(Thoughts on Hurricane Matthew and its aftermath by Assistant Editor Ted O’Neil.)
This first part is for the politicians. When you do a press conference during a disaster, please stop borrowing jackets and hats with logos on them from the people who are actually working to fix things. To his credit, Congressman Buddy Carter toured the area with city and county officials Monday in a shirt and tie, not a Richmond Hill Fire Department windbreaker.
And this part is for The Weather Channel. Millions of people were already watching you all through this ordeal. We don’t need your commercials patting yourself on the back for how great you cover weather.
Because we were busy covering the events leading up to the storm, I didn’t leave town until Friday around noon. At 6 p.m. Thursday, even with a horrible slice that’s plagued me since taking up golf, I could have driven a ball down Ford Avenue and not hit a car. It was an eerie scene, but evidence that many people were taking Matthew seriously.
Knowing there would be a lot to cover once the storm passed and not wanting to be too far away, I spent Friday night in Pembroke. The wind whipped and blew and howled all night, and although the power went out I had no idea what to expect. Seeing a light pole at the Little League field by the Harn Community Center sticking out of the ground at a 45-degree angle the next morning was my first clue.
The trip back Saturday morning, which normally takes about 40 minutes, took two hours, thanks to several detours that included a jaunt into Effingham County to get around closures on Highway 204. A pass issued by Bryan County Emergency Services let me past the police blockade on Highway 144 at I-95 so I could take pictures and file stories.
We tried to get as much information out as quickly as possible over the weekend and in the days since. By sheer luck I happen to live in a neighborhood with very few mature trees and underground utilities, so our power and internet were back by noon Saturday and that allowed me to post stories and photos as fast as possible. Bryan County Emergency Services Chief Freddy Howell was regularly posting videos on their Facebook page, giving updates and advice, which was a great source of information.
In addition to Freddy’s high school football coverage on LowCountryRadio.com, he might have a future in television commercials when he retires.
The only good part about working all weekend is that I didn’t get to, or have to, watch my two favorite teams — Michigan State and Notre Dame — lose again against inferior opponents. Even if I was cool enough to be a member of the Pembroke Mafia Football League, I’d quit. The season is over, bring on college basketball.
People were understandably disappointed when word came down Monday that the Great Ogeechee Seafood Festival was cancelled, but the majority of comments on our Facebook page were supportive of the decision. It would just be too much too soon given what many people are still dealing with. GOSF Committee Chair Tim Proffitt, a bear of a man, was slump-shouldered and long-faced when he stopped by our office to break the news. But by the time he left he was talking about the 2017 event (Oct. 20-22) being the “biggest and best ever” and was smiling ear to ear. The people who put on that event really, really care about Richmond Hill and that’s the biggest reason why they decided to forgo this year.
I’ve seen plenty of weather-related destruction in my native Michigan, from snow and ice storms to tornadoes, but never anything like what Matthew did. Power company crews and first responders have been working round the clock to keep us safe and get us back to normal. None of them should pay for a meal in a restaurant for a long, long time.