Thursday, September 14, 2017

Thank God and Georgia Power--Irma is Gone!

Irma is finally history!  Just waiting for her to do whatever she was going to do was a long, drawn-out ordeal.   I’m so over hurricanes!  I feel I have been battered with wind and pelted with rain.  If you know me, or have been reading my columns for over three years, you know that I’m a news junkie.  While I prefer political news, I’m fascinated by weather news.  No two events are ever the same and it brings the best out in people, whether it be bravery, resilience or kindness.  Unlike political news that divides people, weather news can be discussed and everyone is on the same page.

I WATCHED every twist and turn of both hurricanes Harvey and Irma for about twenty days. I have learned more about hurricanes than I ever wanted to know.  During that time, I flew into the eye of the hurricane many times and am in awe of the courage of those pilots.  At one point, I even thanked George for not choosing that job as a profession.  I have learned the importance of reservoirs, levees and dams. However, the term, “open the flood gates” strikes fear in my heart, especially since we live down- stream on the river from the High Falls dam.   I learned why I may not be suited to live on a beach, bay or canal in Florida because of the power of storm surges. 

THE NEWS coverage of these two hurricanes have been unprecedented.  The meteorologists have been excellent at forecasting, primarily because they used a new visual aid that looked like spaghetti.  These spaghetti strands predicting the possible path of the hurricane included every possible path, therefore they could not get it wrong.  But they did, kinda sorta.  East coast or West coast, it still hit Florida. 

FOR ME personally, the days leading up to Irma’s arrival was very frustrating.  I have a nest of family members in and around Brunswick.  I knew I could expect from 2 to 20 to evacuate to my house and with them, a pack of dogs and a ferret.  Their reservations were made with the caveat, “Depending on if it’s a mandatory evacuation.”  After the mandatory evacuation order was issued, the caveat was changed to “if it’s category 3 or 4.”  I watched those spaghetti strands until I nearly went blind.  The forecast path kept changing.  Many phone calls back and forth.  I was constantly adding to and subtracting from my grocery list.  My first two (and only) evacuees arrived Thursday night.  Their plan was to drop their dogs at my house and travel on to their daughter’s in Atlanta.  However, with the traffic on I-75, they couldn’t get there from here.  On Saturday when we learned the hurricane was headed to Monroe County, fearing one of my trees may fall, I said, “Bro, I never thought I’d ever say these words, “but you have to go!”  They left Sunday morning and it took them three hours to get to Atlanta.  I don’t know how long it will take them to get back but they’ll return—they left their dogs with me. 

WE ALL SAW first-hand the effects of the storm on the people of the state of Florida.  They fled their homes with their children and pets and headed into the unknown.  They didn’t know if they would find enough gas to get them to wherever they were going, and some didn’t know if they would be able to find a warm bed.  This was evidenced by the tens of thousands of vehicles that clogged our Interstates.  I cannot imagine that stress.  I have been in several hurricanes and have even experienced “the eye” of one, but I have never faced evacuation.  If I ever do, I pray I find myself in a place like Monroe County.

THE GREAT people of Forsyth and Monroe County sprang into action when these evacuees arrived here.  We have great caring churches in our community.  Forsyth Presbyterian Church provided their Parish House to a big family with pets.  New Providence, New Beginnings, Maynard Baptist and High Falls Baptist provided Shelter.  I am certain there are more churches providing aid and comfort to the evacuees but these are the ones I know.  I apologize if I left your church out.

LASTLY, I was proud to be a part of the coming together of First Baptist of Forsyth, Rocky Creek Baptist, and Forsyth United Methodist Sunday Evening.  At least two hundred evacuees were fed, with enough food left over to take to two other churches providing shelter.  I had the opportunity to talk to many of these people.  They all had stories to tell of their trip to Forsyth, some taking as long as 16 hours.  Most all were nervous about what they will find when they finally make it back home.  Every single person was grateful for the help received from our community.  One man stated to me, “Forsyth has the nicest people anywhere I have ever encountered.”  We should all feel proud!

I AM LEFT with two questions.  What is going on in Houston since the cameras left to cover Irma?  And, where is Hurricane Jose?

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