Middle Georgians and so many other communities that have suffered major floods understand more than most the anguish of our neighbors in the Carolinas. Hurricane Joaquin continues to create havoc even though he’s far out to sea now. By Thursday, Joaquin had been downgraded to a tropical storm with winds, according to the National Hurricane Center, of 65 mph. But just as Tropical Storm Alberto remains a significant event in the minds of people all over Georgia -- each with a story to tell -- Joaquin will not soon be forgotten.
As it was with our brush with flooding in 1994, The flooding in the Carolinas was caused by a low pressure system that trapped the moisture from Joaquin and then dumped it all over the states. It was a once in a 1,000 year event. According to the Weather Channel, Hurricane Joaquin was just two mph shy of becoming a Category 5 hurricane and was the “strongest Atlantic hurricane since Hurricane Igor in 2010.”
Most residents older than 30 remember the sight of Interstate 75 being underwater with boats skimming up and down where 18-wheelers normally tread. We remember the water system being compromised and having to pick up drinkable water from water stations. We remember businesses renting motel rooms in Warner Robins so their employees could shower. Further south, the Flint River took out its wrath on Montezuma, where downtown was covered by almost 20 feet of water. Crops all over the state were damaged or threatened. Dams failed and roads and bridges were inundated. Cars were washed off roads by floodwaters. And while Alberto did, according to estimates, $1 billion in damage and was the most expensive tropical storm in the state’s history, responsible for taking 30 lives, Joaquin’s devastation may top that amount.
Thursday, in the Carolinas, residents near Edisto Beach, South Carolina, and Santee, South Carolina, were being urged by Charleston County to evacuate. Many roads and bridges were still impassable and others had suffered structural damage and are no longer safe. Fourteen dams failed in South Carolina with another 62 in danger. Water systems are in jeopardy and in some areas water levels are expected to rise until Friday. Thus far, Joaquin has left 19 dead.
We relate to the scenes of people going back to their washed out homes, pulling what they can from the memories stored there. We see their grit and resolve to not let the emotion of this loss finish them, even though they know they are starting -- materially -- from scratch.
The Flood of ‘94 brought this community together. For a time, at least, everyone was in the same dry boat. Everyone was looking to help their neighbors and people they didn’t know. The Carolinas will recover and we hope the neighborliness hangs around, too. We would like to believe our community came out of the Flood of ‘94 a bit stronger, a bit more understanding and caring and a bit more appreciative for everything that was being done on our behalf. And many of us, have been returning that favor ever since.
How can we help. Pretty simple: www.redcross.org/donate or call 800-REDCROSS.