Hurricane Matthew has left its mark on North Carolina, more like an ugly scar, and not just from property damage, but also from loss of life.
As of this writing, seven people have died as a result of the flooding in our state. In addition, over 887 swift water rescues have been conducted by emergency personnel (over 500 in one county alone).
This time, we can't say that we weren't warned.
Days before Hurricane Matthew struck North Carolina, we began receiving messages through every form of media and communication we have, and not just from our Governor. We heard the warnings coming from as far away as The Bahamas. The warnings progressed up through Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, then us. No doubt many thought us well prepared with such an advanced notice.
Many sectors were very well prepared; businesses, government agencies, the National Guard, FEMA, and many families. All available emergency services were standing by and ready to respond. Even Waffle House restaurants had 18-wheelers standing by outside the affected area, ready to ensure their chain of eateries maintained their business continuity (see FEMA Waffle House Index). But the one element no one can ever predict, the human element, again proved to be the weakest link in our disaster management plan.
No set of warnings, or any law, will ever prevent someone from deliberately driving around a high water barricade. I have personally heard every excuse in the book..."I saw the car in front of me do it," or, "I drive this road every day, it didn't look that bad". And the excuse that astonishes me the most, "I had to get to the other side. What was I supposed to do?" Fortunately, all those excuses were given by those who survived swift water rescues. Many do not.
I've always believed that if you are going to err, then err on the side of safety. Some might criticize you, but if your decision was based on reason, logic and credible advice, then at least you have lived long enough to have the ability to bypass the critics.
For every swift water rescue that is performed, several first responders, and many volunteer citizens, have to put their lives on the line to rescue one or more individuals that were not where they should have been. By taking precautions, following evacuation orders and obeying "do not enter" signage, you are both taking yourself out of harm's way and saving countless rescuers from needless risk. This time sadly, the rescue process was repeated over 800 times just here in North Carolina.
Can you truly justify the safety of your family on the simple phrase, "Oh, we got lucky this time!" The next few days here in North Carolina will bring both tears of joy and tears of pain to so many of our fellow citizens.