Did we act on lessons we learned from Hurricane Florence?

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GUEST EDITORIAL

Deja vu all over again? Rotten timing? Pick your own words.

(We’re leaning toward several of George Carlin’s notorious seven).

Not even a year has passed since Hurricane Florence savaged the eastern half of North Carolina, and now here comes monster Hurricane Dorian.

Unlike Florence, which barreled northwestardly across the Atlantic, keeping North Carolina in its crosshairs the entire time, Dorian is expected to hug the Atlantic Seaboard, jog northward and then, we pray, move eastward, possibly out to open water.

Of course, hurricanes tend not to do what even our best forecasters predict. In our experience with hurricanes — which could be described as an “embarrassment of riches” — these extra-strong storms tend to weaken by the time they make landfall — especially when as far north as the Tar Heel State.

However, as we learned from Floyd and Matthew and Florence, and have been preaching for a good while now, there’s a lot more to hurricanes than wind. Those scary “category” numbers refer to wind speed. We’ve learned to be just as concerned with how much moisture a hurricane is dumping on land, as well as the speed at which the storm is traveling.

While only anecdotal, we recall hurricanes of the past tending to blow by fairly quickly. Now, it seems, they creep along, even stall. When that happens and they are full of moisture and/or are continuing to generate moisture, we get inundated with rain. It seemed like it rained for three days during Florence. No wonder places like Elizabethtown got upward of 25 inches. Same for Floyd — by the time the strong winds got here, it was obvious that it was the water that was a bigger concern. Ditto, Matthew.

Add to that mix the vast amount of development that has occurred in Coastal N.C. over the past 20 years, and it’s no surprise that flooding has become the most dangerous and widespread-destructive consequence of hurricanes.

And with Florence we learned another lesson — it’s not just floodwaters that can wreak havoc. While flooding (often from overflowing rivers) has proved especially deadly for Eastern N.C., many of our structures cannot handle extended periods of basically non-stop, torrential rain, which penetrates otherwise sound buildings, causing outbreaks of mold.

Yep, they’re no fun, these storms. But we certainly seem to know a lot more about the effects of the modern hurricane than we did even a decade ago.

Did we take those lessons to heart? We shall see.

Meanwhile: Godspeed, Coastal North Carolina, and go away, Dorian. We are hurricane-weary and don’t like your kind around these parts.

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