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South Carolina Hurricane Evacuation Study - Critical Transportation Needs Study

To further get a handle on Critical Transportation Needs (CTN), data from multiple sources were collected to develop an estimation of the numbers and general locations of citizens within coastal SC in need of transportation assistance during an evacuation. Information was gathered from a telephone screening survey of 3,000 households, U. S. Census, and South Carolina Emergency Management Agency (SCEMA) evacuation zone spatial data. The U. S. Census Bureau data was used to estimate the size and general location of populations that are more likely to require transportation assistance including persons with income, those age 65 or older, disabled persons, and households without private vehicles.

One of the more significant findings of the survey was the large difference in evacuation intent between small and larger category hurricanes. The coastal South Carolina populace places a large importance on storm category. While this is predictable as much discussion on hurricanes center on category, the Safford-Simpson system scale for hurricanes is based solely on wind. This underplays the danger of storm surge. Evacuation zones are based primarily on storm surge threat and this potentially explains the considerable inconsistencies between the evacuation zone status of respondents and evacuation intent. Spatial analysis indicated that many who are at risk to hurricane surge, especially in lower category hurricanes, do not plan to evacuate. With respect to larger storm events, many who might safely shelter in place plan to leave unnecessarily, increasing evacuation traffic and clearance times.

The analysis showed that the need for transportation assistance during evacuation seems to be limited to about 5 percent. While the vast majority interviewed expect to provide their own transportation during evacuations. About ten percent of those surveyed indicated that someone in their household would need a caregiver when at a shelter. In addition, one-third of those who will likely go to a shelter plan to bring household pets.

The study authors made multiple recommendations including:

  • Focus educational campaigns on storm surge risk and its role in evacuation zone status. The Storm Surge Flooding Map now being issued by National Hurricane Center could be used as an educational tool. Surge-related educational resources, including videos and flyers (in English and Spanish), are available on the NHC website
  • Intensify efforts to educate coastal residents regarding the evacuation zone status of their homes.
  • Make the details of pet shelters widely available, including facility limitations.
  • Further research is needed to explore the nature of the transportation assistance and special shelter needs of coastal SC residents. Call back those respondents in this survey who indicated either of these needs.

The project has provided State and County Emergency Managers with current information that is being incorporated into the state’s new Mass Evacuation Plan and will used by the counties in developing local EM evacuation and sheltering plans. In addition to enhancing current planning efforts, the study has provided the state the impetus to initiate a Pet Shelter Study as an annex. Also as a result of the study, the state is anticipating 2016 funding from the Hurricane PCX to overlay storm surge height with public landmarks to give to the counties as an outreach and awareness tool.