That uninvited guest knocking on our door won’t find anyone at home — we hope.
Florence may be taking a liking to the southern tip of North Carolina’s Atlantic coast, but we hope she finds every window covered, every door locked and nary a soul to greet her. If so, then we as a state would have done the right and intelligent thing to be prepared for what appears to be a long, wet and powerful siege by this blowhard from the Azores.
Even as journalists dashed to the coast, including the Weather Channel’s inimitable Jim Cantore, to record Florence’s slow and meandering arrival, your friends and relatives were steaming toward the Triad and other pieces of higher ground to escape devastating rain and storm surge expected to unfold on Friday.
And by every sign of Hurricane Season, our preparations appear successful. Plywood and generator sales spiked and drained the market. Lines at the gas pumps stretched down the street. Bread aisles in grocery stores were down to crumbs, and enough plastic-contained water was distributed to choke a pod of whales. Beer and booze supplies were in demand, too.
The better measure is that Gov. Roy Cooper and leaders across the state’s most endangered counties have taken Florence seriously and flown the flag of surrender. Cooper took the unprecedented action of ordering coastal counties to evacuate, a decision usually left to those counties but in this case consistent with South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (for once, a Democrat and Republican thinking alike).
Greensboro, Guilford County and Rockingham counties all went into emergency status. Schools were canceled, sporting events called off, shelters opened, and emergency personnel rushed to help anywhere they are needed.
Too often when weather events head our way — and shouldn’t we be glad we see them coming, unlike, say, an earthquake — there is a tendency for “Chicken Little” syndrome. Cautious people take their precautions. Everyone else talks about the weather and how they ride out the storms and don’t really worry about them.
But those who do worry about Florence, Cooper and North Carolina’s entire congressional delegation, contacted President Trump to request an emergency declaration and to alert him to a likely need for financial assistance. Even as the state continues to furrow for funding to deal with the flooding of Hurricane Matthew from two years ago, forecasts suggest Florence could be even more catastrophic.
Trump said all the right things in response, but there are concerns that must be considered about how this might play out.
Our area’s two congressmen, Ted Budd (R-Advance) and Mark Walker (R-Greensboro), voted against aid for the devastation from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria just last year, two of 90 votes in the House against providing much-needed relief for Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. And Trump seems to be in denial about how bad conditions were in Puerto Rico, suggesting Thursday that the nearly 3,000 deaths from Maria were concocted by Democrats.
And then there is this: The Trump administration has diverted $10 million from FEMA — yes, think Florence — to spend on housing immigrant children detained at the Mexican border.
Maybe that signals the best approach to preparedness: Let’s suggest to the president that Florence is an immigrant trying to sneak across the border. There should be plenty of money for that.