“It’s”, as Yogi Berra famously was quoted as saying, “déjà vu all over again.”
Hurricane Florence blew through North Carolina in September 1953, again in September 2000, and here she comes again, showing up like a bad penny, 18 years later in September 2018.
There’s a storm a-brewin’ and it’s gonna be a real blow if the current forecast plays out. The 2018 version of Hurricane Florence is forecasted to make a direct hit on or near eastern North Carolina, and it may be the strongest storm we’ve seen in a generation or more.
I’ve lived here — off and on — since 1977 when first assigned to Marine Corps Air Station New River in Jacksonville. My wife, raised in Havelock, saw the first Hurricane Florence on Sept. 28, 1953 and remembers being evacuated from the tiny trailer she and her three siblings lived in aboard MCAS Cherry Point to the air base’s theater and sleeping on a military-issued cot.
Between the two of us, we’ve endured plenty of hurricanes passing through “hurricane alley” and impacting North Carolina during those years. We battened down the hatches for typhoons in Okinawa, too, when we were stationed there. So together we’ve witnessed plenty of tropical cyclones hunkered down at home, evacuated to safe spaces on base, or on duty at the squadron leaving family at home alone to fare for themselves.
We spent the day yesterday preparing for evil triplet Hurricane Florence. Perhaps as a precursor to the storm’s arrival, the sky was a bit unsettled still five days before she is forecasted to strike. We had an early morning rain storm that dropped almost an inch of rain in less than a half an hour and it was hot and humid with threatening cumulonimbus storm clouds lingering in the near distance all day long.
And then this morning, the old sailor’s proverb, “Red sky at night sailors’ delight, red sky in morning sailors take warning” came to mind. There was a red sky at 6:30 a.m., the rising sun’s red light reflected from cumulous clouds building in the distance. There’s a storm in the air. I can feel it.
Our preparations have included securing anything that can blow away, taking down wind chimes, boarding up windows, and helping neighbors and our community prepare for the storm. The boughs of the massive White Oak tree in our front yard only 30 feet from the house were trimmed last year to limit the risk of its canopy catching the high winds like a sail and being pushed over. We’d hate to lose that tree, one of the two “Mother Trees” we’re blessed to own on our property.
I don’t think you really can “own” a tree, so I should write instead, “one of the two ‘Mother Trees’ that ‘live’ on our property”, the other “Mother Tree” being a 300 year-old-plus Live Oak in our back yard I’ve written about in the past.
Since the year 2000, the year I permanently moved to eastern North Carolina, 52 tropical cyclones are known to have affected the state, according to Wikipedia. If that number is carried out across the life of that Mother Live Oak in our back yard, that tree has potentially withstood thousands of hurricanes in its life — without human intervention to trim her boughs — yet is still standing strong and proud and is a comfort to us when we fret about hurricanes. She made it. So can we.
While your plan should be based on your own risks, our personal family evacuation plan has been this: If a Category 3 or less hurricane is forecast, we will stay in our home. There is little threat from flooding where we live; it is the wind and the trees posing the biggest risks. If a Category 4 storm is forecast, we evacuate.
Based on the forecasting of the 2018 version of Hurricane Florence, we are preparing for the first time since living through hurricanes for 65 years to evacuate far from the coast. We’ll turn off the propane and electric to our house; take video clips of all our “stuff;” load important papers, irreplaceable photo albums, and five gallons of extra gas into the truck; take one last look at our home as it currently stands, wave “see you later” to the “Mother Trees,” and hit the road for High Point.
We hope to be back to some semblance of what we left behind even though in the big scheme of things, we’re not sweating the small stuff — and the majority of it all is small stuff. Instead we’re focusing on our health, our lives, and our loves. Mother would want that. I hope you will too. Good luck and God Speed.
Barry Fetzer is a columnist for the Havelock News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.