Editorial: Florence isn’t welcome here, but we must be prepared

Florence is not welcome here.

The storm that regained its hurricane status Sunday is expected to roar over warm Gulf Stream waters, with a path set on the United States’ southeastern coastline. Given a wobble or two in direction in the final 48 hours before landfall later this week, Bladen County is at risk for its second catastrophic hurricane in less than two years.

Oct. 8, 2016, remains a day we all will not soon forget. Hurricane Matthew tore through the South Carolina coastline, made its way up into an already soggy North Carolina and left behind death and destruction.

Matthew was a mere Category 1 — at one time it had been a Cat 5 — by the time it came ashore near McClellanville, South Carolina. Even still, 31 people in our state were killed. Damage was estimated at $4.8 billion statewide to homes, businesses, public facilities, agriculture and roads. Some communities received up to 18 inches of rain and five rivers — the Cape Fear, Lumber, Neuse, Tar and Cashie — flooded and remained at flood stage for two weeks.

Swift water rescues plucked 2,336 people from harm’s way.

When making landfall, Florence could be at or near a Category 4 storm. Sustained winds of 140 mph would be life-changing.

If Florence indeed does strike North Carolina, it will likely rival Hurricane Fran among storms of the last quarter century. She arrived the first week of September 1999, approaching and landing just south of Wilmington with sustained winds of 115 to 120 mph.

The damage, using 1996 dollars, was $2.55 billion. And that was just eight weeks after Hurricane Bertha and its $250 million worth of damage had provided the opening act touring up U.S. 17.

Hurricanes are mean. We respect them. We know the damage they can do. And we know Bladen County will rally together in its aftermath, no matter how big or small the impact.

For days, the pleas have been made. Again, we warn.

Be sure your emergency supply kits can sustain each family member for at least seven days. That includes bottled water and non-perishable food. Don’t forget a weather radio, flashlight, extra batteries, toiletries, change of clothes, blankets or sleeping bag, rain gear and appropriate foot wear.

Cellphones may or may not work. Have the charger. Safeguard important documents. Know the situation with prescription medicines.

Evacuation routes may be needed. Know them, and know how family members will be in contact.

And if pets are part of the family, their livelihood will depend on you and your preparation on their behalf.

Florence isn’t welcome here. But we can’t control her.

Our best move is to prepare, heed advisories and when the storm has passed, rally together — whether it is for us and our needs or that of our neighbors.