Watching the progress of Hurricane Matthew up the East Coast this weekend, I had to reflect on the minute-by-minute news coverage of a slowly developing tropical storm system.
Because we have around-the-clock TV news coverage with all manner of instant social media access, it seems like they’re reporting it to death.
When I first moved to Oklahoma, it was easy to tell the new people and the lifelong residents.
The local folks really just listened to the reports of severe thunderstorms, hail and tornadoes with only mild interest.
It seems that nobody with Oklahoma roots takes real notice until the alarms start going off.
The visitors, tourists and transplants run to the window and lose serious cool points every time some meteorologist says there’s going to be severe weather within 100 miles.
That’s kind of the way I feel about this hurricane.
I spent so much time on the coast of Eastern North Carolina, that a report of a hurricane is really a snoozer.
There was a period of about 20 years when they didn’t seen any hurricanes and then, while I was there of course, there were about three a year for about five years.
I didn’t start out quite so experienced.
I did hear all about the storm surge, but did my research and realized my house was about 32 feet above sea level, so I was pretty safe from that.
If you’ll pardon the expression, I weathered through several small hurricanes, about category one and two, for a couple of years, mostly with maximum sustained winds up to 95 mph for a “cat one” and up to about 110 for a “cat two.”
They often have small tornadoes spinning off these systems — nothing compared to Oklahoma super cells — but large enough to get your attention and knock down some trees and power lines.
There was also a great deal of flooding because we were on the shallow end of the nation’s largest single-state watershed.
But I was relatively safe from that, so long as I didn’t go out exploring too much and try to cross standing water.
Then along came Fran.
I figured my house could withstand a category three hurricane — up to about 130 mph — we had even seen 120 mph once before — but I was concerned about a category four hurricane that could have sustained winds up to about 156 mph.
So I watched Fran head north toward Wilmington, N.C. — just south of us.
I boarded up the windows with plywood as I’ve done many times before, to be safe from flying debris and watched a category-four-size Fran head right toward us.
I knew the roads would be packed, so I set my threshold early at “category four approaching near Wilmington” and decided we were going to stay with friends two hours inland in Raleigh if that should come to pass.
Well, that happened, so I quickly packed a light bag and said a prayer as I locked the doors and headed inland.
I felt a little silly when Hurricane Fran downsized to a category three just after it hit Wilmington, but she ran right up Interstate 40 and followed me to Raleigh.
Out on the coast all the weak power lines, trees and structures had long since been destroyed. All the rebuilding was designated “hurricane proof.”
Not so in Raleigh.
There we were playing cards late into the night in Raleigh and Fran made her presence known.
The power went out, trees were blown down and it flooded the local loop interstate they call the “beltline,” making it impassable.
There I was, a former Marine in a survival situation without any of my survival gear left neatly and safely stored back on the coast — chainsaws, sleeping bags, camp stoves, lanterns, bottled water, canned goods, etc.
It took me two days to get out of that Raleigh neighborhood because the weak trees with wet roots came down and when I finally was able to return to the coast, I discovered that my house was unscathed.
I felt really silly this time and decided I wouldn’t make the same mistake again.
Now my prayers are with our Caribbean neighbors who live in makeshift shelters not suitable to withstand the winds.
But in this country, blessed as we are, so long as you get away from the coast, out of mobile homes and stay away from flooding rivers or windows to avoid possible flying glass — it’s usually not too bad to wait out a hurricane.
Except for the fact that when the power goes out, you’re stuck inside a boarded-up house with no ventilation and no air conditioning during a hot and humid tropical storm.
Time to break out another deck of cards or maybe read a good book by flashlight.
Reach Eric Steinkopff at [email protected] or 580-482-1221, ext 2072.