I drove a few hundred miles to trade my two youngest children for a generator, gasoline, and 3 Walmart bags of batteries and various illumination devices. Though it might sound like the plot to the next Mad Max movie, I deemed it a responsible parenting decision. Their grandfather thought it the deal of the century of course, though his excitement is tempered with concern for the circumstances. The kids found it thrilling, as always, as their chief concern for the storm was that their electronics usage remain uninterrupted. The usual ease of meeting halfway between North Carolina and West Virginia was complicated by the search for a gas station that was still functional in its intended purpose. We do this often when they go a’ visiting, but this was short notice, a function of precaution as Hurricane Florence bears down on the Carolinas.
The journey told the tale: an endless stream of people traveling any direction but east, gas stations 200 miles out from the coast running out, or struggling to keep up with demand for gasoline. The staged power company vehicles and crews waiting to travel further down after the storm. The traffic and press of people all going the same directions for the same reasons.
All good, in a way. Hurricane Florence will be what it is, but the prudent hope for the best while preparing for the worst. This one they are taking seriously. Hurricanes are synonymous enough with the region that the Raleigh NHL team took the storm as its nickname. Most people do not remember Hazel, who rampaged the east coast in the 50s and killed 19 people from Calabash, North Carolina to Toronto, Canada. But the adults remember Hugo in 1989, and the killer storms of Fran (96) and Floyd(99). Matthew does not even need remembering. All ages can still see the effects of the massive flooding that accompanied that storm two years ago, and the freshly rebuilt infrastructure. The new bridges and roads are pretty, but hide the ugly truth that the drainage and planning issues that caused the problems, which remain largely unaddressed, are now to be tested again.
The reporters on Carolina Beach inevitably try to get the Johnnie Mercer pier in the shot. Occasionally I’ve seen in the background of those live hits the place where our family is to gather in 3 weeks for a celebration. That trip probably will not happen on that date, but it will happen. All my life I have gone to the beaches there: Wrightsville, Carolina, Kure, Ft. Fisher. I first went as a child with my parents; now I go with my own children, as it is an easy day trip from my house. I plan to go with their children someday, God willing.
Those are the thoughts as everything is battened down, brought indoors, and secured from the wind and rain that is to come. Neighbors have all talked, each knowing who has what: who has generators, who has water, who has extra food. Plans are made for if power goes out, if water is turned off, if trees come down. The elderly and shut-ins are identified and schedules made for who will check on them and when. 70 odd miles inland as we are, the flooding is the main concern, although wind will do damage as well. We planned ahead, we stayed on task, we are stocked up and hunkered down. We are as ready as we can be for Hurricane Florence.
But it is small comfort till the storm passes. There are always those who are not prepared. Those who stayed when they should not have. Those who either do not remember, or are unwilling to heed those that do. Even with the storm a day away, it is now too late for anyone to change from the course they have chosen. Now we are in the pregnant pause, the time to prepare over, the time for waiting begun. The waiting is the worst, as it always is; the inability to act until after the inevitable. We can hope and pray, but mostly we just wait, trying to remember that what is coming has come before. As in all things, this too will pass, Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, as they say on my mountain in West Virginia. I would rather be there, but as most of my life has dictated, I am needed here. And next time I’m on the beach with my kids I will re-enforce the lesson here: the storm is to be respected; it makes for hard days, but it will pass.