Do You Stay or Do You Go?

Florence Chronicles, Monday, Sept. 10, 9:09 p.m.

The first question everyone asks: Are you staying or are you going? The next question: Do you know where I can get some gas?

The first question is a tough one. The second is easy: No. The police chief in Pine Knoll Shores reports tonight that all stations in Morehead City are out of gas. Walmart has some, but you better bring a sleeping bag. All stations in Swansboro are either out or soon will be, our police chief reports.

Other signs that life is gearing down to survival mode: Meetings of all kinds, from our Town Board’s to Alcoholics Anonymous – according to the crawl on the bottom of the TV – are being cancelled. No classes at public schools until further notice. ECU and UNC-Wilmington sent the kids home. Government offices close at noon tomorrow. Mandatory evacuations, from the Outer Banks to Sunset Beach, begin tomorrow. The governor of South Carolina wants a million coastal residents to leave.  Even Camp LeJeune is evacuating.

When the Marines bail, it’s time to reconsider that first question.

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Kevin, left, and Carlos, two Marines with 2d Recon, helped me board up the windows tonight.

Leaving is tough. Where do you go? In our case, we’d end up with Diana and Michael in Durham, but Florence will follow us there, possibly stalling and dumping as much as three feet of rain in the central part of the state. The Neuse and Cape Fear rivers and all their tributaries will spill over their banks, cutting off all roads leading home. It could be weeks before we get back to deal with any damage to our house.

My position as mayor pro tem complicates the issue. Our emergency-management plan gives me specific duties. I don’t mean to sound melodramatic, but I feel that I would be abandoning my town in its time of need.

So, we reached a Solomonic decision: Doris will leave for Durham tomorrow. It’s the safest thing to do. I will stay here and ride it out at our emergency-management center. I’ll be close by to deal with any problems at the house.

I’m not going to lie. I’m beginning to feel the same rush of adrenaline that I felt all those times that I headed east on the interstate to meet the storm, while everyone else was going the other way. This one might make history and that old reporter in me – he will never retire I now realize – wants to be there to record it and write about it.