‘There but for the grace of God … ’

Published 3:33 pm Tuesday, September 12, 2017

It’s safe to say that most Beaufort County residents breathed a sigh of relief once it became clear that Hurricane Irma, now the strongest and longest storm on record, would not be making a coastal trek north — with good reason.

Footage of the Virgin Islands, Cuba and various other Caribbean nations unfortunate enough to be in the storm’s path is harrowing. Homes, gone. No water, no electricity. It will take years for the islands to recover. By the time Irma reached the Florida keys, the storm had been downgraded, not packing nearly as much of a punch as what was seen just a day earlier. Still, the damage is astounding. Hundreds of thousands of people are without electricity, and it may be the case for another week. Even as Irma became nothing more than a tropical depression, it was still wreaking havoc. Most likely people in Charleston and other coastal South Carolina areas were unprepared for the catastrophic flooding: how could Irma have such a reach and such an impact when it had essentially become what commonly referred to around here as “just a storm?”

Well, it did. Jacksonville, Florida, hasn’t experienced flooding like it’s had this week since 1846. Irma was a tropical storm when it hit Jacksonville.

This storm is still not done, and while it’s winding down, it will continue to cause flooding and damage in places that have never had a hurricane — or at least, not that anyone can remember.

In the past three weeks, parts of the U.S. have been devastated by two such storms: Harvey, which hit southeast Texas; and now Irma. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence they occurred back to back. What is clear, however, is that these storms are getting larger and more powerful, and for low-lying Beaufort County, that is cause for concern.

Yes, Beaufort County dodged a bullet with Irma, but in the wake of so many people’s homes and even lives being destroyed, it is not time to celebrate. Rather, it is time to think and time to prepare.