The the Hoarse Wolf-Calls of Governor McMaster

Washout Folly Beach during Hurricane Bonnie

I had this post all mapped out in my head as I drove to Folly Beach from West Ashley this morning.  Since public safety is allowing only residents on the island, I have the beach to myself, more or less.  I drove to the Washout, Folly Beach’s premiere surf break, ready to write about the awesome swell and how twenty years ago I would have been right there with those well-warned surfers, struggling to paddle outside of the break, and once I’d made it, how I’d be eager to catch one of those monsters, hoping to make the drop and achieve stokification or, perhaps more likely, to suffer a crushing avalanche-like wipe out.

I was going to complain that now I was too old to even try, reduced to getting my thrills vicariously, like the old man in The Big Sleep. (I suspect that William Faulkner, who received partial credit for the screenplay, wrote this part).

The problem is here is the Washout on Day 4 of Governor Henry McMaster’s mandatory evacuation.  It’s as flat as a John Brown’s EKG.*

 

 

On Monday afternoon, declaring that even one life was too precious to lose, Governor McMaster, who refuses federal Medicaid money, ordered a mandatory evacuation of the South Carolina coast.*  Drop everything, close your businesses, find refuge with loved ones or at Motel 6 inland (which doesn’t sound all that safe to me).

And for the third year in a row the mandatory evacuation was completely unnecessary for Folly Beach.  Four school days down the drain.  Millions of dollars squandered.

A legitimate fear is that when a real storm comes a-callin’ some of the population might be too jaded to take warnings seriously.  I’m all for evacuating for deadly storms but not when they’re a week away and their paths uncertain.


*”John Brown’s body”, of course, “lies a-mouldering in the grave.”

Blow, Matthew; Crack Your Cheeks; Rage, Blow

Winslow Homer:

Winslow Homer: “Hurricane”

Between foreseeing and averting change
Lies all the mastery of elements
Which clocks and weatherglasses cannot alter.
Time in the hand is not control of time,
Nor shattered fragments of an instrument
A proof against the wind; the wind will rise,
We can only close the shutters.

                              Adrienne Rich, “Storm Warnings”

As I type this, my wife Judy Birdsong and I are awaiting Hurricane Matthew’s arrival on a barrier island off the coast of South Carolina. Ominously enough, Folly Beach is the name of this island. Folly’s main historical claim to fame is that Union soldiers occupied the island during our Civil War[1] and Gershwin wrote the music for Porgy and Bess here while staying at DuBose Heyward’s beach house. Heyward’s novel Porgy, by the way, features a hurricane, but one that sneaked upon the characters in those simpler days before Jim Cantore became a household name.  Nothing against Jim and the well-meaning folks at the Weather Channel, but enduring the high keen of their histrionic prophecies is a bit of a drag for us seasoned veterans of what Adrienne Rich calls later in the poem quoted above “troubled regions.”  Also, no doubt, well-meaning, Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina shut down the state from the capital to the coast Tuesday evening.  She actually decreed all capital city schools be closed, including the University, even though the capital, Columbia, is situated 100 miles inland, and the order came over 48 hours ago.[2]

Here’s what it looks like right now from our bedroom window (i.e. 3:05 EDT 7 Oct 2016).

Our decision to defy Governor Haley’s mandatory evacuation order worries some of our friends, and it ‘s not surprising given the Weather Channel correspondents’ brow-beating and pleading. Perhaps because I am a native here, and this will be my sixth storm, I’ve come to resent the complete and utter lack of nuance we are subjected to during tropical events.

For example, we’ve been warned that there will be “storm surges that we’ve not seen since Hurricane Hugo,” which is true, though with Matthew the surges at Charleston are estimated to be 4 – 6 feet and with Hugo the largest was measured at 21 feet.

post Matthew damage on Daytona Beach

post Matthew damage on Daytona Beach

Sullivans Island post Hugo

Sullivans Island post Hugo

Believe me, if I lived in a mobile home or a one-story house on a slab at sea level, I would be long gone. However, we don’t, are in our 60’s, and as Judy puts it, “I  have cancer anyway.” In other words, we’re having fun, an adventure.   If only Fernando and Alameda Marcos could join us and sit in these throne-like stacked chairs hauled in from the screen porch.

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We believe in science. Matthew’s pressure has risen 9 millibars in 6 hours, our house was built to exceed hurricane codes, and its bottom floor is 30+ feet above sea level.

In fact, my biggest concern is that we’re going to run out of boiled peanuts.

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[1] AKA among the unreconstructed as “the War Between the States” or, worse, “the War of Northern Aggression.” As Hamlet put it, “though I am native here/And to the manner born,” I somehow ended up a liberal and acknowledge my region’s “manifold sins and wickedness” yet still somehow love Dixie, treasure my native soil. Go figure.

[2] Governor Haley, once the darling of Sarah Pallin, perhaps, to use hurricane lingo, has jogged to the left during her two terms, though it would appear that she’s not all that big on science. My son, who teaches in Orlando, much closer to the storm’s “wrath,” had a full day of school on Wednesday and a half day yesterday.