For nearly two decades, Georgia seemed almost bullet proof when it came to hurricanes.
Sure, there was Floyd,which scared everybody in 1999 and led to eight- or 10-hour rides from places like Midway to places on the other side of Statesboro.
I was lucky, and got pre-evacuated during that one, went up to cover the Dexter Palmer trial — remember Dexter Palmer? — in Macon while my folks were trying to get out of Lake Gale and my wife was trying to get out of Effingham.
They did, made it to where they needed to be despite being caught in the South’s largest traffic jam as millions of Floridians flooded roads heading north and hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of Georgians joined the circus.
The trial went on. Dexter was found guilty and got life but was spared the death penalty despite killing six people - five in a Walthourville apartment and the sixth on a road out on Fort Stewart.
And at some point late in the trial, back home Floyd turned and went north instead of west and the Georgia coast was spared.
Afterward, the state powers that be went to work on figuring out how to get people off the coast without turning I-16 and I-95 into parking lots.
For the most part, I believe they’ve succeeded, or would have had the South’s population not started growing like it was a race to see who got the most people the fastest, Florida or Georgia or South Carolina.
So now, almost two decades later, we’re basically still behind the road infrastructure curve.
And with Matthew and now Irma making it two years in a row that Georgia has been impacted by hurricanes (no, Irma wasn’t a hurricane here, but Hurricane Irma was sure to blame for all the wind and rain we had), there’s no reason to believe it’ll be another two decades before another storm comes.
We could have another storm this hurricane season, which normally ends in November.
These aren’t normal times, however.
The weather is changing.
Call it global warming, call it climate change, call it man-made, call it natural, call it whatever you want, but it’s happening.
Local emergency officials say those popup thunderstorms always so common in the South are becoming more severe, and the damage they cause is increasing.
My departed father-in-law, who grew up in South Georgia, said years ago that winters are warmer than they used to be. And Hurricane Harvey just dropped 50 inches of rain on Houston.
We’re lucky that didn’t happen here. We’re lucky Irma turned west. And while damage from a storm is relative — if your house is destroyed, what does it matter whether it’s shredded by a hurricane, tropical storm or just an afternoon thunderstorm — as a region, a state and counties, we’ve been spared utter destruction.
So in that regard, maybe Georgia’s coast is still at least partially bulletproof, at least for now. But it can’t last forever. It may be time to adapt to a new normal.
Couple more things.
First, a shout out and thank you to all those who helped during this storm, whether it was those who are paid to do the job or the volunteers who always make life easier. A special thanks to Samantha Abbgy at Liberty Emergency Management Agency for her updates and help. We couldn’t do what we do without her. Hinesville PR Manager Brittany Denny also was a great help. Thanks, Denny.
Finally, back in 1999 when Floyd turned and I knew my folks and wife were OK, I stayed one more night at the Crown Plaza in Macon to catch some college football.
But first I went out to a nearby convenience store and got some beer and pork rinds - two of my three major food groups at the time - and came back to the hotel. As I walked through the lobby with a 12-pack of Miller Lite in one hand and the pork rinds and cigarettes in the other, I noticed a bunch of folks standing around, smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee.
They all seemed to be trying not to stare at me.
As I got on an elevator with four or five folks, all of whom were also kind of trying to not stare at me, I spied a giant banner in the lobby as the elevator doors slid shut.
It read, in all caps: WELCOME, GEORGIA STATE AA CONVENTION."
Leave it to a reporter to mess things up.
Take care. Hope your storm wasn’t too bad.