Path of the Storm: A widow's warning

(WBTV) - It's been a year since Hurricane Matthew wreaked havoc when it barreled down on the southeastern coastline. Few people remember the storm more vividly than JC Davis.

She grew up in Hurricane country and had seen Mother Nature flex her muscles before. As Matthew approached, the uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach started to grow.

"My gut for this one was something is just not right.  And I was watching the path of the storm and everyone was like 'oh you're crazy, you're crazy, you're crazy'," she said.

Davis lived in Isle of Hope, Georgia, near Savannah, with her husband Jeff and two small children. Before the storm, Davis started packing up. She knew Matthew was headed her way and didn't want to be there to welcome it.

"My husband and I got in this big, big argument about staying or going and I was like, 'we need to go.' I grew up in Hurricane country. I know what this is like. I can feel it in the air," she said.

Jeff didn't agree.

"He was a former Ranger and said, 'I've been in two helicopter crashes, I've been in war, a storm is not going to kill me.' Famous last words. I said, 'yes it is. It's going to be bad if you stay here'," Davis said.

JC left with the kids and drove north all the while continuing to push her husband to do the same.

"As we were driving to Anderson I was listening to CNN, which I probably shouldn't have, but my son was hearing about all the Haitians who had perished in the hurricane and he said, 'mom, is daddy going to die? Why didn't he evacuate with us?'," Davis said.

Hours before Matthew hit, Davis said goodnight to Jeff over the phone and went to sleep.

"I usually wake up three, four times a night. I slept through the night and woke up at 7 in the morning started checking my phone. Nothing. Started calling him and it's just ringing and ringing," she said.

Unanswered phone call after unanswered phone call turned into a panic for Davis. Eventually, she reached a neighbor who went by the front of the house and said everything looked okay.

But a closer look revealed a different story. Neighbors heard Davis' dog barking toward the back of the house and went to check on him.

"One of my neighbors called me just in tears and he couldn't even talk to me and he handed the phone to the other neighbor. He was like 'Jeff is inside. There is a tree on your house'. And I said 'is he alive or dead?' and they're like, 'we don't know. We can't get to him'," Davis said.

At some point during the storm, a massive tree fell onto the bedroom where Jeff was sleeping. He was likely killed immediately.

"It's very unsettling. Here's the person who was a Ranger in the Army, U.S. Border Patrol and a damn tree kills him. One of the last conversations is 'the storm is not going to kill me'," she said.

A year later, the loss of Jeff haunts Davis every day. If he had listened to the warnings and evacuated, she says her children wouldn't be without their father.

Davis hopes others see her story as a cautionary tale that encourages people to leave when their told to. And she has a message for those who don't.

"I want to shake them. I think they're stupid. I think they're selfish. They're dumb. And I tell them, 'I hope you have a will because my husband didn't'," she said.

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