Ryan Jones/1010 WINS

Covering Hurricane Florence: Everyone Is Heading The Other Direction

Entercom's Ryan Jones heads to the Carolina coast to cover Hurricane Florence

September 12, 2018 - 9:14 am
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Editors note: Ryan Jones is covering Hurricane Florence for Entercom's digital team.  Look for his pictures and videos as he travels along the Carolina coast and inland communities. You can find his daily blogs on 1010 WINS as he shares his experience of covering the storm.

(WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Hurricane Florence's reputation preceded it, and I got on the plane in Newark expecting to fly into the abyss. Perhaps this is why it was so jarring to step off the plane into a balmy, sweet-smelling Carolina afternoon. Where was the chaos, the anarchy? I felt like I'd landed in the middle of someone's honeymoon.

Of course, Florence wasn't far away, and the people on the ground in Raleigh, North Carolina knew that better than most folks. 

"It's going to be the worst we've ever seen around here," said the man who drove the shuttle over to the rental car lot. "I already took my daughter's keys...told her she ain't goin' anywhere till this is over." He cranked up the Joe Walsh on the radio and drove on, reminding us that people down here deal with hurricane prep as a simple, unavoidable part of their lives.

We got our Toyota RAV 4 and pointed it east on Interstate 40 towards the ocean. We wanted to get over to Wilmington and see how people were handling this state of emergency looming over their little shore town. After driving a few miles, I realized something was off about our little commute. My dad had noticed it right away: we were driving east while everybody else went west.

After getting to Wilmington we found some people to talk to at grocery stores, gas stations, and, of course, the local Home Depot. They all had unique plans for Hurricane Florence, some involving fleeing the state, others determined to stay the course and ride out the storm in their homes, but there were some consistent themes in their answers. The people who were leaving left for pretty much the same reason: they said staying in town was unsafe, and that was that. They had to leave because when a storm like Florence comes to your door, you drop everything and run inland, plain and simple. 

The folks who chose to stay in town, though, had different reasons. One man told me at the BP gas station in town that he's staying because everything he owns and everyone he cares about is here, and leaving isn't an option. This sentiment was echoed by a lot of people I spoke to: their lives are here, and running away from your whole life just isn't something you do because a storm rolls through.

RELATED: "Monster" Hurricane Florence Aims To Drench Carolinas

Some other people simply were not that scared of the storm. A young guy about my age laughed at my suggestion he leave, telling me that he's got enough food and beer to ride out the storm, no sweat. Some folks around here are medical professionals, EMS workers, firefighters, and they pointed out to me that when danger shows up they don't run away from it, they stay around and help other people.

Finally, there were a number of people who flipped my question back at me. When I asked them if they wanted to flee the area, they would say "yeah, duh," but they would go on to remind me not everybody can just run to a hotel 200 miles away for a week or stay with adoring relatives in another state. Some people are tight on money, low on family, and they are forced to stick around town out of pure circumstance.

Our first day down here in North Carolina was strange, and not only because it started in an airport in New Jersey and ended at a Waffle House in Raleigh, where we listened to employees worry out loud about loved ones who refuse to leave their homes on the coast. It was a strange day because we showed up in an area full of people who are fully prepared to go through some incredible hardship in the coming days, and to watch them use everything they have to try and make the best decision for themselves and their families was an exercise in reminding ourselves that when Mother Nature comes knocking, survival is the only thing that matters. 

Today we watched people stock up on plywood, fuel, food, and generators instead of fleeing north and west, and in the coming days, we will see if they made the right choice.