CHARLESTON, S.C (Reuters) - Roger Pinckney is a longtime resident of a South Carolina island that Hurricane Matthew could submerge but, even so, he refused to heed the state’s evacuation orders, saying on Friday he only lacks in whiskey and toilet paper.
Pinckney is one of about 100 residents on Daufuskie Island who have stayed put as the Category 2 hurricane has approached, bringing torrential rainfall and a huge storm surge.
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley told a news conference on Friday that the state’s barrier islands were the biggest concern to emergency officials ahead of the storm’s approach. In particular she highlighted the danger to the historically rich Daufuskie Island near the border with Georgia.
“It is going to be under water,” Haley said.
She said holdouts on the island had refused to leave despite the danger.
The governors of Georgia, North Carolina and Florida have also issued evacuation orders. Federal and state emergency officials could not immediately say how many people might have stayed put despite calls to get out.
Most of the roughly 400 residents on the Daufuskie Island, 3 miles (5 km) offshore, heeded evacuation orders and left, Haley said.
Pinckney, a 70-year-old writer, said in a telephone interview his house was built on marine dock pilings with hurricane straps and tie-downs. He has stored 200 gallons (760 liters) of propane in an underground tank for his generator and has access to a water cistern.
“I built the house so I wouldn’t have to go,” Pinckney said. “I‘m a little short on whiskey and toilet paper but other than that, I’ll be fine.”
Pinckney, who has for years given tours of the island to visitors, wrote on his Facebook page that he has a 250-year-old black cherry tree in his yard that “never got salt water on it in all those years.”
Matthew, which killed almost 900 people in Haiti before pounding Florida on Friday, was forecast to churn up the coast of the U.S. Southeast, bringing fierce winds and driving rain to coastal Georgia and South Carolina before heading out to sea on Sunday.
So far, some of the dire warnings officials gave about Matthew have not come to pass. The storm skirted Florida’s Atlantic coast without reports of significant damage in cities and towns where the storm swamped streets and toppled trees.
An estimated 355,000 people have evacuated from areas along coastal South Carolina, officials said.
Daufuskie Island, which is 8 square miles (20 sq km), was isolated enough at one time that it served to preserve the culture of a sizable population of Gullah people, descendants of African slaves with their own language.
The island, with its white sand beaches and wooded tracts, was included on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. It has a number of houses and schools built between 1890 and 1930 that were designed in a style that harkens back to a period even earlier than that.
The island, which also has a golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus, has become popular with summer visitors.
The peak of the flooding generated from Hurricane Matthew could hit the island at around 1 a.m. local time on Saturday, National Weather Service meteorologist Carl Barnes said in a telephone interview.
In other parts of coastal South Carolina, some residents were also refusing to evacuate.
Lilla Folsom, 64, who lives on a barrier island off Folly Beach near Charleston, said she and her husband had just returned from a trip to Canada and rushed to get to their house ahead of the storm.
“I don’t know why we didn’t evacuate,” she said in a telephone interview. “We were exhausted, and we didn’t think it was going to be bad enough to get back out.”
Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Paul Tait