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In South Carolina, only the governor can issue a mandatory evacuation order. Your local county and municipal officials are following the Governor’s directive and may enact local measures to support and augment an evacuation order as needed for public safety.
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Beaufort County Emergency Management, under the direction of the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, is the lead agency for all of Beaufort County. Its representatives decide re-entry routes and times. The Town of Bluffton follows the directives of Beaufort County Emergency Management during a hurricane or critical incident. The Town of Bluffton activates its own Emergency Operations Center, within the Bluffton Police Department, and its representatives are available to assist you with information during a storm event.
There are NO shelters available in Beaufort County during a hurricane. Beaufort County, also known as the Lowcountry, is comprised of low-lying land surrounded by marshes, rivers and other bodies of water. There are no shelters in Beaufort County due to its flat land and being flood prone. The Red Cross has opened some shelters in Jasper County during storm events. Please call the local Red Cross for further information. Shelter information, when available, will be included in the town’s updates to social media.
If you need transportation to a shelter prior to a storm, please call the Palmetto Breeze, the Lowcountry’s public transportation system at 843.757.5782. Please plan ahead; its buses cease operation once the storm and/or high winds begin.
The Town of Bluffton has jurisdiction over pollutants in Town neighborhoods, not flooding. Flooding is an issue which your Property Owners Association (POA) must address for many times, this is a result of the neighborhood’s infrastructure. However, there are tasks which residents and POAs can do to reduce the possibility of flooding. For one, please educate your neighbors to NEVER blow or put lawn debris and/or garbage of any kind in the storm drains. Pipes, ditches and storm drains are a part of the stormwater infrastructure and each one needs to be inspected and possibly cleaned out before Hurricane season. Any obstruction can cause a domino effect of flooding and that could result in damage to your house, your street or your property. Every resident is encouraged to help in this effort and ensure any ditch, pipe or drain near his or her property is clear of any obstruction.
Town employees inspect and clean out stormwater ditches which reside on Town or public property. However, numerous stormwater ditches are located on private property or in the jurisdiction of state or county roads. To ensure stormwater is able to flow unimpeded through the town’s infrastructure, all stormwater ditches need to be maintained and regularly cleaned, especially prior to a storm. This ensures a continuous flow of water and prevents clogged areas from flooding.
If you see a clogged drain, pipe or storm drain in your neighborhood, please notify your POA.
Hurricanes are fickle creatures of Mother Nature and one movement of the storm can change its trajectory. Many factors, such as land mass, ocean temperatures, tides and other weather variables also affect the impact or direction of these storms. Hurricanes are also capable of covering large amounts of space, therefore one movement in any direction can affect or not affect hundreds of miles of land, property and people. While predictions are always improving with technology, please remember, “You can put a person on the moon, however, you can’t predict a hurricane with precision.”
During a hurricane, the town’s emergency manager and town employees update the town’s social media accounts frequently to ensure our residents are receiving the most recent, accurate information. Social media is a wonderful tool, however, especially during a hurricane, it is important to ensure information received is from a credible source. Please be mindful to check if the information you are sharing and/or believing is attributed to a reliable source such as state, county or local government agency.
Hurricane Florence in 2018 presented an unusual situation in which South Carolina was evacuated but Georgia was not. Many South Carolina residents, who work in Georgia, voiced they felt conflicted between their work obligations and their personal safety. While this situation is rare, it is best to know your plan and parameters with your employer prior to a storm.
It is always a good idea to know what is happening regionally since there could be a domino effect on roads and other factors however this situation can also lead to mixed messages. Hurricane Florence in 2018 caused confusion about information sources. Due to the fact the Lowcountry region is within the Savannah media market, many people said they were confused since Beaufort County was being evacuated, but the Savannah, Georgia region was not. In this case, it is best to tune into your local and county government venues versus television stations. The Savannah area audience is the television station’s primary audience. The Lowcountry audience is secondary. Therefore, local government agencies will have more complete and specific information for your situation.
Yes, of course, you can evacuate before an official evacuation order. New residents, from other regions of the country, have asked this question. As a former emergency manager said, “When you see a storm brewing, it’s a perfect time to plan a trip to visit friends or family.” If you leave before an official evacuation order, you can travel freely via any route. Once an evacuation order is issued, you may have to take a prescribed route out of town and endure traffic congestion. If your schedule permits, leaving as soon as you are able can prevent congestion and personal frustration.
Mandatory evacuation orders are issued to save the lives of residents as well as first responders. If you choose to ignore the mandatory evacuation order, be prepared to be self-sufficient for the first 72 hours after a story. Hurricanes and tropical storms are unpredictable so realize your utilities could be damaged or unavailable including your electricity, water and phone service. Most importantly, if you call for emergency services, such as an ambulance, fire fighter or police officer, know they are not obligated to respond, especially if it places public safety personnel at risk for injury or loss of their lives. If you stay, be prepared to “be on your own,” until the threat of the storm has passed.