Afraid of tropical apathy

Published 7:52 pm Friday, September 14, 2018

Hurricane Florence has come and gone in Hampton Roads without most of the ill effects that were predicted.

The storm, once a major hurricane that appeared to have its sights set on our worst-case scenario — Outer Banks landfall — instead reversed course when it approached the East Coast, giving Hampton Roads nothing more than coastal flooding in the usual places, wind gusts in the 20s and 30s and a little bit of rain.

In other words, we here in Hampton Roads were fortunate. We were blessed. We got lucky. Whatever terminology you want to use, that’s us this week, once again.

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Unfortunately, Hurricane Florence is battering our neighbors to the south as of this writing and already has caused a few deaths there. Devastating flooding, winds that are knocking down trees and more are only the beginning.

While we’re remarking on our good fortune, we shouldn’t forget how devastating this storm has been and will be for the Carolinas. One of the main things we shouldn’t forget — that could have just as easily been us.

Plenty of people were Monday-morning-quarterbacking the meteorologists as soon as Friday morning. They could be found all over social media, griping about the supplies they bought, the generators they purchased, the days off school and work and the other preparations they made.

But those same people would have been the loudest complainers if the meteorologists had undersold the danger and left millions of people unprepared. Some were even complaining about how early the evacuations were ordered, as if millions of people can escape a giant cul-de-sac like Hampton Roads in the blink of an eye.

The worst thing about close calls like this is that every near-escape from a devastating storm makes hundreds of thousands of people all the more smug and self-confident that a bad hurricane can never and will never hit this area, no matter how good the predictions are.

Perhaps because of Florence, or one of the many before it, the next storm that threatens this area will be taken less seriously, and as a result the next storm may cause more deaths and suffering.

I’m afraid of seeing that happen, so my advice to everyone is to be grateful you were prepared, enjoy eating all that nonperishable food in the full light of your powered home, and make sure you’re prepared again next time.