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Monday
Sep172018

Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Florence came ashore in Wilmington, North Carolina on Friday 14th of September. It was a Category 1 Storm, and could have been worse, but with 90 mph winds along with the storm surge and heavy rain causing widespread flooding. There was loss of life, people’s homes and businesses were destroyed. It was a catastrophic event.

I live in South Carolina, 100 miles south of Wilmington, and 20 miles inland from the coast. I was never in physical danger, or even inconvenienced by the forces of nature. I was however, inconvenienced by the forces of human nature.

Compared to the suffering of my neighbors to the north, my inconveniences are trivial, and I only mention them because I think it is interesting to make a study of the way people act in a crisis, or even the perceived threat of a crisis.

About ten days ago I started to see lines at my local gas stations and some even running out of gas, this is my early warning that a major storm is on its way.

People at the supermarket have cartloads of bottled water, and are buying as many as ten loaves of bread. The shelves empty and stores close their doors. So I pull up the weather channel online and sure enough Hurricane Florence is headed towards the East Coast.

However, the storm was still ten days away, way out in the Atlantic and is heading for Wilmington, North Carolina. As already mentioned that is a hundred miles north of where I live in South Carolina. These storm tracking maps are pretty accurate, so I wondered why people in my area are panicking.

Then the Governor of South Carolina came on TV to issue a mandatory evacuation order for the entire coast of South Carolina. The State of Virginia on the other side of North Carolina issued a similar order. People are advised to evacuate, and freeway east-bound lanes are opened up to west-bound traffic, so the entire freeway can move people inland.

But apart from that, no help or advice is given. So you have two million people and upwards, moving inland at the same time. There are not enough hotel beds for that many people, and gas stations on the way do not have enough gas for that many vehicles. Many end up stranded by the roadside, out of gas, without toilet facilities, or food and water. Everyone I have spoken to who have evacuated in the past say, “Never again, it is a nightmare.”

Some poor and elderly people do not have a reliable vehicle or the financial means to evacuate. Such a trip can cost as much as $4,000, with hotel rooms, restaurant food and gas. Then there is at least two weeks lost wages, because everyone evacuates a week before the storm, then it takes a week to get home because the freeways ae no longer opened both sides to incoming traffic as they were on the way out.

Last Monday my doctor’s office called to cancel an appointment I had the next day, because of the storm. “For goodness sake,” I said. “The storm is not due until Friday.” All local Walmart stores also closed their doors on Monday, as did several major drug stores. Banks closed on Wednesday, and the Post Office closed and mail delivery ceased. UPS and FedEx suspended deliveries too. The weather, by the way, was warm and sunny the whole week before the storm.

Days before the storm was due to reach land, the news and weather channel kept up their, “You’re all gonna die” mantra. “It’s a Category 3, it could become a 4.” Never saying, “It’s a 3 but could weaken to a 2.” Which is what it eventually did, and was a Cat, 1 by the time it hit shore.

I heard one twenty something weather caster say, “This could be the worst storm of a lifetime.” I thought, “Did she really say that? Was that scripted, or did she just make that up?”

Then on Thursday, one day before the storm was due to hit, the forecast changed slightly and showed the storm track would dip slightly into the northern part of South Carolina. The Governor of South Carolina came on TV again and said, “It’s coming your way, it’s time to get out of Dodge.” (Yes, he really said, “Get out of Dodge.")

It was like, all those who had not previously panicked, now had permission to panic, and there was a second wave of evacuations. Although I am not a weather expert, I do know that once a hurricane hits land, it loses strength, and a Cat 1 will become a Tropical Storm. That means heavy rain and winds of no more than 65 mph. And that is not life threatening. In fact I’ve ridden bike races in worse weather.

As it happened, on Saturday the storm passed north and came nowhere near where I live. There was a light drizzle of rain all day and a slight breeze blowing. By Sunday as I write this, the sun is shining again.

Do I feel duped by those who would have had me evacuate? No. The Governor of SC is just a politician covering his ass. And as for the media, they always make a situation dire. It is what gets more viewers and sells more advertising.

