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Millions face evacuation orders from Florida to South Carolina — and the decision to stay or go

MIAMI — Harry Brock saw the devastation that Hurricane Dorian brought to the Bahamas but says he will ride out the storm in his Port St. Lucie home.

Even after seeing what Hurricane Andrew did to Florida in 1992, he still feels he is as ready as he can be.

“I’m prepared for this, I’ve got my children taken care of … we’re ready for this,” Brock told CNN as winds began to whip his neighborhood. “Everything’s pulled in the garage, we’ve got our storm shutters up, my daughter’s got hers up, my son’s got his up.”

Brock is one of millions of residents in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina who are or will be under mandatory evacuation orders ahead of Hurricane Dorian.

All of them face a wrenching decision: to flee the approaching storm or face potential danger by hunkering down at home.

LIVE UPDATES: Hurricane Dorian

And as Hurricane Dorian creeps westward in an unpredictable path, with coastal residents monitoring every minor change in direction, that decision is becoming harder and harder.

As Monday dawned in the Bahamas, revealing “catastrophic” hurricane damage, the potential consequences of their choice became starker.

“All we can do is pray for our coastline and the state of Florida and the Carolinas and the Georgias,” Brock told CNN. “It just tore my heart up to see what’s happening (in the Bahamas).”

Brock is not alone in deciding to ride out the storm in Port St. Lucie, where Dorian may strike Tuesday unless it veers north. Like much of Florida’s Atlantic coast, the city of about 170,000 people is under a hurricane warning.

Samir Aarass, a fellow Port St. Lucie resident, says he has no choice.

“I don’t have anywhere else to go so I’m going to stay here. I have my house in Port St Lucie, so I don’t want to lose it,” he told CNN. “Boarded it up. Cat, family, everyone’s okay. So I’m just going to stick it out.”

For many, it’s a difficult choice

To stay or go? It’s a choice many coastal residents in the Southeast US will have to make in the coming hours.

“If you are ordered to evacuate, you need to do that,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told residents Monday morning. “From Palm Beach County all the way up to … the Florida-Georgia border, all those coastal counties have issued evacuation orders. And its important that residents heed those calls,” he said.

“Get out now while you have time, while there’s fuel available and you’ll be safe on the roads.”

Jack and Violet Honey were sitting outside their mobile home in Port St. Lucie on Monday, waiting for the storm to make a move before they decide what to do.

“If the storm comes closer, we’re leaving,” Jack Honey told CNN. “If it turns and goes north, we’re going to stick it out.”

The couple is under a mandatory evacuation.

Violet Honey said she has a gut feeling things will be fine but leaves the evacuation decision to her husband. He said their car is packed and ready to go at a moment’s notice.

If need be, the couple plans to drive southwest, where Jack Honey thinks the storm won’t have a major impact.

In Vero Beach, about 30 miles north, a mandatory evacuation is also in place. But that hasn’t stopped crowds from coming to the beach to gawk at the ocean.

CNN has witnessed police reminding residents that they have been ordered to leave. But many people say they believe the storm will veer away and they plan to head inland if Dorian gets closer.

Experts say some residents don’t want the hassle of loading their car and evacuating, while others may have a false sense of security or not realize they live in an evacuation zone.

Indian River County Major Eric Flowers said authorities are concerned about residents who refuse to evacuate. If those people encounter an emergency, first responders will not be able to help them if the storm gets too strong, he said.

Further north in Jacksonville, 85-year-old Adella Williams was taking no chances.

The Jacksonville resident told CNN she is going to a shelter at the Landmark Middle School, where she will ride out the storm. It will be her third year in a row doing so.

While she has never had any damage to her home from storms, Williams said she does not want to risk her life.

Florida mandatory evacuations

  • parts of St. Lucie County
  • Indian River County
  • St. Johns County, including the entire city of St. Augustine
  • parts of Brevard County, including barrier islands, Merritt Island and the Kennedy Space Center
  • parts of Palm Beach County, including the Jupiter Inlet and other surge-vulnerable areas along the Intracoastal Waterway
  • parts of Martin County, including barrier islands and Sewall’s Point
  • parts of Nassau County
  • parts of Duval County
  • parts of Flagler County
  • coastal areas of Volusia County
  • parts of Osceola County, including the Good Samaritan Village in Kissimmee

In many of these counties the evacuations specifically mention those living in low-lying areas, RV parks and mobile homes.

Georgia mandatory evacuations

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has ordered mandatory evacuations from areas east of Interstate 95 in the following counties: Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Glynn, Liberty, and McIntosh.

“I would like to ask everyone to heed those warnings, especially those that are on our barrier islands. You may be on your own if first responders are unavailable to get to you,” Kemp said.

“We have the ability with first responders to move trees out of roads and cut trees up and clear roadways … but it’s a whole different story if we have flooding on causeways and we cannot get vehicle traffic to you in a time of need. Please do not take this risk. If you’re able to evacuate, please do so.”

South Carolina mandatory evacuations

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has issued evacuation orders for parts of Jasper County, all of Beaufort County, parts of Colleton County, all of Charleston County, parts of Berkeley County, parts of Dorchester County, parts of Georgetown County and parts of Horry County.

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