Weathering the storm

Kathy Hawks, West Columbia

July 31, 2009 

I remember Hurricane Hugo very well. A few days before the storm hit, a hard knot popped up on the side of my son's head. The doctor told me he had an infection of the carotid artery and that if it didn't get better with the antibiotics, he would have to be hospitalized. As the storm neared and everyone prepared for the worst, I was almost hysterical with worry about my child. My mother fought her way to us along back roads from the upstate, as the interstate was reversed and filled with evacuees from the coast. I headed to the hospital with my five-year-old, leaving Mother to deal with the storm and my two other little ones.

I watched the storm, worrying about Jimmy and worrying about what was happening at home and if my family was safe. Thankfully, the worst of the storm at my house was that we were without electricity and water, and we had no serious damage. Mother dealt with the crisis while I stayed at the hospital with Jimmy. We were fortunate that our electricity and water were restored in less than two days Now where was my husband during this time? Why wasn't he the one who was helping me out with his children?

Well, you see, my husband is the weatherman. While he was badly needed at home, he was busy dealing with the emergency situation, issuing updates and warnings, keeping the governor informed, updating emergency preparedness, and generally doing his very best to protect those in the way of the storm.

About a week later, an editorial appeared in the paper criticizing the behavior of the weather service during the storm, accusing them of trying to make the situation sound worse than it was, jumping up and down with glee when the storm intensified, even posing the question, "Why do they insist on being called meteorologists, isn't weatherman enough?"

In other words, using the dire situation to bring attention to themselves and for their own personal gain and enjoying themselves in the process. I have never been more furious, especially after what we had been through, and after it was over, my husband, worn and haggard, dragging himself through streets full of downed limbs and debris, darkened by lack of electricity, trying to make it to the hospital to check on us, then fighting his way home to relieve my mother and take care of his other children as well. The weather person is no more "excited" by catastrophic weather than the physician is excited by a seriously ill patient - both will simply do their very best to use their knowledge and training to the best benefit of those involved.

My mother passed away about ten years ago. I miss her. Jimmy recovered; he is twenty-five now, and serving with the United States Air Force. I couldn't be prouder of him. My husband is still the weatherman, and when the weather threatens, he is still on duty to do everything he can to keep us informed and work with emergency preparedness.

I couldn't be prouder of him either. I hope we never have another Hugo or anything like it, but if we do, the weather service is there, at our SERVICE.

-- Kathy Hawks, West Columbia

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