Beaches closed on Tybee Island; mandatory evacuation in effect - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Beaches closed on Tybee Island; mandatory evacuation in effect

(Source: WTOC) (Source: WTOC)

Mandatory evacuation for Tybee began earlier this morning. Mayor Jason Beulterman says most people followed the warnings and have boarded their homes and headed out of town. 

The beaches are closed. Now that the season is over, no lifeguards on staff. Clearly - it's a beautiful day. But with the strength of these tides, if you go swimming - it's not going to be pretty. 

You can see people thinking these higher waves are a good chance for surfing and parasailing. This is not the case. The Tybee Mayor says get out of the water, get off of the beach, but even more - get off of the island.

We spoke to him as he finished up a run on the island, and says if people think this is bad now - just wait. 

"Lifeguards are all gone so if anyone goes out there, they're out there at their own risk," said Mayor Jason Buelterman. "Rip currents are bad. They're bad right now. They're going to be significantly bad, significantly worse as this thing draws closer. So tonight's gonna be worse than right now. Tomorrow's gonna be really really bad and obviously Monday I can't imagine anybody even thinking about going out there."

A few people are still packing up and heading out tonight. We talked to one woman on a walk to see the island one more time before leaving. She says she is heading to a stranger's house.

Lynn Levinson needed a place to stay during Matthew. One couple - strangers at the time - took her in. This same couple says come on back for Irma, we have a place for you. 

Lynn says what worries her most about leaving the island is what the tides will do to the area. We do know that these tides have already been higher with the moon shift and will only continue to rise as Irma approaches the coast. Still no idea how hard this area will get hit, but Lynn says she's heading out tonight and knows she's got a place to stay.

"You know we were thrown together on a whim," said Lynn Levinson, Tybee Resident. "You know I didn't meet them in the normal way that you meet people and build up friendships. And this is one of my favorite couples in the world."

For people like Lynn - the sooner you get off the island the better. Highway 80 is your only road out and these tides could start flooding that route as early as this evening. 

Those who have not yet left, time is running low and tides getting higher. We're looking at dry land and blue skies now. But as we head into tonight's high tide it could actually come up and cover this only route off of Tybee.

Tides will start rising shortly with a peak around 9 p.m. Tides as high as 8 feet. This is a huge reason why the mayor strongly encouraged people to evacuate this morning.

If you're still on the island - get on the road. These water levels will only continue to rise.

"We've been putting advisories out there about high tide and how that is going to affect Highway 80 tomorrow and Sunday. I want to make sure people are aware of that because I don't want them to get stuck out here if the storm tracks closer to us and they want to get off the island. I don't want people to get stuck out here," said Mayor Buelterman.

Nobody wants that. So if you're one of the people we saw out on the beaches today - we strongly encourage you to pack up and head out as these tides are starting to rise now. 

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