I know about hurricanes from growing up along coastal Connecticut and existing 10 days without electricity or running water after Fran hit North Carolina in 1996. But Florence scared me.
I stressed when early reports predicted a direct hit to my central North Carolina community. When Flo's track shifted away at the last minute, I rested easier until forecasters warned even a slight turn would put us in danger again ... a dance with uncertainty that put everyone on edge.
The storm is gone now. We are okay, but people living along the coast and inland rivers face months of rebuilding. Here’s my Florence pictorial journal.
MONDAY- 4 days before Flo
Spouse JM and I keep a weather emergency kit, but dire warnings of a category 4 storm striking our home near Raleigh, NC, have us scrambling to assemble 3 days of water and non-perishable foods for each of us. I worry about being without power, especially in late-summer’s 90F/33C temps.
Images left/right: NOAA, WRAL Weather
No lines yet at the station when I top off the tank, but people already fill containers for generators and buy extra propane tanks for back-up power.
Abandoning my preferred reading mode of audio and e-books, I swing by the library for good ole print tales to help me escape during potential evenings lit by lanterns.
TUESDAY - 3 days before Flo
Officials predict catastrophic flooding in our area. Local TV and radio stations blast what-to-do-before-disaster-strikes segments that have everyone’s attention. Water, bread, and beer fly off grocery shelves. Hah ... Just try to find a generator!
Mandatory evacuations begin for coastal towns and even along nearby flood-prone creeks.
Our community's Facebook group kicks in. Neighbors asking questions. Others giving advice and reassurance to storm newbies. JM and I have been through storms but have no idea how our new home will stand up to bad weather. More worries.
WEDNESDAY - 2 days before Flo
Good news for us: Florence turns south overnight, sparing us from a direct strike. Still with five days of rain and 40 mph winds, JM and I pack the garage and screen porch with lawn furniture and my garden treasures. Don't want these items becoming lethal projectiles during the storm.
THURSDAY - 1 day before Flo
Sunny skies and summertime temps make warnings feel like fake news. Government officials persist, telling residents in evacuation areas they must leave NOW or they will be on their own if they stay. Schools in eastern and coastal NC close. Businesses let out early.
JM and I make one last trip to the grocery store for prepared salads and then to Subway .... our stash of no-cook dinners to toss in a cooler should we lose power (Yep, can't cook on an electric stove. Sigh.)
By evening, clouds move in. Winds pick up. We will not see the sun for the next six days. We pray those creaks and crashes we hear outside during the tempest are not falling trees or flying roof tiles.
FRIDAY - 14 September 2018: Flo, Day 1
At 2p.m., lights blink back on. And the internet is back!
Cannot believe our good fortune. Like winning the lottery! We hope power stays but still prepare for the worst. We let friends and family know we're okay.
SATURDAY & SUNDAY - Flo, Days 2 & 3
Florence is S*L*O*W in moving across our state and stays with us for five days. I hear one meteorologist say the storm travels at 2 mph, which is slower than most people walk.
JM and I hunker down and exist on TV news running non-stop with tales of devastation. Dams break. Roads wash away. Shelters thrum with evacuees, who have no idea when they might go home or IF they have a home to go to.
There's kindness and bravery, too. We watch the Cajun Navy and others perform swift water rescues as inland rivers crest up to 30 feet above flood stage.
Monday - Flo, Day 4
As Florence dials down, I brave a walk around the 'hood.
Bah! Wind flips turns my umbrella inside out before I can shut the door. Determined, I tighten my slicker, avoiding towering pines that bow too close to the ground with each gust for my comfort.
Other than fallen limbs and rain-soaked leaves clinging everywhere, the 'hood looks ok. Our big spillway at the end of my street, normally a clay-shrouded pit that captures water run off, is holding as it should. Whew!
We dodged the bullet.
Photo right during Flo: Glenn G
Tuesday - Flo, Day 5
Finally peeks out.
Lives reset to normal.
And like Itsy Bitsy spider...
we start to
Looking Back - Flo by the Numbers*
Looking Back - Flo by the Heart
Driving on I-40 two weeks after the storm, I get goosebumps passing parades of line and bucket trucks from Ohio, Oklahoma, and Indiana returning home after traveling to restore power lines.
I'm beyond grateful for these and other first responders who helped clean up, staff shelters, hand out food, rescue stranded motorists, and more. So many doing kind work in times of great need.
Photos: Thanks to Jean Ann A.
I feel blessed to have dodged this Frankenstorm. But I feel guilty, too, knowing it caused catastrophic damage elsewhere to thousands. My hardship, 6 hours without power and minor inconveniences, is nothing in comparison. I feel compelled to help, donating to our church disaster service agency and assembling storm relief kits.
Want to help, too? Please consider contributing to rebuilding efforts through your favorite organization or a reputable relief service listed here by our charity navigator.org. (There's also a new link to help with the Indonesian disaster) Thanks!
If you were in Florence's crosshairs, my best and blessings to you! How are you faring?
What kind of evil weather event have you experienced? I am a wreck in storms! What coping strategies do you use to keep grounded, calm? Please share in the comments section.
* By the Numbers figures from The Raleigh News and Observer, 30 September 2018: "Florence brought relentless rain, epic flooding and an uncertain future to NC."
Photos by Cat Michaels except where noted
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