The weather maps said the storm would hit Wilmington a week before it hit. These maps once again proved accurate, so why throw three states into panic and disruption? It is up to the individual to try to keep a realistic and positive outlook, and then make an informed decision.

Sadly, people have a “Follow the herd” mentality, and cling to their fears like some bizarre security blanket.

 

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Reader Comments (8)

"The weather maps said the storm would hit Wilmington a week before it hit. These maps once again proved accurate, so why throw three states into panic and disruption?"

Because of the uncertainty of the storm track's predictions and because of the history of such storms, a history that includes storms changing tracks and having landfall somewhere other than the place that was predicted a week before.

You should also check out the history of live lost in extreme whether events because initial predictions were wrong or because people weren't warned.

All of those predictions, at least in the US, came from the National Hurricane Center. They weren't being made by local media trying to inflate fear. They were made by experienced meteorologists at the National Hurricane Center.

September 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRobin

Glad it missed you and you're safe, Dave. Thanks for putting things into perspective.People just thrive on fake news.

September 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJohn B

You said it Dave. CYA !!!!! The drive-by media wants attention so they put their spin on it. Did you see the video of "The Weather Channel's" Mike Siedel bent over into the wind like it was blowing 100mph and in the background 50 feet away two people casually walked by as there was no wind at all ? Just as I write this the news here in LA is spewing the "FIRE DANGER / WEATHER because our humidity is dropping. Are you kidding me!!!!!! I'm not going to get political, but the drive-by media is hell bent on getting President Trump thrown out of office. Because they were sold on Clinton winning only to be embarrassed went she didn't only makes them look even more foolish. On the other hand, I think that your local officials did the proper thing to ask people to get out. Those who stayed and had to rescued should foot the cost for the rescue! The first response and others put their lives on the line. Especially after there was a MANDATORY evacuation order. Why should American taxpayers foot the bill?

September 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

Low income people living paycheck to paycheck on minimum wage, cannot afford to evacuate. It is not a crime to be poor, it is a fact of life.

Dave.

September 18, 2018 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

I had to laugh, when I saw a photo, of a news guy in full storm gear, been blown all over the place by the winds, like he was hanging on for his dear life, BUT two locals are strolling behind him, not affected at all, with shorts on. Amazing what they will do to get viewers

September 18, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAnthony J Crump

Dave I agree with you. Poor people cannot afford to evacuate, but they cannot afford to die either. In this case the community / State could have offered school buses or other transportation to help the elderly / poor. This holds true for those in assisted care too. However, many "able" just ignore the warnings and think "I'll be ok." It's not a perfect world and today there are many opportunities to educate or job training especially in the booming economy. People must be responsible for there actions including doing something with your life. Where else are you going to go in the world and have the opportunities to be successful that is better than the USA ? There are thousands of jobs now, but people are lazy and just want everything for free. They would rather sit on their ass with their hand out instead of trying to be someone. Yes there are exceptions, but the vast majority are lazy losers.

September 18, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

Maybe your doctor wanted a few extra days in nicer weather and used the warnings as an excuse to cancel sessions he found unnecessary for his income stream? Were you able to re-schedule in the near future?

Ridiculing the media for suggesting that the public take steps to be safe is cruel.

Fortunately Flo lost strength. The damage from feces, coal ash, etc has yet to be determined.

September 18, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJack

Dave:

As a 20 year Floridian, I have seen the scenario repeated several times. I fully agree that it is up to the individual to educate themselves and respond appropriately, as you did.

During Hurricane Irma last year, we were in the bulls eye. A week before the storm it was panic on the road and every man for them selves.

HOWEVER two days before the storm it was "god bless you neighbor" and "may I help?" It was Heart warming and very refreshing the way people behaved in the end as compared to the the pre-storm melee.

NOW-concerning bicycles, I ride for my daily commuter a 1986 Miyata 610, which I am told has spirals cut into the triple butted tubing on the main frame. Please correct me if wrong, but I recall that Miyata was a gun mfrg. in the 1800s and caught the first bike book with the rifled tubing.

September 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBruce Robertson

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