Governor makes rounds to warn residents of hurricane dangers

Beaufort County is long overdue for a major hurricane and residents should prepare themselves, their families and their homes for the worst, Gov. Mark Sanford said Monday during a visit to Beaufort.

Sanford and other state officials stopped at the Beaufort County Emergency Operations Center to preach hurricane preparedness as part of a three-city tour that included Conway and North Charleston.

"This is just a simple reminder to citizens to get their kits ready, familiarize themselves with the evacuation routes and remember that these storms can hurt more than just things if they don't get out of the way," he said.

"We are long overdue for a big storm," said Sanford, a former Beaufort County resident. "It's been a long time since Beaufort County was hit by a major storm, and at some point our number is going to be up."

Hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean began June 1 and ends Nov. 30. Forecasters from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say there is a 70 percent chance the 2009 hurricane season will produce nine to 14 named storms, four to seven hurricanes and one to three major hurricanes. NOAA classifies a major hurricane as a storm capable of producing winds greater than 111 mph and a storm surge of more than 9 feet.

Sanford said the economy makes it tempting for some families to skimp on hurricane preparations, but that would be "an awful mistake."

"There are certain things that you've got to prioritize," Sanford said. "Are times tough for many of our families? Absolutely. But hurricane preparedness is something you have to carve out room and time for."

Officials from the S.C. Highway Patrol, S.C. Department of Transportation and S.C. Emergency Management Division also briefly discussed evacuation routes, including how an ongoing construction project at Gardens Corner might affect the evacuation of northern Beaufort County.

"We are working with the contractors and will maintain the lane reversals at that intersection as planned," DOT spokesman Tony Sheppard said. Gardens Corner is located at the intersection of U.S. 21 and U.S. 17 and will be used by law enforcement to get motorists onto Interstate 95.

Beaufort County Administrator Gary Kubic said he's confident the county has done all it can to prepare for a storm making landfall near Beaufort this year.

"Each day we prepare, practice and invest in a plan that we hope never has to be implemented," he said.