Tybee Island Mayor: Evacuation decision to be made on Wednesday

Tybee Island Mayor: Evacuation decision to be made on Wednesday
Published: Oct. 4, 2016 at 2:23 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 5, 2016 at 1:53 AM EDT
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(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)

TYBEE ISLAND, GA (WTOC) - After a meeting held Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Jason Buelterman said he is confident that waiting until Wednesday would still give them time to safely evacuate the island.

Tybee's mayor, police and fire chiefs along with CEMA and other county officials had a conference call with the folks from the national weather service in Charleston.

Mayor Jason Buelterman told WTOC his number one priority is to make sure all of his residents are ready if Matthew continues its shift west.

He says that Tropical Storm Hermine may qualify as a warning shot, but you'll recall, it entered from the west. Hurricane Matthew immediately becomes a more dangerous storm coming in from the Atlantic Ocean.

And he says his conference call Monday with the Chatham Emergency Management Agency and National Weather Service reinforced that.

"The message was pretty loud and clear that we need to be watching this very carefully as the projected path has shifted pretty considerably to the west over the last 24-hours. And that path could still shift either east or west even closer to us so that we need to be watching this thing very carefully," said Mayor Buelterman.

On Tuesday, city workers already started boarding up windows at City Hall, the library and fire station.

Remember, lifeguarding season is over so folks are now swimming at their own risk. However, the Tybee Island Fire Chief says it's very likely that they will fly a double red flag on Wednesday and actually close the waters in addition to closing public access to the beach.

The annual Pirate Festival will be postponed to a later date. It usually brings a crowd of about 20,000.

"We were hoping to get more of a tan – so that's definitely ruined the tanning plans. We definitely keep pulling up the weather app to keep up to date on how far the storm. Hopefully, if we can survive until Friday when our vacation is over with," said Justin Houston, a tourist.

On Tuesday, Mayor Buelterman told WTOC they will make a decision on Wednesday about whether residents and visitors should evacuate the island.

"So we want to make sure that our residents understand that this is a very serious issue—way more serious than Hermine that we just went through a few weeks ago.  And that they should be preparing for a worst case scenario which is the possibility of an evacuation tomorrow," said Mayor Buelterman.

Pirate Fest was originally scheduled this weekend but has since been canceled. It is considered one of the busiest weekends for rental agencies like Oceanfront Cottage, almost all 100 of their properties are booked this weekend but that will not happen if folks are required to evacuate for this storm.

"We are waiting to hear from the city of Tybee. We are going to follow their lead. We will notify our guests. We've got several employees and we will be calling our guests to advise that there has been a mandatory evacuation," said Amy McLarty, with Oceanfront Cottage Rentals.

Whether there is an evacuation or if people decide to cancel, they will be working with guests to rebook them another time, making sure they don't lose their deposit.

Some residents aren't taking any chances.  Jim and Mary Lou Vandenburg said, after the meeting, that they didn't want to chance it.

"Well, it reinforced our decision that we had made to leave tomorrow and avoid the last minute rush for people if they do decide to evacuate.  Tybee road is very finicky and if they do have a high tide with 7 foot sure on top of that you are not getting off the island, "said Vandenburg.

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