Tybee Island Mayor Worries Mild Storm Effects Will Cause Doubts For Future Evacuations

Sep 5, 2019

Hurricane evacuees from Georgia’s coast are returning home now that the mandatory order has been lifted.


Meanwhile, the effects of the third evacuation in four years raised questions about how the next evacuation might go.



The storm knocked down trees, blew debris and caused power outages. But the tide was not as high as predicted, and damage to the coast was minimal. That’s why Tybee Island Mayor Jason Buelterman says he’s concerned this could make people less likely to evacuate for future storms. 


“If that’s our biggest issue, convincing people to leave in the future, if you know, we don’t have homes that are flooded, we don’t have property that’s destroyed, we don’t have a beach that’s completely gone, we don’t have people’s lives turned upside down for the third time in four years, then that’s fine with me,” Buelterman said.  


Residents who stayed in town for Hurricane Dorian were out to survey the damage, however minimal.  


Steve, who asked not to use his last name, took the opportunity to illegally walk his dog, Otter, at Tybee’s North Beach.   


 “It’s the one day of the year we can sneak him down to the beach and we’re not gonna get in trouble,” he said.  


For those who did evacuate, the fact that there was so little damage could ultimately prove to be a financial hardship. 


Evacuating costs money — there’s gas, food and often a hotel. Meanwhile, about a quarter of Savannah lives below the poverty line. Outside a shelter in Dublin, Brenda Meeks of Savannah said that made for tough choices before the storm. 


“Either not eating, or not pay the rent,” Meeks said. “Or, don’t leave town, and they said it’s mandatory that we leave cause it might be a life or death situation.” 


If Meeks’ home had been damaged by Dorian, she would have been eligible for rent assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. With damage minimal, Meeks is likely left in a bind, just as she was after Hurricane Matthew.  


Which is why FEMA spokesperson Crystal Buchanan said the agency advises keeping a nest egg for the next evacuation.  


“One of the things we have been trying to recommend is, in addition to having an emergency disaster kit, is to consider having financial readiness for disaster,” Buchanan said.  


Meeks did not have emergency money saved up, so she is preparing for a difficult conversation one she's back home.


“I reckon by the time I tell the rent man I don’t have this money, then there’s going to be a situation,” Meeks said.