A great need for patience and understanding is one of the several points taken in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, which largely spared the Grand Strand but did damage in other parts of South Carolina and, of course, devastated Florida. When a bullet dodges us, it’s human nature to go on with our lives. At the same time, our better angels keep us aware of others who are struggling to cope with a great disaster.
Last week, on the day Irma brushed our area, Horry County Schools announced Tuesday would be a school day. Social media critics jumped right in criticizing the decision and the officials who made it. “Look at the weather,” blah, blah blah.
That’s not to demean parents who may have had real concerns for the safety of their children; however, to read some of the critics, one might conclude HCS folks decided to open the schools in an information vacuum.
In fact, reopening the public schools, in Horry or Georgetown counties or elsewhere, is a huge decision for school administrators. In response to the critics, HCS posted that officials had checked weather forecasts and had people on the roads, and so forth, telling people, in effect, to settle down and remember that the safety of children is the priority.
Tuesday was a picture-perfect day, affirming the HCS decision and making the social medical critics look a bit silly. Look, we understand that social media has its place, largely as social communications. It is hardly the ultimate source of public information and has contributed to increased societal lack of trust in institutions such as government and the news media.
Social networks provide a channel for criticizing the news media, and that’s fine and dandy, although we have some concerns when newspapers, along with television networks and stations, are accused of fear-mongering. Granted, watching The Weather Channel for hours at a stretch gives viewers the idea that absolutely nothing else is going on other than the weather – just as any major news network will not inform much beyond the big news of the cycle.
On the claim of fear-mongering by local media, however, we take strong issue. Would the critics have us report less about an approaching hurricane? Critics of too much news coverage should consider that many southeastern and Florida Keys residents drove north days prior to Irma’s landfall. The Keys evacuation was a success, at least in part to news coverage of Irma’s damage in the Caribbean and Hurricane Harvey in Texas. Yes, people who waited to leave other parts of Florida, after Irma’s projected path changed, were stuck in traffic on Interstate 75.
Flexibility is important in individual and family planning for hurricanes. Area residents who had made lodging reservations in the western Carolinas or eastern Tennessee canceled those plans after Irma’s projected path pointed toward those areas. Hurricanes change course, and forecasters cannot necessarily act on changes three or four days ahead.
In one Florida community, a police commander mentioned that he may have lost his own home, but had not had time to check on the house because he was busy protecting and helping residents. The television reporter and anchor person, obviously moved by the commander’s situation, rightly followed up with mentioning the many first responders who put their communities ahead of their personal situations.
Too much cannot be said of the dedication and hard work of first responders, as well as emergency management people, including those here in Horry and Georgetown counties. Across South Carolina, a total of 885 evacuees were in 25 shelters as of noon on Sept. 11. The Department of Transportation had 2,081 maintenance workers clearing roads, and as many as 8,000 utility linemen were working to restore power.
So our area should be thankful for our emergency management folks and first responders, as well as Irma’s path being well inland of the Grand Strand. We were fortunate with Irma; other places were not. Let us all provide as much help as possible for those areas. And for the next hurricane that comes our way, remember the virtues of patience and understanding.
Irma’s Impact in S.C.
Hurricane Irma missed the Grand Strand and much of South Carolina, but the massive storm nevertheless had an impact. Here are some numbers as of noon Sept. 11, from the state Emergency Management Department:
2,081 | SCDOT maintenance personnel on duty clearing roads
164 | road closures in 10 counties
847 | National, State Guardsmen on duty
369 | State officers on from units including Law Enforcement Division; Department of Natural Resources; Probation, Parole & Pardon Services
100 | Extra state troopers on roads assisting local law enforcement