A storm is not as devastating

Published 10:38 am Friday, September 21, 2018

When a hurricane is tracking toward the region, the word goes out to prepare. Preparing means many things: buying gas for vehicles and generators, groceries, water and batteries; getting the generator up and running; making a plan to evacuate — where to go and how to get there.

When a person is prepared, the risk of personal harm lessens. A storm will do what a storm will do, whether that means trees downed by wind or homes and businesses inundated by flooding from rain and/or storm surge. The only thing each person can do is prepare to protect themselves from the fallout.

So why is it that after a storm, there are so many reports of rescues from flooded areas? If people were told by officials to leave their homes because they would likely flood, why didn’t they? Why are there so many reports of people without food or water? Without batteries for flashlights or diapers for babies and other basic necessities?

Why are so many people in absolute dire need after a hurricane?

The reason is because many eastern North Carolinians live in dire need every day, and a major weather event like Hurricane Florence only brings it to light. The problem is not the storm itself. The problem is that people don’t have the means to prepare.

Many people here live from paycheck to paycheck. Money can’t be spent on the likes of generators, flashlights and batteries — it’s needed for food and to keep the power and water on. The idea of spending money on a generator or an out-of-town hotel is as far-fetched as can be. Evacuating a flood-prone home before a storm is impossible if you don’t have a vehicle in which to drive away.

When we see people lining up for food or supplies, or being rescued in the height of a hurricane, most of them are not there because of bad choices. They are likely in those situations because they had no choice. There was no money. There was no place to go. There was no way to get there. The only choice was to take their chances.

What we see in the aftermath of storms is not devastation caused by wind and rain and flooding. It’s not caused by a lack of preparation. It’s the devastation of poverty.