Horry County Council Chairman Johnny Gardner speaks hours before Hurricane Dorian arrives
Horry County officials estimate only a small percentage of people followed evacuation orders ahead of Hurricane Dorian.
Last year, more than half of the people followed evacuation orders ahead of Hurricane Florence as it targeted the Myrtle Beach area. This year, however, Assistant County Administrator Randy Webster estimated only 15 percent of people evacuated.
As Hurricane Dorian inches close to the Grand Strand, Gov. Henry McMaster ordered those in Zone A — basically the areas closed to the coastline — to evacuate. During Hurricane Florence, all zones were ordered to evacuate and officials say 60 percent of those people found safer areas to stay.
In 2012, over 30,000 people lived in Zone A, though that figure has likely increased with county-wide population growth, county spokesperson Kelly Moore said.
Webster said the evacuation percentages are higher in some areas, but he would have liked to have seen more people leave. He spoke during a Wednesday news conference where county leaders updated the public on Hurricane Dorian preparation efforts.
“It’s concerning, but we still have time for those numbers to increase. I hope they do,” Webster said.
People who stayed can expect possible hurricane-force winds, life-threatening storm surges and a small potential for tornadoes. He said the worst impact will be east of Conway.
Webster said all areas of Horry County could experience rough conditions and should make preparations.
Hurricane Dorian impacts are not expected to hit Horry County in full until Thursday morning. Once it arrives, people who stayed need to hunker down and take care of each other, Webster said. Sheriff Phillip Thompson and Horry County Police Chief Joe Hill both reminded residents conditions might reach a point where it’s unsafe for police to respond.
“We will not put public safety officers at risk for people who did not leave,” Webster said. “You may be by yourself for some time.”
Myrtle Beach Spokesperson Mark Kruea said folks not evacuating isn’t a huge strain on city operations, but he said it is probably in the best interest of folks to leave the area.
“You have time to take action. You should take action,” Kruea said Wednesday afternoon. County leaders asked people to leave before sunset. After that, it was time to prepare for the hurricane.