“Mandatory” evacuations in coastal Virginia and the Carolinas have been underway for days in advance of Hurricane Florence, but some residents have chosen to remain in their homes. So what does “mandatory” mean?
“Ultimately, that doesn’t have any power. It’s an evacuation ‘encouragement,’ ” said Hannah Moldenhauer, a spokeswoman for Berkeley County, South Carolina, which is under mandatory evacuation.
More than 1 million Virginians and Carolinians are under mandatory evacuation orders, but there is little government officials can do to force people from their homes.
Authorities typically say those who ignore evacuation orders are “on their own” should an emergency occur before first responders can be deployed. Their primary tactic is deterrence — warning residents about the dangers of staying.
Tiffany Norton, a spokeswoman for Dorchester County, South Carolina, said emergency personnel are removed from road travel when winds reach tropical storm force.
“[We’re] letting people know if they do choose to stay and the weather deteriorates, it’s going to limit our [emergency] response,” she said.
About 85,000 county residents are under mandatory evacuation orders, she said.
“What we’ve seen as far as people actually evacuating, just from monitoring evacuation routes, seems there’s been a pretty light amount of people evacuating,” Ms. Norton said.
The county is also offering free shuttles to shelters to encourage people to leave and weighing a curfew to deter people from going out on roads until weather conditions improve.
In Norfolk, Virginia, police were alerted to people dressed in fluorescent vests going door to door and telling residents that they had to leave their homes and businesses, The Associated Press reported Thursday.
But Norfolk spokeswoman Lori Crouch said city officials would not force people to leave and that it’s a “personal choice,” the AP reported.
Many people who stay say they want to protect their property from nature and looters.
John and Christina Mramer live in Summerville, South Carolina, about 26 miles west of Charleston. They are under mandatory evacuation but have decided to wait out the storm.
“It’s not like we’re not taking it seriously,” Mrs. Mramer told The Washington Times. “We’re just watching and waiting.”
This isn’t the first storm the Mramers have waited out. They stayed put during the “thousand-year rain” in 2015, when parts of South and North Carolina received more than a foot of rain in five days, and Hurricane Matthew in 2016, when the Category 1 hurricane caused surge flooding of 3 to 4 feet.
“I end up hearing more negative stories about leaving than staying,” Mrs. Mramer said. “Why should we do that? … We’re just waiting until absolutely necessary.”
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