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Some business owners, residents elect to stay behind, deal with storm

  • Workers board up McDonough's in preparation for Hurricane Matthew. (Josh Galemore/Savannah Morning News)

Tybee Island and surrounding areas were quiet on Thursday after a mandatory evacuation in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.

Ed Alexander, who owns Dixie Pedaler & Golf Cart Rentals at the corner of Butler Avenue and Campbell Street on Tybee, said it has been a ghost town since the evacuation went into place. Alexander, who was hoping to leave later Thursday, was keeping the humor alive after boarding up his shop with a message that read, 'Last one off the island turn off the lights.'

Alexander said he's only lived on the island about five years and didn't share the mentality of some longer term island residents. "I haven't been through one before, so that's why I'm taking it seriously. I can see the, 'I've lived here for 40 years and hurricane has never hit,' syndrome that goes on," he said.

"... I'm not going to stay here through an 11-foot storm surge... I think people are finally heeding the warning except for some of the old timers that have been here forever."

All along the island, buildings were boarded up in preparation for the winds. The Tybee Market IGA was one of the only places still open with a few customers getting groceries about 11 a.m.

Tybee residents Sam Sahr and Susan Follett, who were buying last minute supplies Thursday, said they had no plans to evacuate. The ladies have lived on the island's north end about 20 years.

"We left last time and I said unless death is imminent I'm not leaving," Sahr said. "We cleaned up the outside (of our house) and we're about to go home and cook in case we lose power."

Sahr said she evacuated for Hurricane Floyd in 1999 and it took her almost four hours to travel from Garden City to Bloomingdale, but this time she had a calm feeling about the storm.

"We're sticking together," Follett added. "We have faith in the Lord, if it's our time then we're going to go, if not then he's going to bless us and we're still going to be here."

Riding out the storm

Less than a block away from the Savannah Civic Center, downtown resident Denise Picker was taking her small dog, Violet, out to play fetch in a square.

Picker said she weathered several intense storms when she lived in the Long Island area, and she’s not too concerned about Matthew.

“We were told we don’t need to worry,” Picker said. “The house has been here since 1825.”

Picker said she was aware of many other downtown residents deciding to stay through storm.

“In Savannah, downtown, it’s another excuse for a party,” she said.

Mayor Eddie DeLoach said he thought the evacuation was going well so far, but that he’d be staying downtown until the hurricane passed, spending most of his time at the city’s emergency coordination center.

“I’m here for the storm,” DeLoach said.

Several downtown businesses were boarding up Thursday afternoon. Others had already closed, and normally busy corridors like Drayton Street had minimal traffic.

The marquee above Savannah Theatre displayed a wishful message: “Go east Matthew.”

Across the street from the theater, typically busy McDonough’s Bar & Restaurant was boarding up its windows.

Owner Billy Lee said it’s the first time in 30 years of business he’s taken such measures.

“I’ve had a bad feeling about the storm since I first heard about it,” Lee said. “... I’m really afraid it’s going to cause a lot of damage. I wouldn’t be closed, but the governor insists it’s a mandatory evacuation.”

Lee said he plans to ride out the storm and he plans to reopen Saturday evening “depending on the weather.”

And like the theater across the street from his bar, Lee had a wish for Matthew: “Please pass us by.”

Buses headed out of town

A fleet of Savannah-Chatham public schools buses idled in the Civic Center parking lot on Thursday afternoon as the city tried to usher residents out of town.

By 4:30 p.m., roughly 700 people had arrived at the Civic Center to head to shelters in Augusta. Many had been bused in by Chatham Area Transit from local homeless shelters and group homes.

Lachelle Sims and Daun Gillette, who both live at a local shelter, were waiting together for a bus about 2 p.m.

Sims, who has two small children, says she had to rush to get ready. In the hours before Gov. Nathan Deal declared a mandatory evacuation for all areas east of Interstate 95, everyone had been acting normal, Sims said. Both said they wished they had more time to gather their belongings.

“We only knew because of the news,” Sims said. “… It was a rapid change.”

Mary Nicholas, meanwhile, was waiting in front of the Civic Center with her suitcase. She had yet to enter the building to be assigned to a bus. The 26-year-old moved to Savannah from Jacksonville one week ago and has been staying at a homeless center. She hadn’t been able to get in touch with her boyfriend, who lives at another shelter, because neither of them have phones and rely on email.

Nicholas sent him a message to tell him to meet her at the Civic Center, but, as of 2:15 p.m., he had not arrived.

“I just hope he got the email and is coming here,” Nicholas said. “But I have no idea. I really don’t want to leave without him.”



If you stay at home:

  • Unplug any appliances you can

  • Stay away from doors and windows

  • Avoid contact with conductors of electricity - appliances, metal objects and water

  • Stay away from power lines or any low hanging wires

  • Secure any items that could be easily blown around by strong winds.

  • Listen to local authorities for advice and protective actions. Don't forget to include pets in your preparations.

  • Create a family evacuation plan that details how and where you will evacuate and where you will meet if you are separated.

