It’s way too early to panic.
Yes, we live in North Carolina and the state does have a long, exposed coastline with a heavy history of hurricane damage. The Outer Banks, for example, jut way out into the ocean and most of it is only a foot or two above sea level.
But we live in Winston-Salem.
We’re hours inland and closer to the mountains than the Atlantic Ocean. Do not under any circumstances run out to fill the car with gas, panic buy cases of water and every single can of tuna fish you can see.
Unless Hurricane Dorian takes a radical turn –and it’s still possible — we might get some rain later in the week. Or we might not.
If we do get some heavy rain, some trees could fall. Creeks and river may spill their banks. It’s possible that you might lose electricity for a few hours. Worst case, a couple days. That happened last year when big pines fell on power lines.
But for now, no one knows what will happen.
Radar doesn't lie
Compared to what the folks in, say, Wilmington or on the Outer Banks are facing, we here in the Triad ought to keep our pants on but our eyes peeled.
Yeah, yeah, I know. I remember Hugo. Hit near Charleston and blew a straight line path through South Carolina, Charlotte and on into the Triad. It caused a lot of damage. Hanging Rock State Park still isn’t the same.
But that was 30 years ago.
And because I was stuck working on a Sunday listening to the scanner like a rookie right out of J School — it’s a brave new world, folks, and I’m a team guy — an editor asked if could call the National Weather Service for the latest.
(Weather stories, btw, are the bane of every newspaper reporter's existence. It's like getting a colonoscopy. Nobody likes it but it has to be done.)
But the truth is, if you want the latest information on a hurricane, you’re going to look at the television. The radar doesn't lie.
It’s the one thing I’ll admit that TV people do better than us in newspaper-land. They employ actual meteorologists who live for days like this.
If you want to know details about what the city council is doing, who went to prison for murder or read an investigative piece on the opioid epidemic that’s deeper than a mud puddle, buy your local newspaper.
We’re the ones who sift through the garbage, sit through two-week long trials, actually read government budgets before they’re approved and make sure elected officials aren’t ripping you off.
But for weather, watch the tube. The meteorologists are good and they’ll let you know in real time what’s up.
Science is real.
Localizing the forecast
Sorry, I digress. Rant over. Now where were we?
Ah. Yes. James Morrow, the National Weather Service guy in Raleigh. He sounded like an eager kid just out of school.
Who else would be working on a Sunday? Senior folks don’t do weekends; unless they’re team players.
Morrow answered the “media line” and sounded almost … giddy. He knew the question before it was asked. He’d probably heard it 48 times already.
Dorian was tracking to the northeast along the coast, he said. Models have it running parallel to the coastline but not quite making landfall. That still looks to be the case.
It’s big, strong and moving slow. Dorian was lumbering along at 1 mph — about the speed of a teenager asked to take out the trash.
Still, the storm is serious business if you live along the coast or relatively near to it. They really could get shellacked down there.
People living in low-lying — and poor — places such as Lumberton and Princeville that have been nailed by biblical flooding before have reason for concern.
But here in Winston-Salem?
The National Weather Service meteorologist provided all the usual advice. He was careful to note that people living south and east of Raleigh should pay heed to the storm’s track.
And then being a helpful guy, he personalized his forecast for us here in the Triad. We might see some heavy rains and gusty winds Thursday. “The impact is likely to be pretty low,” Morrow said.
In other words, don’t go crazy. It’s not as if they’re calling for snow.