2023 Hurricane Town Hall Recap

By Lynn Lewis - lynnl@landings.org
Communications Manager

The question du jour on Monday, June 12 was: “Are you ready for Hurricane Season?” Although the answer to that question is unique to each individual the advice to all is the same: Hurricane Season is here so be sure you are prepared.

The Landings Association held its annual Hurricane Town Hall Meeting on June 12 at 7 p.m. in Palmetto’s Ballroom.

Chatham Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) Director Dennis Jones shared that hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, with September being peak hurricane season. He said CEMA watches every system that comes our way closely, making sure to look at the science, analyze the data, and make recommendations accordingly. He reminded residents never to underestimate a storm and to leave immediately when an evacuation order is issued.

Jones then turn the meeting over to Emergency Preparedness Manager Chelsea Sawyer, who shared details on preparing for hurricane season, evacuating for a hurricane, and things to consider when returning home after a severe weather event. CEMA Volunteer and Landings resident Steve Brueske, a retired Meteorologist with the National Weather Service, along with CEMA volunteers Richard Lewis and Kayla Reynolds also were on hand distributing hurricane essentials to attendees. Items included information booklets and things to include in a hurricane kit (e.g., sunscreen, insect repellant, hand sanitizer, mini first aid kits, seat belt rippers, and mini tool kits).  

Sawyer shared that this year the forecast calls for 13 named storms, six hurricanes, and two major hurricanes. Although each storm is unique a few things are constant, including that the right front quadrant of the storm is the most dangerous part and water is the largest threat to life.

Because Chatham County has such a high storm surge potential, it is important always to remember this when deciding whether or not to evacuate.

“Water accounts for about 80 percent of direct deaths,” Sawyer said. “And it is important to know that the strongest storms are not always the deadliest ones.”

Sawyer displayed 2021 storm surge maps that show extremely high potential for storm surge in The Landings. She shared that the Continental Shelf in Georgia extends about 120 miles and is very shallow. When a storm surge pushes in, there is nowhere for the water to go. She added that a hurricane’s category has minimal bearing on storm surge, as each storm is different, and sometimes weaker storms can produce more flooding than stronger ones.

She then switched gears to the Cone of Uncertainty and its meaning. Sawyer added that CEMA noticed during Hurricanes Matthew and Irma that some people worry needlessly over what is known as the Cone of Uncertainty of hurricanes. Although this cone contains the probable path of the storm center, it does not show the impact or size of the storm, which means hazardous conditions can occur outside the cone.

“Even if your area is not within this cone, I encourage you to ask yourself more clarifying questions, such as is storm surge a possibility, or could a tornado spawn from this hurricane. Whatever you do, don’t make your sole evacuation decision based on the fact you are not in the Cone of Uncertainty.”

Sawyer encouraged the group to pay close attention to all CEMA-issued information during a potential hurricane or severe weather event and steer clear of websites containing information from those who are not weather professionals. She reminded residents that Chatham County’s evacuation zones were updated a few years ago, and that The Landings falls within Zone A, which is the first group to be evacuated. She explained that a general evacuation means that the decision to evacuate is left to the discretion of individuals (though strongly encouraged). In contrast, a mandatory evacuation means personal discretion is not an option. If an evacuation order is issued, Sawyer said she urges everyone in Chatham County to leave. She shared a story of a local couple who stayed behind during Hurricane Matthew because they were concerned about their material possessions and the possibility of looters. During the storm, a tree fell on the home and killed the husband while he was sleeping. She added that many people are unaware that if you choose to stay behind during a mandatory evacuation, your life insurance will be voided. CEMA recently verified this fact with the office of Georgia’s Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John F. King. 

“This is just one of many such stories,” she said. “Please remember, nothing in your home is more valuable than your life. You don’t want to do anything to jeopardize the insurance you’ve planned to leave behind for your loved ones in the event of your demise. Additionally, remember Chatham County has one of the greatest storm surge potentials on the East Coast. Knowing about this surge potential is a good reason to prepare and evacuate if an order is issued. We will not come and force you out of your homes, but there may come a point when you need emergency help, and no one can get to you.”

