Here we go again.
Except some of the people I’ve talked to aren’t going anywhere, despite the mandatory evacuation order issued late Sunday night by the state’s highest elected officer, Gov. Brian Kemp.
“This is America, it’s still a free country and we have the right to be stupid,” said Bunny Anderson, an instantly likeable sort who lives down in McIntosh but was up in Richmond Hill on Labor Day morning filling up propane tanks.
She said she wasn’t going anywhere because she has chickens and goats and her husband doesn’t want to take them along. That, and it’s too hard to get back home after it’s over. Bunny Anderson reminded me of a hippy, for some reason, and I like hippies as a rule.
In front of her in line at Royal Ace Hardware was the irrepressible Freida Sikes, who along with her husband J.M. lives off Bodaford Road near the new Richmond Hill Middle School. They make good local honey, pure and raw, as the label says.
They aren’t evacuating either, she said, noting her husband, in his 70s, has lived here down near the water all his life and hasn’t evacuated once.
In front of them was Johnny Bittle, one of those naturally able, gifted men who knows who to run generators and machinery and do things that matter.
He lives down on Yellow Bluff and is supposed to fly to Texas on a job but has been told his flight is cancelled, so it looks like he might go to Hinesville, which is west of I-95 and therefore not subject to the evacuation order.
I get it. To each his own. Besides, I live west of I-95 by about seven miles. I don’t have to go anywhere. And I’ll be working.
There’s a flip side to that, of course, and that’s if this thing gets really bad you can’t start hollering for help in the middle of the storm. You were told to leave.
I haven’t evacuated since Hurricane Floyd in 1999, and then it was only because I had to for work.
When the evacuation order was issued, I was up in Macon covering the trial of one Dexter Palmer, who was convicted in rather short order of shooting and killing six people — five in a Walthourville apartment and then the sixth when he killed the guy who helped him kill the other five.
Palmer was so bad and reputed to be so dangerous that during the trial they brought in a rugby side of burly firefighters and cops in Macon and sat them in chairs not far from the defendant’s table in the courtroom so they could keep an eye on him, and he them.
It was an interesting dynamic, and after the trial was over for the day I’d go down to the Crown Plaza hotel bar and shoot the breeze with Tom Durden, the longtime Atlantic Judicial Circuit DA who was trying the case.
There were reminders, however, of what we were away from, with the TV on the bar turned to CNN and showing satellite images of Floyd as it spun north and looked like it was about to blow Savannah off the map, and the rest of Coastal Georgia with it.
And in the meantime, everybody was stuck in traffic. You heard the horror stories of it taking 13 hours to get from Midway to Statesboro on back roads and saw the images of I-16 turned into a parking lot, and I was glad it wasn’t me.
And then Floyd changed his mind and missed us, and we had years and years of nothing, and got to feeling a bit cocky about things.
That changed some in 2016 with Hurricane Matthew, which blew down a lot of trees and caused a lot of stress and damage and hurt some people, then the next year Irma went inland and got people who had run from the coast and dropped a good bit of rain and flooded our house in the process.
We were lucky, really. You only have to see what’s happening in the Bahamas to know how truly bad a hurricane can be.
And now, an evacuation order ahead of a terrible storm wreaking havoc in the Bahamas before it heads our way.
Will it hit us? Who knows. I sure hope not. But I also believe it’s better to err on the side of caution, and as my dad likes to say, too much is better than not enough. That goes for just about anything I can think of.
I also know that it’s easier to second guess decisions when you’re not the one having to make them.
And I know that the heroes in these stories are many -- from the cops and firefighters and EMS folks who put everything aside to take care of the public to those folks who work around the clock in rough conditions to get the lights back on or the people who rush to bring in aid to those impacted by the storm. They have families, too.
Jeff Whitten is the editor of the Bryan County News, sister paper to the Coastal Courier. He penned this column on Monday, while coastal Georgia residents were preparing for Hurricane Dorian.