There is a season. I know it. It is not on the calendar, but after living on the SC coast for 20 years I know the season. June 1-November 30. It isn’t baseball season, or football season, or even soccer season. (Soccer is eternal. It doesn’t have A season!)
No! Everyone who lives on the coast knows that June-November is Hurricane Season. It means that while you enjoy the glory of the beach, long walks at sunset, Sunday Night Pizza on the Beach, you also keep an eye out there.
It starts slowly in June and July. You just wait to see if the local weatherperson says there is something that needs our attention other than the normal afternoon thunderstorm. But come August….
That is when you make sure that at least once a week you tune in at 10 minutes before the hour to the Tropical Storm Update on the Weather Channel. By late August it moves to almost daily, and by the second week of September you are almost hourly checking WeatherUnderground.com. The second week of September is the height of the season. So you watch, and prepare.
I tended to be a hurricane geek. There is something about following the depressions as they come off the coast of Africa during Cape Verde season, watching a clump of storms in the Caribbean turn into a monster that threatens the Gulf coast that just fascinates me.
Until they started making the turn towards the SC coast. During our time in Charleston we learned to watch, and to decide. Should I stay or should I go? (And yes we sang the song!)
There were several times when it was JUST a tropical storm, or JUST a Category 1 storm and we stayed. We lost power for a while; had our screen porch ripped, but nothing major.
Twice however, we evacuated.
Twice we loaded up all the things that we didn’t think we could replace—pictures, children’s art work, sentimental Christmas decorations—and left our home. I know what it is like to have a briefcase always packed with insurance policies, social security cards, medical records, wills. I know what it is like to carry a plastic tub into our daughter’s rooms and tell them that is all they can take. I know what it is like to walk into your library and try to decide which books go into tubs in hopes that maybe you might find them. I know what it is like to take a picture of your house just in case you have to show the insurance company that you really did have that TV. I know what it is like to lock the door and drive away, hoping on hope that when you return there might be something there. I know what it is like to hand a map (yes a real paper map that you have to fold up. This was before Waze and GPS!) to your 10 year old daughter and tell her to navigate since every road is clogged. (She did a great job! I over-ruled her one time and it cost us 2 hours!)
There was always something to come home to. We never had any real damage other than a few pieces of siding that needed to be refastened, a few roof shingles that blew away, and a porch that needed re-screening. The house was always there, always dry. I was always grateful.
The season came again this year and the habit started. We don’t have the Weather Channel, so I would just check websites during June and July. Not weekly, but every now and then. When September came, I did find that www.weatherunderground was saved on my browser. And I started watching Florence.
It wasn’t because I was worried about me. We live in Nova Scotia!
But my mother and sister live in Myrtle Beach and my brother lives in Wilmington. Add to that my mother had knee replacement and my siblings never evacuate! Never!
I convinced my mother and my sister to send mom to her brother’s. When Florence was a Category 4 monster I urged my brother and sister to leave knowing that they wouldn’t! Even when it stalled, lost strength and turned into a turtle they stayed put.
They are fine. For that I am grateful.
The same cannot be said for so many in the eastern Carolinas. People are urged to avoid at least 7 counties in Eastern North Carolina. Wilmington is virtually isolate with supplies having to be airlifted in. There are small towns in SC which may just disappear after another storm fueled flood.
And I am in Nova Scotia. 1,362 miles from Wilmington.
I didn’t have to worry about evacuating, or packing up or moving things upstairs.
But my sister can’t get to Conway the way she normally goes. There are places my brother cannot get to in his hometown. Friends are writing me to see if I know places they might help.
This storm has not affected me. But it affects me. In a different way. It is more emotional. It is more memory.
It is still real. A border and distance doesn’t change that.