in evacuation zones in the county and allow them to return sooner to their homes once the area is deemed safe after a storm, Webster said.
Officials urged residents and business owners to prepare now how they will evacuate, where they will go and how they will return and reopen after a storm.
“Failing to prepare is prepared to fail,” Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus said. “Hurricanes have the potential to be devastating to the economy of South Carolina, especially Horry County.”
Restarting the economy after a storm is important to return to the community to as normal as possible, Haley said.
“It only takes one storm to have your life changed,” Haley said Friday. “This is a time it’s not just about taking care of your family, but taking care of your business. ... This is a call to action to every citizen to make sure they have a plan.”
Officials plan to test their plans during a full-scale exercise on June 10, so residents will noticed increase activity along U.S. 501, U.S. 521 S.C. 544, S.C. 9 and U.S. 378, all the major evacuation routes out of the area.
“Actual disasters are not convenient,” said Capt. Rob Woods, S.C. Highway Patrol’s emergency manager. “It’s critical you know your route and critical you remain on that route until you reach your destination.”
Officials said residents should plan their response to a storm, what they will need and take from their home and where and how they will evacuate.
Contact TONYA ROOT at 444-1723 or on Twitter @tonyaroot.
Get ready for hurricane season
A basic emergency supply kit includes:
▪ South Carolina Hurricane Guide - to be included in Sunday’s newspaper and available at area Walgreens and Department of Motor Vehicle locations.
▪ Water: 1 gallon of water per person per day for three days
▪ Non-perishable food for three days per person
▪ Manual can opener
▪ NOAA weather radio
▪ Flashlight and extra batteries
▪ First-aid kit
▪ Personal hygiene items
▪ Work gloves
▪ Rain gear and towels
▪ Sturdy shoes
▪ Blankets/sleeping bags
▪ Change of clothing for each person in your family
▪ Local map
▪ Plastic plates and utensils
▪ Books, games and playing cards
▪ Tools such as wrenches and hammers
▪ Baby care items, as applicable
▪ Pet care items, as applicable
▪ Cellphone charger
▪ Prescription medication
▪ Copies of important documents such as family medical records, Social Security cards, birth certificates, insurance papers, will, deed, household inventory documents, etc.)
You can store all these items in a plastic bin and rotate food items and update changes to your documents such as household inventory items once a year.
Source: Horry County Emergency Management
Red Cross hurricane evacuation shelters in Horry County
▪ Aynor Elementary, 516 Jordanville Road, Aynor
▪ Aynor High, 201 Jordanville Road, Aynor
▪ Aynor Middle, 400 Frye Road, Galivants Ferry
▪ Blackwater Middle, 900 East Cox Ferry Road, Conway
▪ Conway High, 2301 Church St., Conway
▪ Conway Middle, 1104 Elm St., Conway
▪ Green Sea Floyds Elementary, 5000 Tulip Grove Road, Green Sea
▪ Green Sea Floyds High and Middle, 4990 Tulip Grove Road, Green Sea
▪ Loris Elementary, 901 S.C. 9 Business E., Loris
▪ Loris High, 301 Loris Lions Road, Loris
▪ Loris Middle, 5209 Highway 66, Loris
▪ North Myrtle Beach High, 3750 Sea Mountain Highway, Little River
▪ Ocean Bay Elementary, 950 International Drive, Myrtle Beach
▪ Ocean Bay Middle, 905 International Drive, Myrtle Beach
▪ Palmetto Bays Elementary, 8900 S.C. 544, Myrtle Beach
▪ Pee Dee Elementary, 6555 Highway 134, Conway
▪ Waccamaw Elementary, 251 Claridy Road, Conway
▪ Whittemore Park Middle, 1808 Rhue St., Conway