* They predicted a terrible Category 4 or 5 hurricane hitting the Carolinas coast. Memories of the terrible Hurricane Hugo of 1989 leapt to mind.
Instead, Hurricane Florence dropped to a milder Category 1 before arriving over Wrightsville Beach, then quickly dropped again to a tropical storm before it reached the South Carolina line.
* They predicted a terrible storm would rage across mid-South Carolina, then take a sharp cut to the north and hang over the North Carolina mountains for days, dumping rain. The terrible storms of 1916 and 1940 that flooded out downtown Elkin, the rest of the Yadkin Valley and elsewhere leapt to mind.
Instead, the storm petered out over South Carolina, then turned north early and passed over the Piedmont toward Greensboro.
* They predicted a record at Kerr Scott Reservoir on the other side of Wilkesboro that was built to tame the raging floods of the Yadkin. They predicted water there would reach 40 feet above normal, easily beating the old record of 31 feet, 2 inches.
Instead, the reservoir reached about 8.5 feet above normal.
* They predicted flooding on the Yadkin would be particularly severe in Elkin for some reason.
Instead, river water did spill over onto the backside of Crater Park but did not touch Standard Street. I’ve seen it worse.
Don’t tell our friends in the Wilmington area, where the hurricane hit hard, but here in the hometown area we got off easy.
“Off lightly,” a North Wilkesboro newspaper proclaimed. “Effects ‘minimal,’ “ the ‘paper in Mount Airy said. “Florence spares Wilkes,” the weekly ‘paper there concluded. “Heavy rains miss area,” they said in Boone. In Greensboro: “Mostly spared.” In Asheville: “not as bad as was feared.”
It’s an industry secret that hurricane experts like meteorologists and governors these days tend to overpromise on hurricanes. Then when things don’t turn out as bad, we’re all relieved and thankful and hurry on to the next big thing, while the meteorologists and politicians escape notice for scaring us all half to death.
“The storm simply blew itself out as it made landfall,” Los Angeles reporter Stan Green observed from far away. “No newscaster or public official wants to open himself up to criticism that he was complacent in the face of tragedy.”
And then there was the case of Weather Channel reporter Mike Seidel caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar. Seidel broadcast a report from Wilmington during which he braced against the wind and labored to stay upright. Unfortunately for him, two guys casually strolled into view in the background as if the bad weather was not a big deal.
The Weather Channel later explained that the reporter was slipping on wet grass and probably tired from long hours on the job.
That’s OK, Mike. Around here, we’re all just relieved and thankful that it wasn’t any worse and we’ve already moved on to the next big thing.
And just remember this, Mike. The next time you’re in the neighborhood for a hurricane, stop by Elkin and we’ll show you Crater Park, which will flood quite nicely for you.
We’ll even get out some canoes out and paddle around for you.
Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.