  • Residents and tenants should inspect their homes to confirm that there is no damage that a hurricane could increase. Residents with yards should also make a list of anything laying on the ground outside that could get tossed into the air and become debris during high winds.


After the storm

  • Help injured or trapped persons.

  • Give first aid where appropriate.

  • Do not move seriously injured persons. Call for help.

  • Return home only after authorities advise that it is safe to do so.

  • Inspect the outside of your home and surrounding area before attempting to enter.  If you are unsure of the stability of the structure, DO NOT ENTER.

  • Enter your home with caution.

  • Avoid loose or dangling power lines and report them immediately

  • Check refrigerated foods for spoilage.

  • Use telephone only for emergency calls.

  • Stay tuned to local radio for information.

  • Open windows and doors to ventilate and dry your home.

  • Beware of snakes, insects, and animals driven to higher ground by flood water.

  • Take pictures of the damage, both to the house and its contents and for insurance claims.

  • Drive only if absolutely necessary and avoid flooded roads and washed-out bridges.


Inspecting Utilities in a Damaged Home

  • Check for gas leaks--If you smell gas or hear blowing or hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave the building. Turn off the gas at the outside main valve if you can and call the gas company from a neighbor's home. If you turn off the gas for any reason, it must be turned back on by a professional.

  • Look for electrical system damage--If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, or if you smell hot insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If you have to step in water to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker, call an electrician first for advice


What You Need

  • Three days’ worth of non-perishable, packaged or canned food/juices

  • Three days’ worth of water (one gallons per person, per day)

  • Infant formula and baby food, if appropriate

  • Snack foods (nuts, granola bars, energy bars)

  • Water-purifying supplies, such as iodine tablets or unscented household chlorine bleach (use 16 drops per gallon of water)

Medicine and Hygiene

  • Basic toiletries such as toothpaste and soap

  • Prescription medications, plus a list of meds and how to take them

  • Pain reliever such as aspirin or Tylenol for adults and children

  • Bandages in assorted sizes

  • Anti-diarrhea medicine

  • Insect repellent

  • Wet wipes

  • Hand sanitizer

  • Eyeglasses and/or contact lens supplies

  • Toilet paper

  • Tweezers

  • Cough medicine

  • Special needs: contact lens solution, hearing aid, hearing-aid batteries

Communication Gear

  • Battery-powered radio and extra batteries

  • NOAA weather radio

  • Cellphone charger (ideally, one that works in the car and a portable charger)

  • Extra cellphone battery

  • Copy of family disaster plan (include two places to meet and phone number for an out-of-area contact)

  • List of family’s and friends’ contact numbers


  • Medical information: health insurance card, doctor’s name and phone number, immunization records and prescriptions, including those for glasses and contacts

  • Copy of driver’s license

  • Account and service numbers for utilities, credit cards, mortgage or lease, checking, savings and investment accounts

  •  Copies of three most-recent federal and state tax returns

  • Inventory of your possessions

  • Backups of critical digital information

  • Copies of wills and emergency directives

  • Copies of documents in a safe deposit box, if you keep one, otherwise, include those actual documents as well

  • Copy of your insurance coverage and the contact numbers you might need if you need to make a claim

  • Recent photographs of you and your family members

  • CD or video footage of valuable possessions

  • Copies of passports, licenses and birth certificates

  • Written instructions on how to turn off electricity, gas and water if authorities advise you to do so. (Remember, you’ll need a professional to turn them back on.)

Pet Needs

  • Collar with identification and rabies tags

  • Pet carrier (canvas ones fold down for easy storage) and bedding

  • Three days’ worth of food, water and medications

  • Favorite toys

  • Flea collar/pills/drops

  • First-aid kit

  • Pet’s medical records

  • Recent color photo of your pet, plus one of you and your pet together to document ownership

  • Litter box and litter

  • Leash

Other Basics

  • Extra clothing

  • Whistle

  • Cash with some small bills (banks and ATMs might not be available)

  • Flashlight

  • Protective clothing, rain gear

  • Bedding or sleeping bags

  • Toys, books and games

  • Special items for infants, elderly or disabled family members

  • Keys

  • Plastic garbage bags

  • Notebook and pen

  • Blankets (one per person)

  • Chlorine bleach (for disinfectant purposes)

  • Gasoline container

  • Matches in waterproof container

  • Manual can opener

  • Pots, skillet, utensils, camp stove

  • Paper plates/plastic utensils

  • Lumber

  • Duct tape

  • Tarps

  • Sand bags

Portable generator safety facts:

  • Always read the operator’s manual first and follow the manufacturer’s recommended precautions and procedures.

  • To prevent emissions from drifting indoors, always place a portable generator as far away from doors and windows as possible.

  • Place your generator downwind and point the engine exhaust away from occupied spaces.

  • Stay alert with carbon monoxide detectors. Install a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector according to manufacturer’s instructions and check the battery regularly.

  • If you feel sick, dizzy or weak while using your portable generator, get to fresh air immediately and call 911 for emergency medical attention.

  • More information is available at and in the attached news release.