Driving back to South Carolina, the storm had not yet begun to make the NEWS and until a few days after my arrival, nobody was talking about it. The dogs and I had just returned to Charleston after a week in New York, working out another chapter of a writing project I have been collaborating on and have built an odd sense of affection for.
Early in the morning of September 10th, a report came across my bathroom radio — something to the effect of “A tropical storm developing off the coast of Africa”. “It is our first storm of the season and could be a big one”. So upon arrival, we had quickly taken up shelter and saught out immediate residence at a motel, some ten northeasterly miles inland off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina. My rental home just did not feel safe enough for us to return to and welcome this unknown storms potential wrath within. I soon felt this was the right decision as it was about this time that I heard Governor McMaster voice come across the airwaves calling for a “mandatory evacuation” for the coastal area beginning the very next day at noon. Over three hundred and fifty thousand South Carolina residents have been evacuated and headed away from the projected path of Hurricane Florence inland toward Columbia, some eighty miles northwest of our position.
But with nowhere to go and no reason to get anywhere more unfamilia, I decided to stay put and request a second floor room. I immediately scoffed at the initial designation for a first floor room as quickly as I had heard it assigned to us.
Once inside, I turned quickly and looked directly behind me to the horizon, I stood there for a few moments and looked to the sky for a hint, a clue, yet nothing was telling about the impending storm that is set to arrive tomorrow on Friday in the early morning. Florence seems to be moving more slowly now than when it started – today being Wednesday the 12th.
Meteorologists electronic highlighters show a multitude of potential paths upon the screen, more lines than not seem to indicate a turn southeast toward where we are, they think it is coming to where we are after it makes landfall.
I dialed a friend to ask of his preparedness or evacuation position, and he told me that he and his dog are staying. He lives on James Island and is far more likely to endure higher winds, more rain, harsher conditions and a better likelihood of losing power. Assuming that the storm doesn’t cycle back south like a backwards letter ‘C’ and loom for a while, which is some folks opinion, I am not in the path at all. I would consider myself safe and years later tell of it, I’ll speak like I am weather tested, like I survived a natural disaster – “this is not my first storm’ I’d tell them pridefully “of course I stayed and did not evacuate”. I actually wont tell such tall tales, but in a pinch it is the makings of decent conversation.
Waiting for a hurricane is an odd feeling of which I cannot recall having ever had prior, we had hurricanes in New York but we didn’t prepare much and we didn’t even hear a breath about evacuation plans. My window foe evacuation here and now, is within four hours — noon time — however I respectfully continue to dismiss with a swift flick from the back of my hand — “To that I say pish posh” and decline. Off to the store for some essentials and as the storm inches nearer, I hear a distant exhausted thunder rumble, I realize that I should use the money wisely and I quickly scribble out a list. As the roads began to look to ease from their typical mumble and rumble of cars and trains, I drove back with what one would consider my camping food cuisine of canned dry goods and having really only camped once. It then occurred to me it was not clear what would work together to provide more meal verities than the six different ingredients than I have and sunk into canned menu creation depression.
Update: Signs are now appearing, I think to myself that an immediate flash of shock from a weather emergency might be easier to endure mentally, you have less time to think about the random outcomes of hardship – I have already created about five. Just after having thought that thought, there is a sound. It isn’t a howl, it’s more like a roar. I close my eyes and outstretch my arms in the middle of the motels parking lot and I can hear the gentle sights of the wind. A deeper and much less subtle sound than its whistle I heard a half an hour before. Then there is silence. No birds, no bees, no crickets — no sound. Nature went on mute for a moment — then remained for another three minutes. It ws a weird experience when everything seems to just stop, to be stuck in time. Something is changing, whisky grey low lying clouds are beginning to gather together and move with the wind above. The weather is now happening — the little creatures always know it first.