Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Hurricane Preparedness Report

Coastal Georgia Edition

I guess we're decidedly average. At least that's what the Insurance Information Institute says:
Homeowners in Southeast Georgia are more prepared for hurricanes than those in some coastal areas and less prepared than others.
Wow. That statement sounds like something an athlete says to keep from jinxin' himself before a game. But I can understand not wanting to jinx ourselves in the Coastal Empire: it has been over 100 years since our last direct hit.

(That loud knocking sound you just heard was every South Georgia reader tap-tap-tapping on the nearest wooden object...)

The problem down here isn't about preparedness, it is about transportation. If we are in serious danger, we have to leave by auto. Trains are all freight, airports are all private (or might as well be), and boats would be suicide. Island City has one four lane causeway connecting it to the mainland. This roadway is prone to flooding when incliment weather threatens. Jekyll has one two lane causeway. This roadway may cease to exist in incliment weather situations. Sapelo & Cumberland, though low in population, require a ferry ride back to shore. Hillary links to a NYT article describing what can happen to boats in incliment weather situations.

Once back on the mainland, we have little more than three ways out: Us HWY 17/I-95 North towards Savannah, US Hwy 341 towards Jesup & US Hwy 82/GA Hwy 520 towards Waycross. You can forget travelling South away from any hurricane that makes it close enough to provoke an evacuation.

Now, the problem with travelling North is that 1) everyone else will be doing it, 2) everyone in Savannah will also be leaving and 3) if the hurricane turns at the last minute, history proves it will turn North. Since both 95 and 17 travel in a NNE direction, you almost have to move towards the hurricane (which is usually approaching from the East) to get away from it. I-95 has also been under constant construction for the last two decades, so there is no telling what shape the road will be in and Hwy 17 is about 2 feet above sea level at some places, and - you guessed it - is prone to flood in incliment weather.

Option 2: West X Southwest. This is Hwy 82/Ga Hwy 520. This will take you through the hamlets of Nahunta and Hoboken on your way to Waycross. Within one hour, you have the options of heading north on Hwy 1, or continuing west on either 82 or 84. The problems: 1) to get to Waycross, you have to travel through land affectionately known to us South Georgians as 'the swamp.' This area is prone to flood in incliment weather, except you add a new wrinkle: alligators. 2) everyone in Florida will also be leaving, so you face what appears to be some sort of blue jean shorts invasion between you and your escape. 3) Once you are on Hwy 82, there is really no getting off Hwy 82 until you actually make it to Hoboken. I mean, there are backroads and 'GA Hwys' you can take, but be sure to have your South Georgia guide present.

Option 3: Northwest to Jesup. This is the best way out of the Coastal Empire in the event of an evacuation. Driving completely away from the oncoming storm towards higher elevation and some Highway options once you get there. The drawback: everyone else in Island City knows this, too, so be ready to drive 42 miles in 8 hours.

That means the best thing to do is leave early to avoid the traffic. And when you leave, don't stop until you get to Valdosta, Macon or Athens. Waycross can be a fun place to visit, but not with 500K other hurricane evacuees.

If, however, you can't get off the Island in time, I'll see you at Gnat's. I promise I'll have a much better chance of surviving on the lee side of an island with cold beer in the mason jar in my hand than sitting in traffic on any Georgia highway.


nikka said...

buddy, if you ride out the big one at gnat's with a beer in your hand, you better hope the hurricane takes you out. 'cause if it doesn't, i'm coming down there with an angry red-headed woman and a big skillet. now, when we get there, ruby will probably be too grateful that you're still alive to properly attack, but i'll be there to put the fear of small dutch women in you.

Patrick Armstrong said...

Like I said, I'd have a better chance of riding out the big one in a bar than riding out the big one in a car.