SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — As COVID-19 cases continue to climb across the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry, concerns are mounting about hurricane evacuations.
Chatham County Emergency Management (CEMA) says they do expect the evacuation of the general public and those in hospitals to take longer than normal if a storm were to hit right now.
Pre-COVID, for a major storm, CEMA usually anticipates 36 hours for complete evacuations of Chatham County. For lower impact storms, 24 hours is needed to evacuate everyone.
Now, CEMA is expecting to need about 48 hours to evacuate the county by taking COVID-19 and restrictions into account.
That’s because of the current number of COVID-19 cases and staffing issues. Partly due to CAT buses being used to transport evacuees and a need right now for more drivers.
CEMA also plans to keep family units separate to ensure social distancing to limit potential exposure to COVID.
With the help of a partnership with Georgia Emergency Management and the Red Cross, technical colleges state-wide are ready to provide plenty of space.
“It’s going to take us a little bit longer in order to be able to do that. Because of the COVID environment, shortages in staffing. We need more assets. Assets include people as well,” said CEMA Director Dennis Jones.
For residents with functional, access or special medical needs, the Coastal Health District has a hurricane registry for getting extra assistance in the event of an evacuation.
This applies to adults or children living at home under the care of family or trained medical professionals who need special assistance while evacuating before a storm.
You need to apply in advance to be on the registry through the Coastal Health District website here.
“We encourage everybody to already know where to go, how they are going to get there. Develop that plan now,” said Jones.