HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SC (WTOC) - The town of Hilton Head Island has not yet closed any of its public beaches entirely, and officials say right now, they are not planning to do so.
The beaches look pretty normal Thursday. People are in the water and even surfing to take full advantage of the rough waters Hurricane Florence is bringing to the area. That's not without lifeguards on standby with high rip current warnings.
Beach Patrol is also staying busy removing unattended items like chairs and kayaks. The mayor says this is a common precaution so items don't become airborne during high wind storms. As far as closing down the beaches of Hilton Head, Mayor David Bennett says it's just hard to do.
"Our public beach parks, in terms of accessing restrooms, are closed," Mayor Bennett said. "There is no staff in place from a facility standpoint to monitor them, but it's rather hard to enforce closing your beaches. Obviously, there are some rip current warnings out and those should be heeded."
As far as evacuations, the Cross Island toll still remains free. When the initial evacuation was ordered, the toll closed down, but since the order has been lifted, there is no word yet on when they will pick back up with payments.
The mayor says it's clear that people have left the island. Vacationers told us the same thing. They also say it's been back and forth on whether to stay or go.
"They reversed it, so the resort said that we could stay," said Nancy Dean, who is visiting from Oklahoma. "A lot of people left on Tuesday. It cleared a lot of people out. Then, we saw a lot of people leave on Wednesday, but we've talked to a lot of locals and all of the locals are saying it's going to be fine, so we are kind of just going by that."
Those vacationers were on Hilton Head Island around this time last year and evacuated from Hurricane Irma. This year, they said they wanted to make the most of their trip so they'll leave only a day early.
It's the businesses who are hunkering down and even boarding up.
Some business can't close, but Whole Foods, for instance, is prepping. They boarded up half of their windows and put out sandbags. Others in the Fresh Market Plaza were completely boarded and closed.
Vacation rentals are still running and they are also prepping the condos however they can.
"We need to make sure that our guests are informed. As we get the information, we pass it along to them," said Stacey Sacha, Resort Rentals of Hilton Head. "It's also making sure that we communicate with our owners because our owners are absentee owners. They are not here on the island. We've been fielding phone calls from them, making sure that their property is secure or making sure we have their patio furniture pulled in."
"If they are uncomfortable with whatever news they've been given, maybe here during Irma they had flooding. If they are uncertain or concerned and they have the opportunity and means, they should take this as an opportunity today, to go to a place that provides them a higher degree of safety."