Haley preaches hurricane readiness during Beaufort visit

South Carolina is only as prepared for a hurricane as its residents and businesses are, Gov. Nikki Haley said Friday during a visit to Beaufort.

Haley and a group of state officials stopped at the Beaufort County Emergency Operations Center to meet briefly with local officials and tout hurricane preparedness. The stop was part of a three-city tour that included Conway and North Charleston.

"If we're going to have an active season, we're going to need a constituency that understands that when we make a call ... that those instructions are adhered to," Haley said. "This is a call to action to the families and businesses in this area. We need you to have a storm plan."

Hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean began Wednesday and ends Nov. 30. Forecasters from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say there is a 70 percent chance this hurricane season will produce 12 to 18 named storms, six to 10 hurricanes and three to six 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 nine feet.

Officials from the state's Highway Patrol, Department of Transportation and Emergency Management Division also discussed evacuation routes and trumpeted recently completed work at the intersection of U.S. 21 and U.S. 17 at Gardens Corner as an aid to law enforcement if an evacuation of northern Beaufort County were ordered.

"We can handle two-lane, three-lane or all-lane reversal if we need to at Gardens Corner," said DOT spokesman Dick Jenkins. "Folks will need to be particularly cognizant of what's going on there during an evacuation because the traffic pattern will be a little different there than what they're used to."

Jon Boettcher, chief of plans and mitigation at the S.C. Emergency Management Division, said state and local officials are ready for a hurricane and need residents and business owners to do their part.

"We, as the state, can't do it all," Boettcher said. "In this day and age of technology, people may not perceive themselves to be in real risk when ... they are. Storm surge remains the leading cause of death in hurricane-related deaths in coastal counties. I guarantee, if you have a plan and you exercise that plan properly, you will end up a survivor, and you won't end up a victim."