Riding out the storm - is it the right choice?

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – The decision to leave your home when an evacuation has been ordered can be a tough one. Some of you may decide to ride out a storm at home in hopes of staying behind and protecting your property, but that can literally turn into a life or death decision.

Your home is secured and you're hunkered down, but for many who make the decision to stay behind for a storm, it's a decision they regret when the skies clear.

Many people are often lulled into a false sense of security.  Weaker storms move through, leaving little damage, or a bigger storm just brushes by and people think it wasn't that bad.

Tony Perry made that decision in 1989 as Hurricane Hugo barreled towards the South Carolina coast. At the time, he worked and lived at Lakewood Campground in Surfside Beach. What started out as just a normal stormy night, suddenly turned much worse as Hugo's fury unleashed itself on the world outside.

"It didn't seem like it was too bad a storm until around two or three o'clock in the morning," Perry said. "It just sounded like trains coming through. You could actually hear the ocean getting closer and closer and closer to us as it came through the campground."

The next morning, the campground was left with sand dunes flattened, buildings gone, roads buried under feet of sand and trailers tossed around. He made it through Hugo but faced a long road ahead.

It has been a long time since the Grand Strand has had a direct hit from a major storm leaving many people to think they can handle a hurricane just fine. This may lead a lot of people to decide to stay behind, but Alicia Sanders with Horry County Emergency Management has some stern advice.

"If the governor makes a mandatory evacuation, then you can be held, you know, held to leave, but obviously we don't have enough space to put everyone when they don't leave so we obviously recommend it," Sanders said. "I mean, you're taking your life into your own hands by not leaving. So some of the ramifications are death."

Sanders also said that in most cases, once the winds reach 60 miles per hour, emergency responders are pulled off the road for their own safety. That means you're stuck and on your own as the worst of the storm blows through.

Best advice - leave if told to do so.

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