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Evacuation: No regrets from those who defied storm and state

By Charles Swenson
For the Observer

Joe Bullard said he was worried about the fishing gear in his condo at Pawleys Pier Village, so he drove to Pawleys Island from Pennsylvania on the eve of Hurricane Matthew. “It wasn’t that bad,” he said. “I’ve been through worse things.”

He was among the people who signed a form circulated by Pawleys Island Police in advance of the storm acknowledging they understood an evacuation order was in effect. The form asks for their contact information and that of their next of kin. “It’s the same order we’ve been using for about 20 years,” Mayor Bill Otis said.

The point is to make people aware of the risk. With no emergency services available once the winds top 50 mph, people who stay in an evacuation zone are on their own. “We cannot risk their lives to help someone who has opted not to evacuate when told to do so,” said Sam Hodge, Georgetown County’s Emergency Management director.

Bullard said he walked to the end of the Pawleys pier to watch the storm roll in. He and neighbor Fred Collins rode out the hurricane together, confident that their condo building would withstand the wind and waves. Bullard said the North Causeway was submerged by the storm surge. “It looked like the ocean,” he said. “Everything was under water.” When the surge washed out, the condo village’s parking lot was covered in sand.

John Brown decided he would rather stay at his house on Pawleys Island than evacuate with his three big dogs. He and roommate Cori Ray rode out the hurricane on Atlantic Avenue. “I was prepared to leave,” Brown said, “but I have three elderly dogs and they are big. Traveling around with them was less than appealing, so I decided to stick it out.”

Brown said he watched one side of the house for falling trees while Ray watched the other. Except for some broken limbs, the trees weathered the wind, said to have peaked at 75 miles per hour. Storm surge caused some nervous moments, Brown said. “Water was moving pretty quickly down the streets, but all the standing water was gone within an hour,” he said. “Once the storm stopped I got outside and was walking around picking up debris and gathering garbage cans.” The next day he and Ray gathered some of the debris off the beach on the north end of the island.

He said he was glad he stayed but was thankful the storm came in as a Category 1 hurricane. “I heard a lot of other people drove to Raleigh and Charlotte and got flooded out there,” Brown said. “They were stuck in a hotel room in the pouring rain. It was beautiful here the day after the storm.”

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