Tybee Island residents to begin evacuations at 8 a.m. Friday

TYBEE ISLAND, GA (WTOC) - Tybee Island Mayor Jason Buelterman has announced Tybee will begin evacuations on Friday at 8 a.m.

The mayor tells us the main reason they're evacuating a day earlier than the rest of the county is over flooding concerns here on Highway 80.

High tides are expected around late Friday night and both Saturday morning and Saturday night.

Just like Hurricane Matthew, Mayor Buelterman is reminding people that the decision to stay behind could be deadly. First responders will be limited in their abilities to rescue people especially in the peak of the storm.

Most people out here aren't taking chances. They're making some last minute preps at their homes and then hitting the road. As the storm gets closer, the mayor hopes everyone makes the decision to leave.

"This one has a forecast where it's supposed to come back at us," said Mayor Buelterman. "So this is a very different situation. People need to heed that evacuation warning and leave. There is no logical reason that I can possibly think of why anyone would choose to stay on Tybee Island."

The city is taking steps to help elderly people and others who cannot evacuate on their own. For help with that call City Hall at 912.786.4573.

Many folks out here are still rebuilding from Matthew. The windows are boarded up at City Hall. Everyone out here is preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.

For the second time in less than 12 months, Tybee Island residents are leaving their homes with a lot of uncertainty about what they'll come home to.

"We're very worried. If it swings back out and gets stronger and curls back in and hits Savannah or Charleston, it could be very devastating," said resident Rich Hammons.

"It's scary. This part is tedious but when we leave, not knowing what we're coming back to is pretty tough," said Paula Garrick.

The sandbags will be the last line of defense for many homeowners. The mayor said the potential storm surge is his biggest concern right now.

"Storm surge is the worst effect in terms of loss of life, and this looks like it could be a massive storm surge," said Tybee Mayor Jason Buelterman.

The mandatory evacuation order is much like the one issued for Matthew. First responders will leave the island as soon as tropical storm force winds hit.

"If people choose not to leave, they're not only their own lives, they're risking the lives of those who may be tasked with coming out to rescue them," said Buelterman.

For those packing these sandbags, they're not taking chances. They are still praying the storm takes a turn from their homes though.

"Hopefully this one will turn and miss us but you never know. We've been here since 89. We've been fortunate," said Mike Harrell.

"You gotta pick up and go and you leave your property behind. Loss of money, potential threats, insurance. Everything they're doing over in Texas. It's tough," said Hammons.

Many of these folks said the toughest thing is leaving behind everything they own—not knowing what they'll have to come home to.

Once again, that mandatory evacuation order goes into effect at 8 Friday morning. The mayor warned any residents—the decision to stay on Tybee could be deadly.

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