2024 Hurricane Town Hall Recap

By Lynn Lewis - lynnl@landings.org
Communications Manager

The question du jour on Tuesday, June 18 was, “Are you ready for Hurricane Season?” Although the answer to that question is unique to each individual, the advice to 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 18 at 7 p.m. in Palmetto’s Ballroom. New members, along with some long-time members, joined the session to hear what Chatham Emergency Management Agency’s team had to share regarding Hurricane Season.

CEMA Deputy Director Randall Matthews shared that Hurricane Season runs from June 1 to November 30, with September being the peak of the season. He noted that CEMA watches every system that comes our way closely, making sure to look at the science, analyze the data, and make recommendations accordingly. This year, the forecast shows 23 named storms and 11 hurricanes, with five being major hurricanes. Matthews reminded residents never to underestimate a storm and to leave immediately when an evacuation order is issued.

“Remember, property can be replaced, but you can’t be replaced,” he said.

Matthews then turned 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 volunteer Richard Lewis, also were on hand distributing hurricane essentials to attendees. Rick Cunningham and Patty Morgan showcased Smart Irrigations Controllers, courtesy of the Mal Welch Water Wise project, sponsored by Skidaway Audubon, in partnership with the Strategic Water Committee of The Landings Association.

Sawyer shared 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 storm surge maps that show extremely high potential for storm surge in The Landings. She said 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. Additionally, the Cone of Uncertainly is only 60 percent accurate.

“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  to steer clear of websites or social media posts 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 person who stayed behind during Hurricane Matthew because he was concerned about material possessions and the possibility of looters. During the storm, a tree fell on the home and killed the man 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 may be voided. CEMA verified this fact in 2023 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. No one will 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. When sustained tropical storm force winds reach 39 miles per hours, it will be unsafe for our First Responders to respond to your calls for help.”

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 and the possessions in their home and place them with evacuation items. And when evacuating, be sure to bring important documents such as bills, marriage licenses, divorce decrees, birth certificates, 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. To view CEMA’s new, dedicated Hurricane Preparedness Resources webpage, click here. To view CEMA’s Hurricane Operating Conditions click here.



New Landings members, along with some long-time members, joined the session to hear what Chatham Emergency Management Agency’s team had to share regarding Hurricane Season.









CEMA Deputy Director Randall Matthews opened the meeting and shared the importance of evacuating when a mandatory evacuation is called.








CEMA Emergency Preparedness Manager Chelsea Sawyer shared the danger posed by the threat of  spinoff tornadoes during a hurricane.

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

Visit landings.org to read the original article.