For this issue’s column, I intended to chat about books. I’ve had some interesting book-related experiences lately that I wanted to share.
But alas, as I sat in front of this screen to write, I received yet another storm alert on my phone – Hurricane Ian is bearing down on the west coast of Florida and could be heading toward the Lowcountry.
It occurs to me that many of our readers are new to town and might not have a clue about what to expect. While Jim Cantore hangs out in Punta Gorda, or on whatever next beach he found that’s windy, we just sit here and wait and read and listen and wonder what the next few days will bring.
(Side note: Just for fun, type this into your internet browser: Where is Jim Cantore right now? If the answer is anywhere near you, LEAVE!)
We wonder because we can’t know. Every storm is different. And they can change course unexpectedly.
The next day, Sept. 28, we learned that Hurricane Ian made landfall as a Category 4 monster – one of the strongest hurricanes to ever hit the west coast of Florida – at Fort Myers. Millions of Florida residents were without power, roofs had blown off, homes were flooded.
The storm continued its path of rain, wind and destruction across the middle of the state. Later in the day, the storm had slowed and weakened to Category 3.
The entire coast of South Carolina was under a tropical storm warning, with an additional hurricane watch. This means bad weather is pretty much imminent, but we can’t know for sure until it happens.
Now, understand that as I’m typing, I’m well aware that you won’t be reading this until Oct. 4 at the earliest, so anything I write now about the rest of this storm is going to be moot by then. Ian will have moved past us or disintegrated, even if it hits us.
While we can’t know these scenarios ahead of time, we can learn from whatever has happened between this writing and your reading it.
So, for our new neighbors, and as a reminder for long timers, here are a few things you can expect, and what you can do – next time a storm seems to be heading our way:
• Expect some users of social media to “have all the answers,” and don’t pay much attention there. DO pay attention to official sources, such as local emergency officials, government and law enforcement departments.
• Expect that as a storm approaches and local warnings begin, you’ll have plenty of time to get out of danger before it gets ugly. DO start to implement your hurricane plan. Use the “wait and wonder” time to fill up your gas tank, decide where you might go (if evacuation is ordered), and get your bug-out bags ready to go – essential clothing, toiletries, food, water and meds for about a week. Don’t forget about the pets! And batteries! And phone chargers!
• Expect that stores will run short of bottled water and toilet paper if a storm seems imminent. DO try to stay stocked up on essentials. (This is in case the storm isn’t as bad as it could have been, but not bad enough to evacuate.)
• Expect that things can change quickly. DO pay attention for both the good and the bad news about storm direction, speed and landfall, and act accordingly.
Whatever the outcome, I hope we are all safe and our homes remain intact. I hope we will be either cleaning up the bits of branches and debris Ian left for us, or simply blowing leaves off the driveway and putting the lawn chairs back outside.