Times are changing — so should the plan

Published 5:45 pm Friday, September 22, 2017

There’s been so much on the news lately of the damage that hurricanes can do.

Southeast Texas was devastated by more than four feet of rain and the flooding that ensued through Hurricane Harvey. Just a month ago, people were taken by surprise by the storm’s ferocity — that was, until Hurricane Irma came along a mere two weeks later, destroying many islands in the Caribbean before going on to crush the Florida Keys and cause historic flooding as far away from the storm as Charleston.

Irma also took people by surprise when it knocked out electricity to almost all of Florida, and its residents were left in the dark, and the heat, for a week. Now comes Maria, which, like its predecessor Irma, once again tore a path of destruction through the Caribbean two weeks later. Puerto Rican officials estimate that it could be up to six months before electricity is restored to the island, even as they continue deal with major flooding across the island.

Billions of dollars of damage has been done. Homes have been lost. More importantly, lives have been lost.

Each hurricane season every resident of Beaufort County is asked to put together a plan to shelter in place in case a hurricane or tropical storm comes this way. Most residents do the basics, a few days before the storm is forecasted to it. That’s all county residents have really had to do, because the caliber of storms that tend to hit eastern North Carolina are categories 1 or 2.

The back-to-back-to-back hurricanes seen this hurricane season could be an anomaly: one Category 4; two Category 5’s, within weeks of one another. Should a storm of such ferocity set its sights on eastern North Carolina, there likely will be no sheltering in place. The whole game plan changes.

If Beaufort County is in the path of Category 4 or 5 storm, the state will issue evacuation orders for any low-lying area. Considering the power of hurricanes such as Harvey, Irma and Maria, all of Beaufort County falls into the “low-lying” category.

Perhaps it’s time to add an evacuation plan to the shelter-in-place plan that’s worked for so long. Times are changing; the response must change too.