Hurricane Florence terrified North and South Carolina and came to much less than the warnings led us to expect. The Category 5 (or at least 4 for sure) that captivated news media for days arrived as a 1, quickly becoming a Tropical Depression.
That’s not to say that there weren’t floods, power interruptions, destroyed homes, injuries, and deaths, but what happened was far, far less than what the warnings foretold.
That’s the problem, isn’t it? If the strength and danger of storms are hyped to be sure people take them seriously, and then turn out to be less than expected, sometimes far less, then people may not attend to the next extreme storm warning. And the next one may be a Katrina or Sandy or Camile.
If the predictions of the strength and danger of a storm is made as accurately as possible, with the best and worst cases discussed, there will always be some who trust in the best case, ignore warnings, and end up sick, injured, or dead. Of course, being lied to beats the heck out of being dead, but in the long run, being lied to can result in being dead, can’t it?
When I hear hurricane warnings, I recall previous ones. Growing up, we lived mostly on the Eastern Seaboard of the country, from New England to the edge of Georgia. We experienced quite a few hurricanes, and, as children, they were adventures for us since our parents didn’t hype them much.
There were some big ones that I have read about and went through but have left very little memory. That’s not due to the passage of time. I clearly remember a doozie we went through when I was 11 or 12, and my brother was 7 or 8. We were stationed at the United States Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, South Carolina. I’ve been told we had three hurricanes in the more than four years we were there, but I only remember “The Big One.”
My mother was making sandwiches all day because we were told to evacuate our quarters the next day, but the storm came early. As the winds began to build up and our mother was distracted by neighbors and preparations, my brother and I walked over to a playground behind our house, drawn by the swaying of a very large, easily climbed tree standing alone by the swings. We naturally climbed to the top branches and rode them like an amusement park attraction. I can still remember the thrill of that ship-in-a-storm motion. It was great!
When Mom called us and we didn’t come, she looked around and saw us in that tree, swinging and laughing like chimps. She yelled at us to get down and come home, but we didn’t. Yeah, I know, I’m still sorry about that.
I have asked, but nobody can remember what my father was doing at that time. He was probably seeing after his Marines or organizing something, but everyone remembers that he sent two huge M.P.s (Military Policemen) and a car to take us to a brick barracks near our school. The M.P.s arrived while Mom was trying to get us back down on the ground and they took over negotiations. They didn’t get to the threat that they would advise the Old Man we were being “uncooperative.” These two monsters just said, “GET DOWN NOW!” and we got down.
Parris Island wasn’t damaged much. Our quarters were not touched although a tree in our front yard was pushed over. We were safe and warm in those barracks and had a really good time. There were lots of kids, a pool table to play on, and no pesky adult supervision to speak of.
That “calm in the eye of a storm” is straight up. The hurricane tracked right over Parris Island and the eye passed directly over our barracks. The rain stopped, the wind stopped, The sky was bright blue, cloudless. the sun was warm on my face, and we could actually see the cloud walls of the eye. M.P.s in loudspeaker trucks were driving all over warning that the storm was not over, this was only the eye – another half of the storm was on the way.
Right next to where we stayed was a baseball field and as the storm went full, we watched the scoreboard get ripped off its posts and tumble across the outfield, ending up against the right field fence. After the eye passed (which we naturally went out into, heedless of Mom’s unbridled threats), the other half of the storm arrived. We watched that scoreboard blow back across the outfield the way it had come, this time ending up jammed against the left field fence.
The hurricane left, or died, that evening, and, because it was dark, there was some debris on the roads, and some of the power on the island was out. We stayed in the barracks overnight and some of the next day, until we were told to return home.
Overnight, we ate everything that all the moms had brought, and by morning, we were getting hungry. My brother and I were “volunteered” to accompany the Marines assigned to watch over us to a mess hall nearby to collect some chow. We carried back stainless steel pitchers filled with scrambled eggs, paper bags filled with bacon, and oversized pots of black coffee.
Those were the best eggs I ever tasted.