David Burke had a customer at his Hilton Head pharmacy Thursday who was surveying those who had not yet evacuated the island.
“I wanted to see who the dumb people were who were working today,” the customer told Burke.
“Put us at the top of the list,” replied Burke, who chose to stay in the Lowcountry Thursday despite the looming arrival of Hurricane Matthew.
Burke was one of an estimated 75,000 Lowcountry residents who had not yet evacuated Thursday despite Gov. Nikki Haley ordering the evacuation of the Beaufort and Charleston areas at 3 p.m. Wednesday. That number prompted Haley to tell a Thursday morning press conference that too many Lowcountry residents were not evacuating.
In an afternoon news conference, she said about 280,000 of the 500,000 people who live in evacuation areas had departed, up from 175,000 earlier in the day. Haley pleaded with those who had not yet left the coast to do so right away.
Many of those who stayed behind said they were waiting to miss the initial rush of evacuees.
Others, however, intend to ride out the storm.
Burke’s pharmacy serves the healthcare needs of local residents, including filling prescriptions for an assisted-living facility. Residents of that facility did not evacuate until Thursday morning, Burke said.
Burke doesn’t plan to ride out the storm. He planned to make a decision on when to evacuate either Thursday night or Friday morning.
“There’s no reason to stay,” he said. “It’s just not safe.”
However, Burke added, some residents have become complacent about the severity of storms, especially since it has been so long — more than two decades — since a major hurricane hit South Carolina.
Still, many Lowcountry residents were evacuating.
As of Thursday, an oceanfront Hilton Head resort had only 19 of its 846 villas occupied by visitors who had decided to stay, said David Weatherwax, supervisor of security.
While the resort had shut down its amenities and administrative offices, it was “still in full operation as far as security is concerned,” Weatherwax said Thursday.
But, he added, “At the appropriate time, when safety becomes the issue, we will, obviously, get out of here.”
Those still staying at the resort Thursday were asked to fill out a next-of-kin form, so security could notify their relatives if something happened to them during the storm, he added.
Some plan to leave on Friday, Weatherwax said. The rest plan to stay. They say they have been through it before and are going to wait it out.
But Weatherwax said residents and staff are being encouraged to leave.
Meanwhile in Charleston, West Ashley resident Gilbert Bradham, plans to ride out the storm at his home.
“We just decided not to head up the highway in that crowd,” Bradham said. “We did that in (1999’s Hurricane) Floyd and it turned out to be a long trip for nothing.”
Bradham said he is most worried about pine trees breaking in the high wind.
“It’s quiet here,” Bradham said Thursday, adding almost nobody was around.
Back in Hilton Head, Alan Perry planned to board up his house Thursday and monitor the storm.
Those who had stayed behind so far likely plan to “see what happens and probably boogie on out” once the storm became more imminent, Perry said.
When Perry does evacuate, he will head to his sister’s house in Columbia. He planned to make the call on when to leave after Thursday’s 5 p.m. hurricane update.
Perry, who has lived on Hilton Head since 1972, said waiting a little later makes getting off the island easier.
Vacationers exit the island first, then nursing homes, hospitals and others needing assistance, he said.
Others leave “when the winds start tickling your fanny,” Perry said.