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'I'm committed': Island die-hards don't evacuate for Matthew

James Gibbs fills one of the bath tubs in his house while preparing to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Matthew, Friday, Oct. 7, 2016, on Tybee Island, Ga. As the storm closed in, an estimated 2 million people in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina were warned to move inland to escape the fury of the most powerful hurricane to menace the U.S. Atlantic coast in more than a decade. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
October 07, 2016 - 5:48 PM

TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. - The mayor of tiny Tybee Island, Georgia, was so worried about his constituents that he was calling them personally, pleading with them to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Matthew. But the beer kept flowing at Calvin Ratterree's bar, where about a dozen holdouts gathered for lunch.

"I'm worried, but we've got friends across the street with a third-floor condo," said Ratterree, who owns Nickie's 1971 bar about a block from Georgia's largest public beach. "I'm committed. I'd rather be here with the people that support me and need me."

The 3,000 people who live on Tybee Island, 18 miles east of Savannah, were ordered to evacuate Wednesday. Most left, some of them hitting the road at the last-minute Friday as Matthew churned toward Georgia from the coast of Florida.

But some insisted on riding out the storm, much to the frustration of Mayor Jason Buelterman. He personally called some of the holdouts, hoping to persuade them to move inland.

"This is what happens when you don't have a hurricane for 100 years," Buelterman said. "People get complacent. They just don't know. Thankfully, it's a very small minority."

Among those Buelterman called was Steve Todd, who was having a drink with neighbours at Ratterree's bar. Todd made sure his wife and child and their two dogs evacuated. He said he stayed behind to guard his home and belongings, fearing he otherwise might not be able to return for a week or more.

"We're at a really safe building, probably one of the safest on Tybee," Todd said.

Todd said trees were bending over and it was "raining sideways" as the storm approached the Georgia-Florida line Friday night. He and a friend ventured out in a truck after dark to pick up a couple of buddies who had become frightened of rapidly worsening conditions on the island. He said they were all going back to his third-floor condominium to spend the night.

Todd said he doesn't regret his decision, "but I'm not going to lie. There's a little bit of nervous tension right now."

Others weren't taking chances.

Jeff Dickey hefted a diesel-powered generator into his pickup truck Friday morning outside his waterfront home. He had hoped Matthew would take a turn away from shore, as other storms have in the past.

"We kind of tried to wait to see if it will tilt more to the east," Dickey said. "But it's go time."

News from © The Associated Press, 2016
The Associated Press

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