Edisto Beach evacuates in advance of Irma
by Cindy Crosby | September 9, 2017 11:33 pm
“At this point, we’re ready to go. Everything is in place. We don’t fool around with the safety of our residents.” – Jane Darby, Edisto Beach Mayor.
Friday afternoon, Edisto’s mayor, Jane Darby, was facing the realization less than a year after Hurricane Matthew left his devastating calling card on Edisto Beach – another storm, Irma, was bearing down on the southeast. This one, a monster who appeared to have her sights set on Florida, potentially heavily impacting both Georgia and South Carolina.
“At this point, we’re ready to go,” said Mayor Jane Darby on Friday afternoon. “Everything is in place. We don’t fool around with the safety of our residents. We have everything ready to move out on a moment’s notice.”
“I have to say, it is a little bit daunting,” said Darby. “We are at the point now that we feel like we have fully recovered, with the exception of a few small details. To actually think about doing it all over again, when it has been less than a year, is pretty stressful.”
Darby is taking what she learned during Matthew and putting it to work in preparation for Irma.
“We learned that we needed more chainsaws and more heavy equipment with the capability to pull trees out of the way,” said Mayor Darby. “Although Colleton County is our county seat, it is a long way from Edisto in that situation – especially when you don’t know what to expect.”
The possible storm surge from Irma was Darby’s immediate concern for Edisto Beach.
“We have several relative low-lying areas,” she said. “What we are doing at this point is watching the extended high tides and monitoring the causeway. We have asked the Department of Transportation (DOT) to monitor the low-lying bridges they are working on, along with the foot of the McKinley-Washington Bridge, which is also prone to flooding. In the event we do have to evacuate, we need to know if we can get off the island or if we would need to wait for low tide.”
The anticipated mandatory evacuation notice came on Saturday, when South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster ordered the evacuation of barrier islands in Colleton, Beaufort and Jasper counties, including Edisto Beach, beginning at 10:00 a.m. Saturday, September 8, 2017.
At approximately 1:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon, Mayor Darby stated the house-to-house notification for evacuation was complete and an 8:00 p.m. curfew would be in effect.
“The biggest hurdle with house-to-house notifications is how long it takes and having the staff to complete them,” she said. “We also re-check to make sure no one stays behind that we don’t know about. This allows us to know who we need to immediately check on when we arrive back – to make sure there are no injuries.”
Edisto Beach’s critical government staff will shelter in a hotel in Walterboro to wait out Irma. Police, along with fire and rescue personnel, will be the last to leave the beach and will be housed in safely designated areas during the storm.
Thinking ahead, Darby and her staff consulted with the DOT to ensure they would check roadways comprised by flooding in the aftermath of the storm. “We want to ensure the integrity of the roads and bridges and make certain they are not compromised before we send a lot of heavy traffic across it,” she said.
“It’s wait and see at this point,” she said. “I’ve told everyone to make two plans. Number one is to be prepared to evacuate – know what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it. The second thing is to be prepared to be self-sustaining for three days. We are going to get some impacts – we just don’t know how critical.”
“There are a lot of imponderables at this point, but you have to think about the worst possible scenario – and hope we never need it,” she said.