After sharing what to expect when an evacuation order is issued, Sawyer shared the importance of having a hurricane plan now. She encouraged residents to take pictures of each room in their home and place them with evacuation items. And when evacuating, be sure to bring important documents such as bills, insurance policies, and plenty of cash with you. If the power is out, merchants may not be able to accept debit and credit cards for purchases.

When packing your hurricane kit, it is a safe bet to plan to be away from home for a minimum of three days. Sawyer urged against purchasing ready-made hurricane kits off the Internet. Rather, she encouraged taking the time to build your own with items you know you will use and will bring you the most comfort. When packing your kit, be sure to include food, medications, hygiene supplies, first aid supplies, pet supplies, and general supplies.

 Sawyer then shared the reentry plan for Chatham County. As of June 1, 2018, Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) controls all reentry passes for the State of Georgia. Passes are required for phases one through three of the five-phase reentry plan. The following phases and their explanation are as follows:

  • Phase 1: Render Safe Task Force - This includes teams that work to render the area safe for first responders to conduct life and safety operations during phase 2. This phase requires a reentry permit.
  • Phase 2: Life-Safety Workforce - This phase includes first responders and others who conduct life and safety operations. This phase requires a reentry permit.
  • Phase 3: Essential Public and Private Sector Personnel - This phase includes individuals in the public and private sector who can restore essential operations, services, and commerce. This phase also requires a permit.
  • Phase 4: Local residents, property owners, and business owners - In this phase, access may be restricted to specific areas, and a curfew may be in place. This phase requires a valid, state-issued identification and an address in the impacted area or valid state-issued photo identification with proof of residency.
  • Phase 5: Open to the public with limited access - Local officials will have determined the County, or portions of the County, are relatively safe for entrance by the public. Restrictions and curfews may be used during this phase.

Sawyer encouraged residents to visit CEMA’s website (www.chathamemergency.org) when preparing their hurricane plans. On the website, residents can sign up for CEMA alerts. CEMA offers a “fast follow” text option. To register for text alerts from Chatham Emergency Management Agency, text CEMA to 77295. You can text “Stop” to 77295 at any time to discontinue receiving CEMA alerts.

The complete PowerPoint presentation from the meeting can be viewed by clicking here.

Following are some questions and answers from the 2023 Hurricane Town Hall Meeting

Q. Should I open my windows during a Hurricane to equalize inside pressure with outside pressure?
 No. Keep windows closed to minimize the impact of pressure inside your home. Attempting to equalize pressure during a hurricane by opening windows could cause negative impacts, such as your roof lifting.

Q. With construction and other upgrades still ongoing, will everything be in place for smooth contraflow on I-16?  
 Yes. Going toward Atlanta two contraflow arms are being replaced. However, everything will be up and running should an evacuation be ordered.

Q. Can we cover our windows in The Landings before evacuating.
 Yes. You can cover your windows for a short time immediately before the official threat of a hurricane or storm event. Window coverings must be removed following the threat within seven days.

Q. When was the last Hurricane in Chatham County that was a direct impact to our area.
. In 1979, Hurricane David directly hit our area bringing storm surge and heavy winds. 


CEMA Emergency Preparedness Manager Chelsea Sawyer shared tips for preparing for Hurricane Season with attendees of the 2023 Hurricane Town Hall Meeting. 











Pictured (l-r) are Emergency Preparedness Manager Chelsea Sawyer, CEMA Director Dennis Jones, and TLA Board Director and Treasurer Rosemary Mackey. On behalf of the Association's Board, Mackey thanked members for taking the time to attend the meeting and urged them to make sure to have an emergency plan in place now.

This article was originally published by The Landings Association on their website.

Visit landings.org to read the original article.