Living in the lowcountry of Charleston SC comes with its travails. An Atlantic hurricane season that lasts from June 1 to November 30 is among them. The last four days of watching Hurricane Irma make her slow approach toward the U.S. has felt like a very long game of "Russian Roulette." And now? Hurricane Irma has followed the advice given to many a Victorian youngster after the turn of the 20th century ... "Go West." She shifted both her intent and her direction, having moved in a path that took it along the western edge of Florida, she downgraded rapidly and as such earned a new name as Tropical Storm Irma. Charleston will see a good storm and rainfall, but nothing like what seemed a certainty of experiencing a monster hurricane only a few days ago.
In my youth I spent many years at sea, and during that time fierce storms and other people’s wars were an unreported part of life. You just got on with it as there was nobody to help or take it all away but yourself and your crew.
It has left me with two strong reflections:
- the first is that the larger the threat, the larger is the tribe. When faced with pain and disaster, humankind forgets its petty squabbles and works for the survival of the group, that group being on a city scale, in the event of a threat like Hurricane Irma, heading to Charleston as a Category 5. Everyone in Charleston from the city workers, Historic Societies, churches, businesses, hotels and general populous simply switched to a different mode and started preparing to protect themselves, their group and this beautiful city of ours.
- the second is that once you have time to sit and reflect, a strange sense of guilt pervades in that you are unharmed in part as a result of that harm moving on to someone else. I think it’s termed "survivors guilt" and it is tangible.
So as the next few days roll away and we see what the remaining fingers of Hurricane Irma serve up in these parts, let us also think of those who saw it in the raw. Undoubtedly the poor and homeless will suffer the effects for years to come. Life is ever unfair in the hand it deals.
Hurricane season in Charleston SC is something that fosters solidarity among the residents of this resilient city. We experienced it firsthand last year when Hurricane Matthew made landfall nearby. If I were to take away a thought from the last few days it would be to remind our politicians and planners that natural disasters happen and cannot be avoided. Spending and planning decisions should not necessarily be predicated on the expedient, but rather on what is the right long-term decision, what builds resilience in our communities and protects our great city going forward from the uncertain headwinds we face.
Note: It seems that Charleston has avoided a serious hit from Hurricane Irma. Paths shift, but planning remains the key. Two months remain in what is forecast to be an active hurricane season and we may be called upon by Mother Nature to repeat this drill. In the meantime, if there's anything you have questions about, don't hesitate to reach out to us. We've had plenty of experience in this sort of preparation ... you can also post your questions or comments on the blog below.
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