If a Category 1, 2 or 3 hurricane approaches Beaufort County, some residents might have a choice to evacuate or ride out the storm.
For those who decide to hunker down, emergency management officials suggest you stay in a building that can withstand winds as high as 95 mph and have enough food and water on hand to remain self-sufficient for as long as five days.
Whether residents stay or go, they should have an emergency kit ready and a detailed evacuation plan, said Chuck Runnion, county emergency management operations officer.
"It's never too early to start planning," Runnion said. "People should already have their plans completed. We can't predict if a storm will change direction, and you don't want to be planning when something's bearing down on you."
Those with medical conditions, special needs or who require medication or other medical supplies also should have enough provisions for at least one week.
During the storm, emergency officials recommend that you:
Some emergency workers will remain in areas where evacuation is voluntary. But with Category 4 and 5 hurricanes, evacuation will most likely be mandatory for all of Beaufort County.
Category alone won't determine the type of evacuation ordered, however.
When officials issue a voluntary evacuation, it's likely a mandatory evacuation will follow, Runnion said. Officials will take into account the predicted threat or potential damage, he said.
"The best time to go is during the voluntary evacuation phase because you'll have the option of taking the route you want to take," Runnion said. "What we learned from Floyd in 1999 was that there's a lot of traffic congestion because a lot of people waited until the last minute to evacuate. People should try and leave sooner than later."
In the event of any evacuation, the Palmetto Breeze public transit system will provide transportation for some county residents who don't have a way to get to emergency shelters. The company created an online registry at www.palmetto breezetransit.com, where county residents can sign up for free rides.
On the website, click on the "Inside the Breeze" tab, then on "Hurricane Evacuation Information." There, residents will find the registry and other frequently asked questions about emergency preparedness, according to a company release.
Residents who ignore a mandatory evacuation do so at great risk to themselves and emergency personnel, Runnion said.