Charleston resident: Time moves strangely when a hurricane eyes you

Every morning, since Saturday after Florence made its westward turn, it's a new set of contingencies. As the...

Posted: Sep 13, 2018 12:41 AM
Updated: Sep 13, 2018 12:41 AM

Every morning, since Saturday after Florence made its westward turn, it's a new set of contingencies. As the storm nears and intensifies, so too does the stress of preparing and planning. Tuesday morning, my blood began prickling underneath my skin; I felt a nervous-energy in my gut, as though I were perched on the starting blocks before a race.

We are not in the clear, and the current information cannot tell us how Florence will behave once it approaches the coast. Projected track lines across the Carolinas look as though a toddler has scribbled all over the map. Charleston sits on the edge of the cone of uncertainty. The schools, the college campus where I work, all the city offices are all closed. My family is leaving our house on the Charleston peninsula to go inland -- the third time in three consecutive falls.

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Florence threatens, and yet it's beautiful here right now. After the 5 inches of unprecedented snow and ice that glazed the camellias and gave us an actual winter, after a long summer of rains, after an eye-blink of a spring, our front yard garden is ripening. The sages and salvias, the bee balm and zinnias are drawing in a cast of bees and butterflies. The promise of less humid days is visible in the resurrection ferns browning on the live oaks, in the sky's dynamic mixture of high and low altitude clouds.

With the school year in full swing, we were just feeling settled into our weekly routines. Last year, Irma interrupted this exact same week of the school year, and the year before Matthew arrived not far after. I ask myself -- did I plant our winter vegetable garden before or after Irma, before or after Matthew?

September and October have new meanings for me now.

Time moves strangely when a hurricane eyes you from the ocean. You reside in a surreal pre-storm space. The closest comparison I have to this altered time-space is caring for a newborn in the first weeks. You try to concentrate on other things. There's a constant pressure behind your eyes; you do not sleep well. You go hour-by-hour reassessing with every forecast update. You never feel you are making the best choices. You exist in a mixed state of hyper-vigilance and fret; you go back-and-forth discussing the storm's probabilities and what gambles you're willing to take. You might put up plywood; you might not. You might evacuate, if you can. You might not. Hurry up and wait, hurry up and wait -- that's the pre-storm mantra. Then the storm arrives, and you wait.

As I wait, I talk to my neighbors, colleagues and students about their thoughts: Will you stay? What's your plan? In Charleston, you can often tell a South Carolina native from a transplant, like me, based on how they react to these storm threats. Charleston natives, long seasoned by storms and near misses, will joke about how they plan to go to the bars downtown, now that there's plenty of parking with all the tourists gone. They will remind you about Hurricane Hugo -- the measuring stick of what disaster means here. Many will say that if it's a Category 4 or higher, then they will go, but only then.

I do not feel seasoned by these storms yet. But I know what will likely happen here: The peninsula's outermost roads will be inundated with saltwater; the downtown Market will flood. Some of the majestic old trees, heavy with rot, will crack and fall. Every intersection notorious even for sunny-day flooding will fill up all the faster; the crosstown will become a stream. The bridges that link the peninsula and the sea islands will close. Trucks delivering food will be delayed.

Once in the clear, people will venture outside; others will arrive back to their houses to clean up what puddles or debris they find. Threads on our neighborhood Facebook feed will ask what restaurants are open and serving -- gosh darn it, they say, they need to get out of the house, they're stir crazy. At the College of Charleston, we'll have to re-create our syllabi and fit in make-up classes. My summer garden will be toppled, flattened in spirals. It'll be a nuisance -- at least that's what I'm most hopeful for -- a repeat of what has happened twice before.

I'm lucky that I can entertain the thought of Hurricane Florence as a nuisance, but even this is overshadowed by certain catastrophe to the north where the impacts won't be merely bothersome but biblical. Rain there is measured in feet and not inches; the color scale indicating rain accumulations grows a deeper gray as all the more alarming colors were spent further down the scale. As I sit here pitched on the edges of the cone of uncertainty, I'm reminded how much of our lives -- if we are fortunate -- unfold at the edge of a catastrophe that is always striking somewhere and striking hard, sometimes on a scale distant and unimaginable.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 501652

Reported Deaths: 10024
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34353540
DeSoto32162408
Hinds31977631
Jackson24508383
Rankin22015390
Lee15596235
Madison14597280
Jones13867243
Forrest13461252
Lauderdale11998317
Lowndes11065188
Lamar10522136
Pearl River9547237
Lafayette8557140
Hancock7740127
Washington7443160
Oktibbeha7147133
Monroe6787178
Warren6706176
Pontotoc6677104
Neshoba6642206
Panola6542131
Marshall6476135
Bolivar6323150
Union605794
Pike5824152
Alcorn5676102
Lincoln5439135
George497479
Scott473098
Tippah470381
Prentiss469182
Leflore4663144
Itawamba4640105
Adams4592119
Tate4592111
Copiah448792
Simpson4448116
Yazoo444887
Wayne440072
Covington429094
Sunflower4240105
Marion4232108
Coahoma4168107
Leake408688
Newton381779
Grenada3711108
Stone360664
Tishomingo360092
Attala331789
Jasper330165
Winston314691
Clay308977
Chickasaw301067
Clarke292594
Calhoun279447
Holmes267987
Smith264150
Yalobusha234547
Tallahatchie228251
Greene219449
Walthall218764
Lawrence213140
Perry205956
Amite205256
Webster203046
Noxubee186840
Montgomery179657
Jefferson Davis172243
Carroll169338
Tunica160039
Benton149239
Kemper141941
Choctaw133326
Claiborne132837
Humphreys129638
Franklin120328
Quitman106528
Wilkinson105139
Jefferson94734
Sharkey64220
Issaquena1937
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 820312

Reported Deaths: 15407
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1148731924
Mobile726221339
Madison52362697
Shelby37640350
Baldwin37266552
Tuscaloosa35120612
Montgomery34123740
Lee23540246
Calhoun22236488
Morgan20958378
Etowah19838500
Marshall18381304
Houston17394412
St. Clair16078339
Cullman15468293
Limestone15354199
Elmore15271286
Lauderdale14323295
Talladega13851283
DeKalb12664261
Walker11221370
Blount10207176
Autauga10048148
Jackson9877184
Coffee9211191
Dale8904185
Colbert8877201
Tallapoosa7093198
Escambia6778134
Covington6715183
Chilton6648162
Russell637559
Franklin5969105
Chambers5612142
Marion5010127
Dallas4979200
Pike4796106
Clarke475884
Geneva4575127
Winston4522103
Lawrence4327117
Bibb425386
Barbour357876
Marengo338390
Monroe331664
Randolph329864
Butler326796
Pickens316584
Henry312866
Hale311688
Cherokee302960
Fayette294180
Washington251651
Cleburne247760
Crenshaw245375
Clay243368
Macon234863
Lamar224847
Conecuh186353
Coosa180340
Lowndes175464
Wilcox168939
Bullock151744
Perry138940
Sumter133238
Greene126744
Choctaw88527
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 54°
Columbus
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 54°
Oxford
Partly Cloudy
50° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 50°
Starkville
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 54°
High pressure will dominate our weather forecast for our Tuesday. This means we will see some good weather for our Tuesday. However, some rain and thunderstorms will be in our weather forecast down the line with some more low pressure in our area.
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