Last week, when a huge, deadly tornado blitzed toward them, the people of Moore, Okla., were warned 30 minutes — or fewer — in advance.
This year, if a hurricane comes our way, the people of the South Carolina coast will be warned days in advance.
It’s a huge life-saving edge that the folks who live in hurricane country have over the folks who live in “Tornado Alley.”
But as the start of the 24th hurricane season since Hugo looms on Saturday, some Lowcountry residents aren’t sufficiently prepared to take full advantage of that good fortune. Many have never experienced a hurricane. Many others have been lulled into a false sense of storm security by our long lucky streak on that front.
This combination can feed foolish hurricane complacency.
Adding to the risk is the galling memory of what happened in 1999, when Hurricane Floyd appeared virtually certain to hit land near Charleston before shifting sharply northward and largely sparing our state.
That late turn, however, didn’t spare those caught in nightmarish mass gridlock on I-26 during the attempted inland exodus from Floyd.
Since then, state, federal and local authorities have worked together to implement a much more efficient evacuation strategy. Lane reversals and better coordination of assorted agencies’ efforts should help avert a repeat of the Floyd debacle.
Yet the population of our state’s coast has risen significantly in the last 14 years. That raises the logistical difficulties of moving so many people away from a storm before it hits.
In other words, if you plan to get out of hurricane harm’s way, be ready to get while the getting — and the traffic flow — are still good.
If you plan to ride out a hurricane, consider what course you’ll take if the authorities tell you to leave — and how you’ll weather the storm without electric power and running water if you ignore that appeal.
Consider, too, the more than 70 deaths that directly resulted from Hurricane Sandy last fall as she pounded the Atlantic Coast — especially New York and New Jersey — hundreds of miles to our north.
Many of those fatalities needlessly resulted because coastal residents didn’t heed the authorities urging them to leave.
Don’t follow that tragic example. Develop a responsible hurricane plan for your family — and be ready to carry it out.
Charleston is a special place with special charms. Among them is the glorious spring weather that has now graced the first several days of the 37th Spoleto Festival.
But our weather can also become downright tragic when a hurricane comes calling.
And you need not share Peter Orszag’s views on climate change (see his column on today’s Commentary page) to know that a rising sea level creates a high risk in this or any other low-lying coastal city.
So enjoy our enchanting spring while it lasts — and brace for another muggy summer.
Just remember that if you live on or near the South Carolina coast, the annual challenge of being prepared for a hurricane comes with the territory.
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