Emergency planners focus on hurricane's risk rather than its category

BEAUFORT -- Beaufort County's emergency management plan will no longer refer to a hurricane in terms of its category when preparing for a natural disaster.

Beaufort County Emergency Management hosted members of the local media at the Emergency Operations Center on Thursday afternoon to review hurricane protocol and discuss hurricane preparedness.

Hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean begins Sunday, and the county's emergency management team wants county residents to remember that it doesn't take a major hurricane to inflict major damage on homes and businesses in the Lowcountry.

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"We don't want people to get too wrapped up in category and, instead, focus more interest on the potential destruction that a hurricane could cause," said William Winn, director of Beaufort County Emergency Management. "We know that a Category 3 hurricane on high tide coming out of Savannah can cause Category 4 effects in Beaufort County."

If a storm appears headed for the county, residents would do well to evacuate their homes as soon as possible if they have an evacuation destination in mind, said Lt. Col. Neil Baxley of the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office.

"We encourage people to leave sooner rather than later if they know where they want to go because once a mandatory evacuation is issued, they are going where law enforcement officers on the road tell them to go," he said.