Hurricane Matthew – Not Done Yet

It’s early Saturday morning, and at the moment it looks like we dodged a bullet.

In most senses of the word, that is a true statement. While the storm is still a threat to the Carolinas and additional flooding rains will be an issue, the monster storm that was a Category 4 never made US landfall when it was most dangerous. That said;

We’re now in a stage when people confuse the hype of media coverage before a storm with the lack of reporting after a storm. Jim Cantore standing in the rain is good for ratings. It’s fish in a barrel. Find a high and dry relatively secure spot, get a few shots in driving rain, and warn people what might happen.

It takes a lot more effort to get to remote barrier islands, avoiding downed trees, power lines, and other damage, and cover what actually happened. Conversely, if there’s not the ability to show video of a roof coming off a house or other action shots, the public that will stay glued to coverage of driving rain while contemplating what might happen aren’t that interested in what actually did. Much of the media that breathless hyped this storm for the last several days are already heading home. And yet, we have no real idea the extent of the damage that many will face over the next days, weeks, and months.

A friend of mine is on Skidaway Island this morning. He reports that at least the east end of the island in The Landings didn’t flood. That’s good news, but also the island’s highest elevation. Trees are down everywhere and it’s difficult to get far. Many homes are damaged by fallen trees.

There were reports of flooding on St. Simons. As of now it appears the island is still cut off from the mainland. We’re not sure how extensive the damage is there.

It’s good news that we’re not talking about the kind of widespread damage from a Category 4 storm that came inland. But remember, the media evacuation from Hurricane Andrew as soon as the storm made landfall was part of the reason that everyone, including FEMA, didn’t understand the magnitude of the damage until days later.

There will be individual stories of hardship, and people will need help. The tourist areas along the coast will need to be repaired quickly. Georgia-Florida is in 3 weeks, a major draw to SE Georgia.

While I have many friends affected in the area, I’ve been haunted by the memory of a woman I met during a vacation trip to St. Simons in April. I arrived late one evening during severe weather. There was a note on the condo’s door from the cleaning lady, imploring me to please call upon my arrival so she could clean the unit. The owner had left the country for a trip and had changed the entry code. As such, she had been unable to get in.

I called her, and she again said she would be coming over now…from Jessup. She was seriously worried about losing her client and wanted to assure me she would be there as soon as she could get to me, about a 90 minute drive.

There was an active severe weather warning for Glynn County out at the time, and I assured her she didn’t need to make a 3 hour round trip through a possible tornado to put sheets on my bed. We set a time for her to do the full clean the next day when she would be back on the island will her next round of units.

Which brings us to the statistics that will cover this storm. They’ll look at “insured losses”. They’ll look at deaths. The lost revenue by a cleaning lady from Jessup that can’t afford to lose it won’t make the coverage. The days that many well away from the coast go without power will get a casual mention at best.

As I was writing this, I got a call from our contributor Jessica. She’s in Bulloch County, well over an hour inland from the coast. She doesn’t have power, and cell service has been spotty. She’s quite concerned about the elderly in the area without power. It’s more than just modern conveniences. It’s oxygen machines. In many cases, electric pumps are required to run wells.

There will be plenty of time to analyze Georgia’s official response and planning. Thus far it looks like it went as smoothly as chaos will allow. But right now it is time to turn off the weather channel and reach out to a friend or neighbor. It’s time to decide if the Red Cross or other relief agency needs some money. These needs extend well beyond Georgia’s coast. (And let’s also remember that the needs extend well beyond our borders. 900+ dead and catastrophic damage.)

Whatever your preferred action, keep in mind that the headlines will diminish quickly, but the needs created by this storm may take days or weeks to be known and understood. In the mean time, continued prayers for relief and for strength for those impacted are needed.


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