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?

5 Responses to The AftermatThEw

  1. I’m very glad you’re ok!

    We almost never get hurricanes here, but 29 years ago today, by co-incidence, we had an actual hurricane. Like you, the forecasters predicted it would miss us and because we don’t get them we were completely unprepared. Luckily we didn”t lose power, but we all slept downstairs because my mum was afraid the roof would blow off. Her bike blew away and was never seen again, and in the morning we found a bathroom sink had blown into our garden – who knows where from!

    • Oh wow, that’s pretty crazy. It’s especially difficult for folks who don’t often see such storms to adequately prepare.

  2. Funny you should ask…

    All week forecasters were saying Seattle would be hit by the windstorm of the decade, as Pacific cyclone Songda – Western storms have diverse names, not your Matthews and Andrews – slammed into us. The media did a good job of informing residents, to the point that it was the main news for days. Shelves were barren of water and emergency supplies. Ferries on Puget Sound were canceled Saturday afternoon. Even rush hour traffic Friday was non-existent.

    Winds were predicted to gust to 60 or 65 mph in Seattle. When I heard that, I thought, “Well, I’ve gone through worse.” As a kid, our family spent several tense hours hunkered down during the Columbus Day Storm of 1962, the worst storm our region has faced. Then the gusts were 90 or 100. As luck would have it, I also experienced the Inaugural Day Storm of 1993. The forecasters completely missed that one, and I found myself driving to work over one of our area’s long floating bridges over a huge body of water. THAT WAS NOT FUN. I gingerly and slowly drove over the first span to an island. Then on the second span back to mainland, a big dump truck stood sideways in the road with its back gate completely ripped off and propped next to the truck. All my efforts to get to work were in vain, however. Our building’s power went out, so we couldn’t do any work. Everyone went home shortly after lunch.

    Well, I was expecting a mini-version of one of these two storms yesterday. But something went wildly wrong with the forecast. In our neighborhood, wind gusts didn’t even top 17 mph!

    People are complaining on Twitter that the forecast was so wrong. Apparently, the storm was smaller than expected when it hit land, and that affected the storm track, pushing it to the west, and not hitting most of Western Washington.

    As for me, I’m just as glad it didn’t materialize!

    • Yeah, one of our former newscasters whom I still follow on Twitter is in Portland, so I heard something about that storm. Wasn’t exactly sure of the details. I suppose I feel bad for them, as getting a forecast right is still a real challenge. But I agree with yccI definitely wouldn’t be sad if their getting it wrong meant it missed us. We kind of had the opposite thing happen, which contributed to some of our issues. Luckily some still had the good sense to get things in position for an emergency just in case. Driving through that is the most dangerous, as that’s how many of the fatalities here occurred. Even with all that, thank goodness our slightly battered infrastructure is still good enough to keep minst protected, unlike that of, say, Haiti. I feel very sad for those folks.

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