Hurricane Florence could have been so much worse.
Charleston largely escaped the more punishing forces of the storm. And even the southern part of North Carolina, where Florence made landfall early Friday morning, avoided a more catastrophic hit as the storm weakened considerably in its approach toward the coast.
Nevertheless, there will be work to do. Even a substantially weakened Florence has caused tremendous damage. Storm surge, wind and rain pummeled the North Carolina coast for days as the storm moved slowly inland.
People from Myrtle Beach to Wilmington, N.C., and inland in the Carolinas, will need help repairing damaged homes, clearing downed trees and power lines and returning to the normal routines of daily life.
And the risks of flooding from the storm’s torrential rainfall pose a threat that could linger long after Florence dissipates almost entirely.
Full recovery will take time. We should be ready and willing to lend a helping hand.
When Gov. Henry McMaster ordered a mandatory evacuation on Monday, Florence was a monster storm churning in the Atlantic. It was perhaps a bit early to ask coastal South Carolina residents to pack up and leave, but the message would have undoubtedly been the same later in the week.
Florence was a notably unpredictable storm even by the always-chaotic standards of tropical weather. Mr. McMaster was right to err on the side of caution.
But the early evacuation order has meant devastation of a different kind for many of Charleston’s hospitality workers and hourly employees who don’t have the luxury of paid time off. Some lost an entire week’s worth of pay.
We can help repair that damage too. Eat out this week. Shop at local stores. Tip generously.
With every close call from dangerous tropical weather, Charleston and South Carolina officials learn more about how to handle future threats. A far cry from the woefully inept evacuation ahead of Hurricane Floyd in 1999, preparations for Florence went impressively smoothly. First responders, shelter staff and state and local officials worked with admirable dedication to keep us safe.
The Charleston area has dealt with tropical weather with frustrating regularity over the past several years. In a sense, that’s good practice.
But a troubling number of people ignored Mr. McMaster’s evacuation order -- including people who live in particularly vulnerable coastal areas. This time they got lucky. Next time, that might not be the case.
Close calls may feel like a case of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” But Florence was indeed a wolf, and the fact that Charleston largely dodged this particular storm’s wrath does not mean we should be nonchalant about the next menace.
Hurricane season, unfortunately, is not over.
But as most of us return to life as usual over the next few days, keep in mind our neighbors to the north. Do what you can to help.
This latest close call highlights the fact that one day -- sooner or, hopefully, later -- we may need the same.