The AftermatThEw

It was this time a short week ago that I and my state’s many other residents were hunkered down, wondering just how crazy things might get. The thing is, even though North Carolina is one of the most hurricane-prone areas to live in the world, it had actually been something like 17 years since we had a recognizably bad one rumble through. This, along with the fact that our newscasters had initially thought the storm would miss us entirely, led to something of a lack of preparation.

Well I was as prepared as one could expect, I guess. I had food till Monday and even some meals that could be consumed without power, which I’m fortunate never to have lost. Mainly as the rain poured and did saturate the porch area that runs the length of these apartments as is common during such incidents, I sat inside and finally completed my digital presentation. There wasn’t much else to do, after all.

The real damage line occurred starting east and south of me, from the capital of Raleigh southward. And as is common during hurricanes, things actually got a lot worse after the main body had long since passed on but while the waters made their way downstream, inundating communities from Lumberton to Greenville and points in between. Pretty much any riverside town in the eastern portion of the state has had and is still having a tough time. My heart goes out to all of those folks.

The amazing thing is in my neck of the woods, you could hardly tel anything had happened by the following Sunday. The sun was out strong, and every restaurant was filled to capacity with people fleeing cabin fever imposed from the day before.

That weather reminded me of another storm, one that did have a much greater impact on where I resided: hurricane Hugo which slammed into Charlotte in 1989. That time as this one, the newscasters had told us that the storm would miss us. That time, we’d lost power for nine days and were forced to find various ways to get food and even to pass the time, since schools had also closed for a while. Though our home was not significantly damaged, it still gave me a bit of a taste of what some are experiencing as they try to recover from this. We spent hours of backbreaking work removing tree limbs from the yard and helping neighbors do the same. We also had to retrieve our understandably skittish cat, which had soared across the front yard and onto someone else’s window who took him in. I don’t know why we hadn’t had the good sense to bring the poor guy inside.

The idea of suddenly losing everything though largely lies beyond my ability to imagine it. It certainly has me contemplating what kind(s) of evacuation strategies I could use if I really did have to, and I’m not sure I know those answers entirely.

The ironic thing is I had just completed a book called The Weekenders, by Mary Kay Andrews. In it, a family makes its yearly summer sojourn to a beach town (fictional I think) of Bell Isle off the coast of North Carolina. All kinds of drama ensues with the really dirty husband, rebellious teen-aged girl, a man who seeks to reunite with the “wife” and main character, and a number of other side plots. I enjoyed it because of its shouting out nearly every section of our state, with the main character having been an anchor at WRAL in Raleigh, and attending UNC. The most relevant part though was the town being rattled by a hurricane around Labor Day. Andrews shows how this experience would be different now in the smartphone era, with constant emergency alerts and immediate awareness of mandatory evacuation. Matthew was my first experience in this era, and I was indeed launched out of bed by one of those loud! very vibratory alerts. I think they are great though, and they do keep me informed.

I think that should be the last storm for us all year, and definitely hope so for the sake of those who will be mopping up for a good while. Have you ever lived through a hurricane? What do you remember about it?

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