Question: A “mandatory evacuation was issued by the governor recently along the coast for Hurricane Dorian. Is it really mandatory? (Asked by a curious hurricane watcher.)

Reply: “Mandatory” certainly gets your attention, particularly when you look at the dictionary definition. Mine says:

Mandatory: authoritatively ordered; obligatory; compulsory. Example: it is mandatory that a student take two years of math. (I like that example!)

Another says: Law. Permitting to no option; not to be disregarded or modified. Example: a mandatory clause.

State law does give the governor power to “direct and compel” an evacuation in anticipation of an emergency or natural disaster. But the law doesn’t outline any specific penalty for those who do not heed the order. For Dorian, the governor issued a mandatory evacuation order for approximately 830,000 residents of several coastal counties. It is not likely there would be a mass arrest of residents who refused to leave, hunkering down and hoping for the best instead.

Then, too, an evacuation of that many residents would not be practical, even running traffic one-way on the interstates. Some people may not have the means to evacuate and shelters are set up for the most dangerous areas.

However, such an order should not be taken lightly. Basically, it means that there is an imminent risk of life and property from winds and flooding (rain and storm surge). And, of major importance, emergency personnel will not be able to respond to calls for help during such an evacuation — you may be on your own!

Those who chose to ignore the evacuation were advised to be self-sufficient for the first 72 hours after the storm. That’s three days, but I noticed announcements this time around that said seven days. We were expecting a big one, and if you saw what Dorian did to the Bahamas, you can see why.

After the storm, electricity, water and phone service will likely be unavailable for extended periods of time. Also, wind and water damage can isolate residents from getting out. And, once again, you’re on your own.

C.P.S. (Curious Postscript): “Hurricanes are dangerous things, and they’re no fun to go through. And if you come out of it in one piece and your house comes out of it in one piece, it’s no fun living with no electricity for a day or a week, a month, whatever it is. And I speak, unfortunately, from personal experience on that matter.” – Bernard Goldberg

Curious about something? Send your questions to Dr. Jerry D. Wilson, College of Science and Mathematics, Lander University, Greenwood, SC 29649, or e-mail Selected questions will appear in the Curiosity Corner. For Curiosity Corner background, go to