Officials in Jacksonville urged residents trapped by record flooding on Florida’s northeast coast to display something white – such as a shirt or pillowcase – to alert first-responders.
But the white flags didn’t signify surrender there, or elsewhere in the battered state, not even to nature’s best shot.
Far from it.
While Hurricane Irma’s winds, rains and storm surge inspired some lowlifes to loot, disasters bring out the best in most of us – and even grow our hearts.
Heroes in emergency response risked their lives, even as many of their own families were struggling to stay out of harm’s way. Volunteers and volunteer organizations rushed to help, before and after Irma’s arrival. Local, state and federal officials put on ballcaps, rolled up their sleeves and managed the catastrophe – and then its aftermath – as best they could.
It would’ve been easy to be lulled into complacency on Florida’s “First Coast” when Irma shimmied around the tip of the state to ride up its west coast. But Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry had urged evacuation for the week prior – and, indeed, Irma stretched coast to coast, and in Jacksonville and environs whipped up a massive storm surge to go with torrential rains.
Gov. Rick Scott called it “record and historical flooding,” as federal Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert termed it some of the city’s worst flooding in a century. Mayor Curry said over 350 Jacksonville residents needed rescuing.
“There were 3,436 calls to 9-1-1 between Sept. 9 to 12,” our sister paper in Jacksonville, The Florida Times-Union, reported.
By comparison, the Augusta area was incredibly blessed, even with felled trees, structural damage here and there, and downed power lines.
“Georgia Power reported it still has 9,634 customers without power in Augusta, 8,704 customers without power in Columbia County and 752 customers without power in Burke County,” The Chronicle’s Sandy Hodson reported as of 9 a.m. Tuesday.
That’s not to diminish the toll on Augustans. The loss of electricity is a huge inconvenience in the short run, a minor crisis the longer it goes on. It’s hard to clean up, hard to keep and manage necessary resources, and can even be a threat to the infirm.
This area also has responded with love and care for 3,000 or more coastal evacuees in the city’s shelters, managed by Red Cross volunteers who have stepped out of their own lives and storm situations to help.
We have much to be thankful for, even in this time of need. Augusta was spared Irma’s worst wrath and, despite our own challenges, we’ve been handed a terrific opportunity to help our fellow man.
We’re grateful for our first-responders, government leaders, the Red Cross and Salvation Army and so many other organizations and volunteers for helping get not only the Augusta area, but our friends from nearby states, through this trying ordeal.
One other unsung hero in all this is all the private business owners who in many cases never shuttered their doors or who worked hard to get the lights back on as soon as possible. The Pot Smoker BBQ restaurant owner Bobby Boggs, for example, pledged to open on its usual weekend days starting Thursday, despite damage from debris.
These are just some of the examples of the intrepidness Americans exhibit in time of disaster.
Our admiration goes out to our Augusta-area responders. And our prayers go out to those in Jacksonville, Florida, and everyone who got much worse from this storm.