Independent sisters staying put in Bluffton for Hurricane Matthew

Sisters Verna Miles, left, and Shirley Tompkins say they won’t evacuate ahead of Hurricane Matthew.
Sisters Verna Miles, left, and Shirley Tompkins say they won’t evacuate ahead of Hurricane Matthew.

Verna Miles and her younger sister, Shirley Tompkins, aren’t too scared of Hurricane Matthew heading their way.

They’ve experienced a lot in their 80-plus years of living, including another hurricane about five years ago when they were staying in the Pompano Beach-Fort Lauderdale area near Florida’s southeastern tip.

“I’ve lived through that. I could live through anything,” said Tompkins, who turns 85 next month, while holding her white Maltese dog, Alexi, in her lap.

Gov. Nikki Haley, who earlier this week declared a state of emergency for South Carolina, said Thursday that the 175,000 who already had evacuated the coast was “not enough.”

But the sisters, interviewed Thursday afternoon in their Plantation Point condominium in Bluffton, are, like a lot of seniors living in the Hilton Head Island area, are fiercely independent.

“I can drive; I can walk; I can smoke. … I don’t take any medications,” said Miles, who will be 90 in January.

Tompkins has a daughter living nearby, while Miles has a son in the Lake Wylie area near Charlotte. Both women said they didn’t want to impose on their grown children as Hurricane Matthew arrived along the South Carolina coast Friday night.

“(My daughter) invited me over, but she has a lot of trees,” said Tompkins.

Although both women, who worked a variety of jobs over the years before retiring, can drive, both said they didn’t want to hassle with gasoline shortages and possible long traffic jams in a mass evacuation.

“I don’t see any sense in going any place,” Miles said. “What happens when you start out and get stuck along the way?”

“Plus you have a dog,” added Tompkins, “and not every place will take a dog, and I’m not going to leave her (Alexi).”

The sisters don’t believe the winds expected to be generated by Hurricane Matthew will be anywhere near as bad as what they experienced some five years ago when they were living in Florida. Miles said she remembers a large tree being blown across four cars where she lived in Fort Lauderdale.

Tompkins said she had a frightening experience at her seventh-floor Pompano Beach condominium.

“I just woke up and the windows broke, and it was sucking in the curtains, and I was yelling, ‘Help, help!’ ” she recalled.

Tompkins said that when she walked out onto the catwalk, she was blown aside, and “some men pulled me back in.”

“It was like a war zone in her kitchen,” Miles added.

Asked what they’ve done to prepare for Hurricane Matthew, Miles said they’ve pulled their front-window blinds and moved items off a table below the window.

“I’m sure it’s not hurricane winds,” Tompkins said about the approaching storm.

Rick Brundrett: 843-706-8114, @RickBrundrett