We began this week engaged in some serious hurricane speculation. Early on, I made the decision that if it looked like we were even remotely poised to get hit by Hurricane Irene, I was taking the boys and driving to points north, west, or northwest. Eventually, I settled on Greenville, SC, in the far northwest corner of the state, about three and a half hours from here. My requirements were simple: I wanted to drive no more than four hours because I couldn't imagine driving alone with the boys for much longer than that, given their recently demonstrated inability to sleep for long periods in the car. I wanted to get to a place where there was something to do once we got there, because my plans meant we would be away for at least three days (more on that later). And I wanted a place with a pool because, hurricane notwithstanding, it is still ultra hot around here in the dog days of summer. Oh, and I was hopeful that the place I chose didn't have a history of getting hit by hurricanes after they ravaged the coast. Greenville fit the bill, though only barely meeting my "something to do" criteria...though really, this is the case with most of South Carolina, truth be told. Sigh.
Anywho, as anyone who has lived in Charleston for 20 years will tell you, Hurricane Hugo looms large in the collective imagination here. Charleston suffered a direct hit, evacuation ran amok, and the recovery was long. If you get them alone, most of those who lived through the hurricane will tell you that they should have evacuated if they didn't, that the immediate and lingering aftermath was horrible (as in no running water for TWO WEEKS!), and that it was one of the worst experiences in their lives. However, in groups, some sort of insane PTSD bravado kicks in and longtime residents will start to downplay the storm, advise against evacuating, and cheerfully proclaim that most hurricanes are no big deal. These are the same residents who tell you that downtown rarely floods, perhaps just once in a blue moon, even though I personally saw it happen (and waded and drove through the flood waters) no less than six times each year while I was working downtown.
I'm not buyin' it.
Here's my take on hurricanes in the South: they can be scary. Evacuation plans never work very well. When services go out, it can be a long time before they are restored. AND, last but not least, on a more personal note, if a hurricane is slated to hit here, my husband is required to report to his hospital immediately and then stay through the first 72 hours of a disaster until he is relieved by another team, if the members of that team can make it in. In other words, when a major storm hits, I will be alone with the boys. So I have decided to leave long before an emergency evacuation order is given to avoid my nightmare scenario of sitting in immobile traffic with a toddler and a preschooler in tow when a disaster strikes. My research for this hurricane revealed that a hurricane watch is issued at least 36 hours before landfall is expected. I plan to leave then at the latest, before mandatory evacuation orders are given or a hurricane warning is issued, usually 24 hours out. My hotel room was reserved, my map was ready, the car was loaded with extra water, and my bags were ready to be packed with clothes and supplies.
But then, the storm shifted (to hit those poor Outer Banks, which seem to have a hurricane bull's eye on them, and as yet undetermined additional points north). And all we got was a tropical storm watch, which actually resulted in an overcast day with a little bit of wind and some rain, but no more than our average summer torrential downpour, at least not where I was. But I was prepared, having gotten our supplies in order, including the all important D batteries for our battery operated fans. I was even Holly Homemaker and did almost all our laundry, put a roast in the crock pot, and made banana bread just in case the power went out.
Sadly, Irene has and will affect others, and hurricane season is LONG, lasting all the way to November 30th nowadays, so I am sure our saga is not over for this year. But when one does chug its way into Charleston, you can be sure where I'll be: somewhere most decidedly NOT here!