Hurricane Matthew has long blown out to sea, and I know I speak for millions when I say good riddance. What began as a category four hurricane finally limped out to sea as a tropical storm after a week of spreading death and destruction to millions and creating havoc in the lives of millions more.
We should be particularly mindful of the folks in Haiti who lost over three hundred sons and daughters, parents, and grandparents when it crossed through the Windward Passage, the strait separating Cuba from Haiti. Ironically, it’s the same route buccaneers and pirates took hundreds of times when they wreaked havoc on passing ships in the eighteenth century Caribbean.
The Bahamas, as vulnerable as they are with their mostly low lying country, were spared the deadly impact of Matthew. Since Nassau was once a pirate stronghold with the ships of Benjamin Hornigold and Blackbeard filling their harbor, I’d like to think maybe they were keeping a watchful eye over the islands.
As for my wife and I, after two days of preparation, we finally evacuated our home in Murrells Inlet. At the time, Matthew was a category four hurricane still tormenting Haiti and the Caribbean, and Governor Haley of South Carolina was issuing evacuation orders.
Though the storm was downgraded to a category one when it arrived on my front door step, I don’t regret leaving. It gave my wife and I the opportunity to reunite with her cousin and his lovely wife in North Carolina where they were gracious enough to host us for five days. The laughter and memories we shared were priceless, and Johnny’s stories about his time in Vietnam gave me an even deeper appreciation of the Vietnam vet. Thanks Johnny and Peggy. I hope you realize how much it meant to us.
People ask me, “Don’t you feel a little bit foolish leaving when all that South Carolina had was a category one storm?” We all know Monday Morning quarterbacks are pretty common, and their insights worthless. As a writer I’ve done much research not only on pirates and shipwrecks but hurricanes as well, and I know how devastating a category four hurricane can be.
Governor Haley and I don’t share much in the way of political perspectives, but I have to give her credit. She gave everyone ample warning and was right to issue an evacuation for her state when she did.
Had Matthew moved a little faster and hugged the coastline a little tighter, the devastation and loss of life from Florida to South Carolina would have been catastrophic.
The folks who chose to remain behind would have been caught in massive traffic jams while a horrific storm bore down on them. How do you explain to your kids when your car is suddenly swept away in flood waters that you were too stupid or obdurate to evacuate earlier?
Hurricanes are merciless. They don’t care how smart you are or how rich; they don’t care how busy you are or how important. They don’t care how many storms you’ve survived in the past. Stand in the face of one often enough, and one day it will be your last.
Soon the cleanup will be complete, and the storm a distant memory. I hope neither the countries of the Caribbean or the United States have to endure any more for quite a while. Many of us need time to deal with Matthew’s aftermath. As for those unaffected by the storm, they might want to reassess their wait-and-see strategy for dealing with hurricanes. One day it will save their lives.
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In case you haven’t heard, June 01st is the official start of hurricane season, and it doesn’t come to an end until December 01st. A lot can happen in six months and sometimes does, but if you’re prepared, you’ll be in better condition to cope than if you allow yourself to remain clueless.
Hurricanes don’t always know they’re supposed to hit between June and November 30th, so don’t be surprised if an occasional tropical storm becomes obstinate and sets her own pattern. Tropical storm Ana formed over Easter weekend in 2003 though she didn’t amount to much.
Hurricane season doesn’t really ramp up until mid August then it can be a roller coaster ride through October. That’s not to say that killer storms won’t hit before that or even in November because they have, it’s just that the season
Intensifies as it grows later till finally it dies down.
Most people think the real damage from hurricanes is caused by wind. The truth is winds can be extremely deadly, but the tidal surge accounts for a vast majority of deaths. Audrey hit east Texas in 1957, pushing a massive tidal surge forward while unsuspecting residents slept in their beds. Over five hundred people perished. The storm surge of Camile on August 18, 1969 left over two hundred and fifty dead from Louisiana to Virginia.
So what should you do to prevent you or your family from becoming a statistic? Three things: One, listen to officials and follow their directives. When they tell you to prepare to evacuate, be ready to go. Two, Be prepared. This means getting your property storm ready and your family ready to move if necessary. Three, have a plan. Know what you need to do, what you need to bring with you, and who you will need to contact.
Several things are important if you want to minimize damage to your property or danger to yourself. Cut down dead trees and branches near your home now. They’ll look pretty darn ugly sticking through your roof when you could have done something about it earlier. Continue reading →