Editorials

Let’s keep perspective, welcome hurricane evacuees to Midlands

The traffic jams began a day before the actual evacuation. Here, motorists line up at a gas station in Mount Pleasant to fill their gas tanks in fleeing Hurricane Matthew under orders of SC Gov Nikki Haley.
The traffic jams began a day before the actual evacuation. Here, motorists line up at a gas station in Mount Pleasant to fill their gas tanks in fleeing Hurricane Matthew under orders of SC Gov Nikki Haley. AP

TAKE A DEEP BREATH. Take another one. Count to 10 if you have to.

Yes, you’re stuck with the kids out of school for at least yet another day, even though you’re more than 100 miles inland of where Hurricane Matthew will hit South Carolina, if it hits South Carolina, on Saturday, or later.

Yes, you’re paying city and county and state officials to not come to work because the governor ordered not only the schools but also the city, county and state government offices 100 miles inland to close starting Wednesday, in preparation for the storm that might or might not hit our state, on Saturday, or later.

And on top of all that, we’re swamped with evacuees, who are clogging our roads and our restaurants and most places we want to go — half of a state smushed together in one small place.

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A year after the flood, are we still a community that cares?

USC, schools, county offices closed due to Hurricane Matthew

Matthew veering away from South Carolina, toward open water, latest forecast shows

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This is where we need to remember a few things. Those evacuees are not here because they want to be. They are here because they were ordered to leave their homes and businesses and head inland, knowing that might not have been necessary. They probably endured a traffic nightmare far worse than the delays we’re experiencing as a result of their presence in the Midlands.

We can perhaps understand Gov. Nikki Haley’s caution in ordering evacuations so early: If she waited until it was clear that the storm would hit South Carolina — if that does become clear — it would have been too late to safely clear out the entire coast. And it’s not lost on us that she made her decision one year to the day after our community and large parts of our state were devastated by floods that we never could have imagined or believed would occur; we’re sure it’s difficult for her not to have that in the back of her mind when deciding whether to do too little or too much. The school and government cancellations 100 miles inland are a different story, but there will be time to talk about that later.

For now, we need to do one more thing: We need to remember who we are. We are the community that cares. The community that helps our neighbors when they are in need. Not just the neighbors we know, but the neighbors we have never met. Not just the neighbors next door, or across town, but surely across the state.

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‘Neighbors are near and far away’

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We demonstrated our grace and graciousness and charity after the floods, when we came together to help friends and strangers alike. There is no reason at this point to expect that Matthew will wreak damage even remotely as great as the floods did, no reason to think the upheaval even for our friends along the coast will be as devastating or as long-lasting.

But for today, and at least the remainder of this week, they are refugees — forced from their homes with only what they can carry with them, forced to leave behind their jobs, missing important deadlines, their personal plans interrupted, their lives disrupted. And many of them are here with us in the Columbia area.

We need to welcome them, to do what we can to make their stay with us less unpleasant. At the very least we need to resist the temptation to focus on ourselves and our inconvenience. And when the storm passes, we need to lend our help as needed to get them back to their normal lives.

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