Around 07:15 EST on Friday, September 14, 2018, Hurricane Florence, a Category 1 storm made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. This storm has wreaked havoc on the mid-atlantic and southeast US over the last 4 days. Although the majority of our team work remotely throughout the United States, Wilmington, North Carolina is the global headquarters to Globetrotter Wellness Solutions main offices, warehouse, and home to me, Steven Trotter, the principal of GWS. Today’s blog post is a little personal, a little about community and hope, and a little bit of a book review.
On August 28, 2018 a tropical wave appeared on the watch radar for the National Hurricane Center. By September 1st the system officially became tropical storm Florence. Florence seemed to not make her mind up on her path or if she was going to maintain or gain strength. What went from something we weren’t even concerned about became quickly the center of our attention.
The path of this storm seemed a little unusual; most storms that hit the Carolinas typically come from the south/southeast direction and sideswipe the coast. It was quickly noted that this approach was definitely not Florence’s plan. On Sunday, September 9th I spoke with 2 friends and we all agreed that something was off about this storm. It gave us an uneasy feeling and me personally, I felt this storm was different and the feeling I was getting was not good.
We quickly made our hurricane preparation plans as Florence became a category 4 storm and her path was going to be a direct hit for Wilmington, North Carolina. When you make this plan, you go through your risk management strategies. Hopefully you have your risk transfer in place already by having insurance; living on the coast requires, at minimum, to have a wind and hail addendum and based on actual property may require hurricane or flood. Since this is a passive strategy, you can spend your energy on risk mitigation. Risk mitigation is built on decisional balance are creating a pro/con list. For me, I started with my non-negotiable task lists such as removing any items in the yard, patio, or on the house that could turn into a missile. From there it went to securing electronics, creating a packing list, putting items to higher ground, collecting items such as passports, social security cards, birth certificates, and other important documentation, calling in prescriptions for Roxy (my beloved American bulldog/boxer mix), and filling the car with gas. I chose not to board up my windows because with my decisional balance I felt that this wasn’t as important as the other things I had to do given the amount of time that I had left . Also, my home isn’t directly on the water (spoiler alert: it is now) and the neighborhood is in suburbia and not a heavily wooded area.
The Third Place
As we were preparing for the evacuation and when the storm path became clear, businesses began making decisions on closing. Over the course of my career, I have noticed and been directly involved with when I managed fitness facilities, is that the gym or recreation center will stay open as long as safely possible. Here’s why. The Third Place. In Ray Oldenburg’s book, The Great Good Place, he discusses that the third place is important for civil society, democracy, civic engagement, and (in my opinion most importantly) a sense of place or belonging. If you are unfamiliar with this concept, the first place is usually the home, the second place is usually the workplace or school, and the third place is the anchors of community life. Churches are often people’s third place as well as coffee shops, social settings, salons, and other recreation and community centers. Starbucks strives to be a third place to match their mission of “to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.” I’m sure you are shocked to see that I am writing this blog at a Starbucks in Raleigh, North Carolina the city where Roxy and I evacuated to. For many people, the gym is their third place; it’s their sanctuary. The gym has always been there for people; it’s been there for people through marriages, divorces, births, deaths, celebrations, and grievance. It’s more than a place to workout; it's a home away from home and in dire times such as natural disasters (whether it’s mother nature or our lives) it’s the sense of community and belonging that we need.
Wilmington, North Carolina is strong. More importantly communities are strong. We have witnessed throughout history that no matter the storm, no matter the community, we pull together, and fight the fight together. Honestly I don’t know a lot of my neighbors other than the occasional chat in the yard or the wave as we are coming in and out of the cul de sac. Can I do a better job at this, absolutely. Will I do a better job at this when I am able to get home, absolutely. Even though quite a few of our neighbors don’t know each other, here is what I have witnessed in the last few days; most people evacuated however some folks stayed. People have evacuated to many parts of the east coast because depending on where you evacuated you might have been told to go to different locations due to where the storm’s projected path was that day.
In Ginger Zee’s, chief meteorologist for ABC, book Natural Disaster: I cover them I am one she so perfectly sums up a storm’s aftermath.
“Most people walk around after the initial tragedy, bewildered. Then they often start acting irrational, looking for house keys to a home that is no longer standing, or standing in line at a drugstore that’s been knocked to the ground. Eventually, sadness and some level of acceptance sets in. Hopefully, in the final phases of grief, we realize we are grateful to be alive and that we need to shift our focus off ourselves and onto helping others. We’ve all seen the footage and pictures of the first responders and the ordinary people who put themselves at great risk to make a tourniquet out of a belt for a victim or swim into dangerous waters to bring a stranded boy and his dog onto a boat. It’s quite inspiring, and in a weird way it’s what convinced me to write this book.”
I’m sure if you have been keeping up with the news you have noticed that Wilmington which was a peninsula up until a few days ago is an island that is completely inaccessible by land. Food, power, supplies, fuel, and potable water are all scarce. Cell service is shot and many people stranded there aren’t even sure what’s happening. People who have evacuated are seeing the flooding, people being rescued by boats and helicopters, and the destruction from afar and are unsure if their homes are still intact. People are helping people. In the neighborhood Facebook groups, neighbors that have never met before are now meeting virtually and realizing who is who. People that stayed are going to evacuees’ homes to take pictures, organize immediate repair if needed, and giving people closure on their wandering thoughts. People that stayed are taking gas, food, and water to each other. People with 2 story homes are inviting people without a second story over so they can get to higher ground. A lady even took the rest of her fuel to a stranded news team so they could get out. People are volunteering and helping each other. People are doing exactly what they should be doing.
To be completely honest, when writing this I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to take it. Mainly because, I am not actually sure. What I do know for sure is that Roxy and I made it safely to higher ground and we have tons of friends, family, and colleagues that love us. That’s what matters the most; everything else...that’s what insurance is for. When will we be able to go home? Good question...we don’t know but we will be fine.
Weathering the Storm
It’s a fact that this isn’t the first hurricane to hit and it sure as hell won’t be the last. When you are weathering a storm, here’s a few tips for you:
Storms are inevitable. We will all go through them and most likely more than once. Whether this blog resonates with you based on Hurricane Florence or perhaps another storm in your life remember this “No matter your storm, it never rains forever. It can’t and it wont.” - Ginger Zee
Ways you can help:
I have always believed in Wilmington, and now I hope you do too,
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