‘We need you to leave’: Residents urged to evacuate as Hurricane Irma threat looms
Residents are urged to leave the county ahead of the threat of Hurricane Irma.
Jasper County officials held a press conference at the county’s Emergency Services building Thursday afternoon and stressed the severity of the pending storm.
An evacuation is not yet mandatory, but Jasper County Fire Chief Wilbur Daley, County Council Chairman Marty Sauls, and Jasper County Sheriff Chris Malphrus said it’s safest to evacuate before the hurricane strikes.
A mandatory evacuation is expected to be announced by Gov. Henry McMaster 10 a.m. Saturday.
Hurricane Irma is expected to hit the Georgia-South Carolina border Monday afternoon. The hurricane could be a Category 2 or Category 3 storm.
“This is a storm not to play with,” Daley said. “We need you to leave.”
Said Malphrus: “This is a big storm. Do not take it lightly. Get out as soon as possible.”
Officials from the county, Ridgeland and Hardeeville joined together to stress the importance of taking the threat seriously.
“We are here to stand and protect this county. We want you to know we are not trying to be forceful, but take this serious,” said Daley, who advised people to have enough food and water for at least three days.
Those who stay were advised that law enforcement can’t respond to calls once the wind hits 39 miles per hour or greater. Staying through the storm could put those at risk if law enforcement is unable to immediately respond to a call.
Ridgeland-Hardeeville High School is the site of the county’s shelter. Daley said the shelter is for those who can’t leave the county. People who can leave are urged to do so.
Those who go to the shelter should bring their own clothes, blankets, and other necessary supplies. Cots will not be provided.
No pets are allowed. The shelter will likely be open when the mandatory evacuation is announced.
Last year about 1,100 people utilized the shelter during Hurricane Matthew.
Residents who do not have a ride to the shelter in Ridgeland are asked to go to their nearest fire department to get a ride.
Sauls remembers the devastation of last year’s hurricane and thinks the county is prepared to face Hurricane Irma.
“It’s gut-wrenching,” he said. “But we made it through Matthew, we’ll make it through this by God’s grace.”
Sauls said after the storm the county plans to do its best to allow people to quickly return to their homes.
“We are going to get this done fast and we are going to have them come back in as fast as possible,” he said.
The town stressed that even if Irma’s winds weaken, it is still capable of producing extreme storm surge.
It’s advised to never drive in standing water, never walk or drive over fallen power lines and never stand in puddles near fallen power lines.
Residents are urged to take their pets and have proper identification (driver’s license or utility bill) if it’s necessary for re-entry, and important documents.
For emergencies, call 911.
For information and re-entry purposes only, call 843-726-4421.
All county government offices are closed Friday and will be until further notice.