Like most East Coast surfers, when the world turns toward summer in our parts, I find myself checking the National Hurricane Center website on a pretty regular basis, hoping for waves. It had been a very slow summer until Florence showed up. Nearly a week before landfall, Charlestonians were wondering if Hugo 2.0 had finally appeared. As we now know, this potential wave machine turned into a disaster for North Carolina and kicked very little surf our way as it tracked farther north, sparing us.
Despite the fact that we are safe and relatively unaffected by the natural disaster, there is reason to be concerned for some other lasting effects from Hurricane Florence here in Charleston. There are two prongs to this fork which could prove deadly if left unchecked. The first is ignorant machismo. The second, is President Donald Trump's idiocy. His philosophies, bordering on insanity, are so infectious among some that his rants could end up costing lives as people don their "Fake News" T-shirts instead of boarding up their homes and evacuating the next time a storm threatens our coast.
In Charleston, we were very fortunate Florence decided to take a more northerly track. Otherwise, there would still rescues and recoveries here instead of a few hours north. I was shocked, though, at some of the conversation I've heard regarding our good fortune around town as folks realized they personally had nothing to fear from Florence.
I can distill these conversations into complaints from folks who were annoyed with the evacuation order. I heard one man at a grocery store whining that Gov. Henry McMaster's evacuation order was nothing more than a "pissing contest" between himself and the North Carolina governor. Statements like these display a complete lack of education with regard to this storm and hurricanes in general. It also a shows a very dangerous lack of respect for nature.
I knew Florence before she even had a name. With hope for Folly Beach swells, I followed Florence and read every NHC discussion. We had every reason to be concerned for Florence in Charleston. When the evacuation order was made, residents had about about two days to get their affairs in order and leave the area before a category 4 monster hurricane was predicted to bury Charleston. But nature is dynamic. It doesn't obey us. Environmental conditions changed and we were spared. We should be thankful.
Instead, people are upset because of the inconvenience. To whine and complain because preparations for a devastating natural catastrophe proved unnecessary while people are dying and suffering just a few hours from here is nothing short of disgusting. What worries me, though, are the people who will ignore future evacuation orders based on the fact that this particular hurricane didn't obey our forecast.
This concern is exacerbated by some of the news coverage of Florence which had more simple-minded residents chanting "fake news" while people were drowning in North Carolina.
You probably saw the video of a Weather Channel reporter struggling to stay in one place as he covered the storm. However, the drama quickly transformed into comedy as a couple of locals ruined his shot by walking casually in the background with no trouble at all. The Weather Channel tried to maintain their credibility by claiming he was standing on wet grass while the others were walking on pavement. Additionally, there were shots of Anderson Cooper standing in nearly waist deep water as he reported on the flooding. Once again, people walking in the background revealed Cooper was standing in a ditch to accentuate the flooding in that particular spot.
Trump lackeys latched on to what was seen as misleading reporting. Unfortunately, all of this will only reinforce "fake news" conspiracies that have been plaguing this country. The actions of these 'journalists' are a disservice to the public as well as honest media. I can appreciate the philosophy that might drive Cooper toward such antics. Flooding was honestly that bad and worse in nearby areas. What's the harm?
First, it's weak reporting. It is the difference in being a war correspondent in the trenches with soldiers and standing in front of a green screen with someone throwing firecrackers just off camera. It's false, even if the story is true just down the road. Dishonesty like this makes the media less trustworthy, fueling Trump's ridiculous war on any news outlet that doesn't praise him.
More than that, it will cost lives.
At some point, another hurricane will threaten us. We'll be warned to evacuate and Facebook will be flooded with memes and equivalent cries of "fake news." The hurricane won't care. Just ask anyone in the path of Florence. Charleston has been living on national disaster credit for quite a few years now. Don't let poor reporting or a lunatic president be enough reason to retire your brain. Nature doesn't care about the Weather Channel, political propaganda, or your logic. Get out of the way.
Ali was born in Greenville, SC but grew up in High Point, NC where he studied English/Writing at High Point University. He has called Charleston home since 2006 and wants to believe Bigfoot is real.