We were just getting settled in for burgers and beer — maybe even the beach — when the call came.
Nobody wanted to hear the word “evacuate,” especially not on a Sunday in the middle of a long holiday weekend.
Gov. Henry McMaster issued the order to retreat from the coast before the Labor Day grills were even fired up, effectively throwing a damper on the last blowout (no pun intended) of the summer.
So, no surprise a lot of folks got mad.
In the stores and on social media, people said the governor jumped the gun, was making the call too early. Hurricane Dorian, as dangerous as it is — a deadly Cat 5 at the time — was still in the Bahamas, moving at a snail-like 1 mph.
It didn’t take a rocket scientist, or a meteorologist, to know that we had some time.
To most people who’ve been through this too many times lately, it seemed almost certain this would consume the entire week. Which it has. That’s a week of lost wages, possibly an extended stay at some not-so-cheap motel in East Egypt, Georgia.
Yes, it’s a pain. An expensive one.
But here’s a little secret: The governor knows all this. In fact, it pained him to give the evacuation order. But he had little choice.
It’s a liability thing, a moral responsibility. As McMaster said, even if we aren’t ultimately hit by a monster hurricane, it’s far better to be safe than sorry.
He’s absolutely right.
Word is, state emergency management personnel recommended the evacuation even earlier, but McMaster resisted. He didn’t want to inconvenience people, take them away from their regularly scheduled holiday. It took a few hours to persuade him.
Yeah, it seemed early. But it takes time, up to 72 hours, to effectively coordinate the evacuation of more than 800,000 coastal residents. The last thing anyone wants is for a storm to hit while thousands of cars are stuck on Interstate 26.
Which could happen, because storms can speed up.
Some people will scream politics, accuse the governor of scare-mongering, even governmental overreach. He’s damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t.
But had he not made the call, and this storm killed people, McMaster would’ve been blamed.
Call that politics, but this is ultimately about saving lives. It’s a headache, but far better to inconvenience people than have to rescue them from a collapsed house.
The governor’s evacuation carries no force of law, and based on the traffic around West Ashley on Tuesday, many people simply ignored it. Part of it is that old-timers never leave. Even newcomers probably have evacuation fatigue — this has been happening far too often in recent years.
Which is evidence of climate change, but that’s another story.
Maybe the folks who stay will regret it. Hopefully not. But they can’t say they weren’t warned. And that’s the point.
This is the price we pay for living in paradise. It won’t be the last time we go through this, perhaps not even the last time this season.
This evacuation drill has become all too common in the past 20 years, since the Floyd fiasco. And people will continue to ignore evacuation orders until another big one hits to remind them of the true danger lurking in the Atlantic.
Let’s hope this one isn’t it.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org.