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Officials Warn Evacuation Orders Should be Taken Seriously

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RALEIGH — Evacuations were ordered whenHurricane Bonniewas bearing down on the North Carolina coast last year. But not everybody listened. If you plan on heading to the coast to secure beach houses or boats and a warning is issued, you need to know how much time you have to get out safely.

Low evacuation numbers from last year prompted emergency management officials to make some changes. They say injuries from Hurricane Bonnie were low, but there is no reason to take that chance again this year.

Hurricane Bonnie forced an evacuation of the entire North Carolina coastline. But anECUstudy shows only 24 percent took heed of the order. The rest gambled they would not get hit.

State officials try not to evacuate areas if they do not have to.

"We put all the information we have on the table and we make the most logical assumption we can and we hope we don't do that to people, especially during the peak season," says Richard Moore, secretary ofN.C. Crime Control and Public Safety.

The low evacuation rate concerned emergency management officials who are now focused on getting more information, like evacuation routes, to coastal residents and helping people with special needs.

"We've been working with the Human Services agency to develop a better capability to assist those folks. And some counties are even doing a special needs population registry so we know in advance who they are and we can offer special assistance," saysN.C. Emergency ManagementDirector Eric Tolbert.

Tolbert says an evacuation order is not meant to be taken lightly.

"The lesson learned is that people need to take seriously the threat and don't procrastinate. Take those actions because just as many storms decrease before landfall, there's just as many that increase," he says.

Tolbert says therewillbe advance warning. Most coastal counties will get a 12-hour notice; Ocracoke will have even more time.

"We know in peak population such as this time of year in advance of gale force winds we have to begin evacuation 36 hours in advance," he says.

Tolbert says they are at least a day and a half away from an evacuation decision. If you own coastal property, you might want to have a plan in mind.

If you do not know your evacuation route, call your county's emergency management coordinator. Reporter: Lynda Loveland


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