As Hurricane Florence bears down on the Carolina coast, I remember my first hurricane.
Not my actual first hurricane, a freak storm that hit Long Island back in the mid-1980s, but my first real hurricane, which landed on the Louisiana coast just a couple of weeks after I moved to town in 1988. This one was also named Florence, strangely enough.
At Loyola, they sealed the freshman dorm, but my friends and I had the wherewithal to sneak out before the lockdown and set up accommodations at friends’ apartments. I spent some of the wildest moments of that storm in the bed of a pickup truck, driving through the deserted New Orleans streets as furious rain and lightning assaulted the city from above.
I remember this as the citizens of the Triad make furious preparations for the oncoming storm as breathless TV announcers imply that the only thing keeping us alive throughout the disaster are their on-spot dispatches and maps in motion. Even Trump got in on the act, calling all of us North Carolina citizens “incredible” in a tweet issued on Tuesday.
I’ve been through more than a dozen hurricanes, clocked more than a dozen others as they made their way towards me. And I’ll tell you this: Hurricane Florence, now a Cat 4, will certainly cause a lot of damage to the Carolina coast. It may even remain a Cat 4 or, even worse, a Cat 5, until it makes landfall. That would be brutal for our coastal communities.
Mark my words: Here in the Triad, we will get a lot of rain, as these storms tend to hover after they break on the land. We’ll have some wind. Some flooding, possibly. And sure, some loose tree branches might knock out power in a neighborhood or two.
After following the news cycle through the early part of the week, I’m alarmed at how easily so many people around here have become convinced that we are in imminent danger. The grocery stores have been out of bottled water for days. Events — indoor events — are being canceled. People are freaking out.
We’re some 200 miles inland. Winston-Salem is more than 900 feet above sea level. This is not hurricane country. Get a grip on yourselves.
Maybe I’m wrong — and I know some of you sick haters out there are actually hoping I’m wrong. We’ll know by Friday morning, after what remains of Florence makes landfall on the Carolina coast.
But I’m not stockpiling any bottled water. And I’ve got a flight out of town Saturday morning that I intend to make.