Low­coun­try Georgia dodged bul­let with Irma

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - EDITORIAL - By The Sa­van­nah Morn­ing News Ed­i­to­rial Board

Ed­i­tor’s note: A longer ver­sion of this ed­i­to­rial ap­peared on sa­van­nah­now.com last week:

Sa­van­nah and coastal Georgia and the South Carolina Low­coun­try dodged a bul­let as Hur­ri­cane Irma, which only days ago brought death and de­struc­tion to the Caribbean and parts of Florida, de­liv­ered a di­min­ished and glanc­ing blow by the time it reached south Georgia.

In­stead of di­rect hit, the area suf­fered through ma­chine-gun steady rain and blus­tery winds — much like a typ­i­cal sum­mer South­ern thun­der­storm. The worst ar­eas were some lower ly­ing creek­side and marsh­front neigh­bor­hoods, along with U.S. 80 to Ty­bee, that suf­fered from pre­dicted flood­ing due to the Irma-re­lated storm surge.

But for­tu­nately for now, the worst seems to be over. Res­i­dents are en­cour­aged to stay pos­i­tive, and in­formed, as the post-Irma re­cov­ery phase kicks in.

Only a few days ago, ex­perts were wor­ried that Irma, a Cat­e­gory 5 storm and one of the most pow­er­ful ever mea­sured in the At­lantic, was mak­ing a bee­line for Sa­van­nah and the Sa­van­nah River basin. This pes­simistic fore­cast prompted Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal to de­clare a state of emer­gency in the state’s coastal coun­ties that were the most ex­posed to this po­ten­tially deadly threat.

Many res­i­dents rightly heeded the call to get out of town, although it’s un­clear how many ac­tu­ally left com­pared to those who chose to hun­ker down after see­ing the more fa­vor­able storm track. Some even left a few days ear­lier, not want­ing to get stuck in out­bound traf­fic on I-16 and I-95. Many rea­son­ably de­cided, when Irma was still a Cat­e­gory 5 storm, that this was one of those times to be self­driven and not to trust the gov­ern­ment, and to be bet­ter safe than sorry. Be­sides, hur­ri­canes are no­to­ri­ously fickle.

And while some evac­uees may feel that the gov­er­nor pos­si­bly jumped the gun and acted pre­ma­turely, Mr. Deal made the re­spon­si­ble de­ci­sion to call for an evac­u­a­tion, based upon the best, most trusted in­for­ma­tion he had at the time.

This is not the time to play Mon­day morn­ing quar­ter­back about the tim­ing of the evac­u­a­tion. In­stead, it’s time for ev­ery­one to count their bless­ings. It’s also time to pray for peo­ple who live in the hard hit ar­eas of the Caribbean and South Florida. Ge­or­gians have no room to gripe.

Next comes the re­turn to nor­malcy, which is sel­dom easy or seam­less.

It’s im­por­tant to stay pos­i­tive dur­ing this pe­riod, and to re­main mind­ful and thank­ful that this area dodged a pretty aw­ful bul­let.

For­tu­nately, the tran­si­tion to nor­mal after Irma should be easier than after Matthew, which clob­bered this area, knock­ing down forests of trees and top­pling power lines.

For now, it ap­pears that Irma’s clean-up should not be as ex­ten­sive as post-Matthew.

That would be a ma­jor bless­ing, as it would mean less cost to the pub­lic and a speed­ier re­cov­ery time.

As thou­sands of evac­uees soon be­gin the long jour­ney home, they should thank their lucky stars that they have homes and busi­nesses to re­turn to — and that they have power — un­like res­i­dents in ar­eas that Irma hit head-on.

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