Crying wolf or alerting the public?

By Bill Colvard -

“Do NOT eat the Twinkies! Those are emergency Twinkies!” screamed folks to their spouses and children all across both Carolinas on Wednesday.

“It’s like being stalked by a turtle,” became the social media mantra as Hurricane Florence continued dancing with herself somewhere southwest of Bermuda, making very little move toward her manifest destiny of wreaking death and destruction on hundreds of thousands of well-hydrated Carolinians who were doing their best to develop a taste for the cases and cases of bottled water they had stocked up/hoarded the day before.

“Why didn’t I buy some Kool-Aid to go with this crap?” asked one friend.

“Why didn’t I buy some Scotch to go with it? asked another. “It could have doubled as a disinfectant should I have scratched myself climbing to the roof to escape the rising floodwaters. But no, they said to avoid booze and keep a clear head,” he muttered, sipping sadly on his Dasani sans Dewars.

I kind of hung my head and attempted to change the subject, as they both knew that I was one of the “they” who had been shilling the storm for two days and wasn’t finished yet.

The day before, I’d taken photos of grocery store shelves denuded of bottled water. Strangely, unlike when there’s an impending snowfall, the store had plenty of milk on offer. No photo op there. Then it occurred to me that it’s still summer, and in a blackout, milk would sour and spoil to botulism-inducing undrinkability in about four hours. Good call, friends and neighbors.

Shoppers had hit the pudding cup section pretty hard, not quite hard enough for a Pulitzer-quality illustration of storm-hoarding, but hard enough to make me wonder just how bad a natural disaster would have to be to make me eat pre-made shelf-stable chalky pudding. Clearly, my neighbors were expecting a disaster of epic proportions.

Tuesday was also the day I wrote a food story in which I made a somewhat far-fetched connection between Florence the Tuscan city and Florence the weather event, and recommended grilling pizza on an outdoor grill in the midst of the coming typhoon, a scenario rife with possibility for disaster. In my defense, I did point out that parchment paper on a 600-degree grill should be dispensed with “before it bursts into flame.” I really hope everyone made a note of that. It was a critical detail that could save many eyebrows.

That warning led my editor to comment that there were so many ways for the whole process to go wrong, but my co-worker Bob Ward in advertising thought that my advice for folks to buy matches prior to the storm made up for any possible pizza-grilling debacles I might cause.

Wednesday brought two more storm stories, these of the “Henny Penny – The Sky is Falling” variety, before I went home to drink hoarded water sans Scotch or Kool-Aid with my friends and watched with some bemusement as other friends confessed online to tucking into their carefully hoarded storm stashes.

Becky started working on the copious amounts of fresh fruit she had purchased, as well she should. Its lifespan is not unlimited, and Flo was showing no capacity for punctuality. Meanwhile down in Holly Springs (the one that’s a suburb of Raleigh, not the one that’s a suburb of Mount Airy), my friends Kelly and Will had the emergency Twinkie fight of which I spoke earlier, but with emergency dry-roasted nuts.

Storm maps were still popping up that showed the entire state facing equal devastation, whether one was standing on Wrightsville Beach or on a sun deck in Asheville. That’s not how hurricanes work, I thought. I distinctly remember my third-grade science teacher saying that hurricanes lose power on land and the further from the ocean you are, the less severe are the effects.

When Thursday dawned clear and sunny, and the maps had shifted to show graduated levels of damage with Surry County in the “Sporadic Issues” category, I began to feel like The Boy Who Cried Wolf, especially as I planned to beat the horse of Stormageddon with two more stories that day.

As I write this on Thursday afternoon, still a little bloated from the massive amount of red meat I ate last night (so as not to let it go bad should the contents of my freezer thaw during an extended power outage) I have no idea what Flo will bring. And I’d rather not think about it too much as I have a 90-foot magnolia tree 20 feet from my house.

Catastrophic or merely bad? I can’t say yet. I just wish it would be done with before we all run out of Twinkies.

By Bill Colvard

Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.

Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.