As Hurricane Florence made its way toward the North Carolina coast and strengthened to 130 mph winds on Monday, residents along Georgia’s coast prepared for the possibility of high, damaging winds from the storm’s outer-most bands.
Models of the possible hurricane track from the National Hurricane Center put Wilmington, N.C., in the direct path of Florence with projections that it could make landfall by Thursday. Nicki Brewer of the Georgia Ports Authority said early Monday afternoon that the agency had not yet issued any alerts but were in a “wait and see” posture.
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Dennis Jones, of the Chatham County Emergency Management Agency said during a press conference that agency officials didn’t anticipate “any significant issues with Hurricane Florence.” But people who live in Georgia’s coastal counties say that while it appears they will miss the brunt of the storm, they are not taking chances.
“We may have a false sense of security now, but we’re paying attention,” said Jane Easton, who lives on St. Simons Island. “We’re starting to collect bottled water and we’re putting it in the garage. We bought a generator last year after (Hurricane) Irma and we haven’t used it yet but we’re going to take it out and fire it up to see how it works.”
Easton was among many coastal residents ordered to evacuate last year as Hurricane Irma made its devastating run across Puerto Rico and threatened Florida and Georgia. The year before, Hurricane Matthew brought flooding to Georgia’s extreme southern coast. While Monday’s projections from the National Hurricane Center did not suggest the eye of the storm will make landfall on Georgia’s coast, the state could see some high winds and rain.
“Years ago, when I was growing up we thought, ‘It’s not going to hit us.’ because it didn’t, but now everybody’s just a little more alert,” said Claire Cofer of Darien.
She lives on the marsh but her home sits atop a slight bluff. Even so, Cofer said, past hurricanes have proven that there is no dependable defense against high winds and flooding.
Florence is a reminder that the 2018 hurricane season has begun in earnest. Already, there are two other storms off the coast of Africa that are heading across the Atlantic.
“We’ve got propane, water, a generator, shot records for the pets if we need to board them, and we’ve got charcoal if the power goes out and we need to cook the food in the refrigerator,” Cofer said. “We’ve got everything ready to go just in case we have to change gears.”
In Brunswick, memories of flooding from Irma sparked a small but steady number of customers to visit Central Hardware, said Baxter Shaw, store manager.
“It has been mostly elderly customers, but we’ve already sold batteries, flashlights and we sold 12 or 15 sand bags to one person,” Shaw said. “People are just getting ready.”
But if Florence does make a late shift in track, Eason and her family are prepared. And if there’s the slightest chance that things could become severe, they already have an exit plan.
“We’re not thrill seekers or risk takers,” said Eason. “Even if you survive the food issue, you’re still on St. Simons and if the power stays out long enough the sewer goes out. I’ve never used a latrine before and I don’t intend to start now.”