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Waiting on the ‘boo birds’ to arrive

It may be too early for them to crawl out of their nooks and crannies, but I feel a flock of “boo birds” are coming.

As I write this week’s column on Friday, Sept. 14, bands of rain – accompanied by a brief increase in wind speed – can easily be heard as they pelt the aluminum shell of the building in which I work.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Florence’s howling winds and torrential rains are causing widespread damage to our fellow North Carolinians down in the southeastern part of the state. Unfortunately, their misery will be prolonged for days, weeks and months to come….dealing with the aftermath of major flooding as the rivers and creeks in those areas will cause even more damage (other than what was inflicted initially by the hurricane) and then having to recover and rebuild.

Here at home, the Roanoke-Chowan area was, by most all accords, unscathed by Florence. Sure, there’s always the normal local weather-related events associated with a tropical system….rising water along the Chowan River that typically floods some low lying areas (Tunis for one). And we had a couple of “scares” on Friday morning as two tornadoes were reported in Bertie County. Thank God that no one was injured….especially my niece and her two children who were all forced to take cover inside their home near Merry Hill while one of the twisters got way too close for comfort for them.

But back to my original thought for this column.

Because we dodged Florence’s wicked winds and rain, there will be those locally who question why such extremes were taken here.

The short answer to their question is what’s wrong with being prepared for a possible catastrophic event?

As it always seems to be with any hurricane, we keep a close eye on its path as soon as we learn of its existence. As is often the case, we track it for several days, sometimes a week or more.

Using all the latest technology, to include computer generated tracking models, meteorologists can forecast the path and strength of tropical systems. Are they 100 percent accurate….no, but they typically come very close to being right.

As we kept our eyes glued to Florence’s track last week, the early forecast said she would come onshore near Wilmington (which was correct) and then track north-northwest over eastern and central North Carolina. That sent our local emergency response teams into high alert, and plans – which are well rehearsed and constantly fine-tuned – were put in place and properly executed. Those plans…to name a few…include emergency response, evacuation protocol, stocking supplies, preparing to open storm shelters to the public, notifying the public of the impending dangers, and summoning assistance from outside agencies.

What the public needs to understand is that these plans were put in motion several days prior to Florence making landfall. No one at that time knew the EXACT inland track of Florence. Our local emergency management directors do not have the luxury of waiting until the storm’s path is fully known to activate their plans. If they had waited and then Florence had changed course (heading our way), their efforts would have been too little, too late.     

In the meantime, the public (me included) responded in typical fashion…panic purchasing of supplies (gas, batteries, generators, cases of water, bread, milk, ice, and every non-perishable item known to mankind).

On Wednesday of last week, Florence’s inland track was changed to a southerly direction, before turning west over South Carolina (which she was doing as of this writing). That turn took the R-C area out of the storm’s crosshairs.

Now I’m waiting for those “boo birds” to chastise our local Emergency Management directors for causing widespread panic.

Don’t count me among those “boo birds.” I’ve been through too many of these types of situations before and learned a long time ago to always expect the unexpected with these fickle-minded tropical weather systems. I’ve seen them steer clear when doom and gloom was in our forecast, and slam us hard when the forecast showed otherwise.

Thank you to all of our emergency responders for the job you do each and every day….from when the weather is sunny to when the clouds are gathering on our horizon.

And to the “boo birds” out there, look at what happened to us with Florence as a dry run. It’s still early September and the height of our typical hurricane season is yet to come.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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