Back it up, Florence!

Our time at the Outer Banks was cut short last week thanks to Hurricane Florence, a storm we thought would reach category 4 before making landfall below Cape Hatteras. Thankfully for our home here (Friends of Elizabeth II), our school (the Coastal Studies Institute), and all of the locals we have come to know and love (professors, internship mentors, and of course the inside and outside Jeffs), Florence weakened significantly before reaching the coast and took a turn west for the southern end of the state and South Carolina.

We typically have a full day of internships on Mondays, but last week many of us were too preoccupied with evacuation plans. My mentor at the North Carolina Coastal Federation let us leave early to prepare, as some of the other employees lived as far south as Hatteras Island where mandatory evacuation went into effect that day. Many of my peers and I had planned to go to Chapel Hill until the storm passed, but once Florence turned from her original path, we had to make other arrangements. I returned to Shelby, North Carolina, but some of my peers traveled as far as Asheville, Washington DC, and Baltimore to escape Florence’s wrath.

We were told to prepare for up to two weeks away from the Outer Banks, so I took plenty of clothes home with me (mostly dirty laundry to do, oops) as well as any items I absolutely can’t live without or risk being damaged in the storm. For me, this included my favorite postcards and photos on my wall, my antique Polaroid camera, and about half of my book collection. Others took their food (Danesha) and their guinea pigs (Emma S.)!

Back in Shelby, we mainly got consistent rain with few strong winds. The saturated ground caused many large trees to topple over, however. Here is one that fell on the home beside of us, putting a hole in the roof.

My peers further east had a much more intense experience with Florence, such as Autumn Pollard, whose hallway filled with water.

And Emma Szczesiul, whose backyard looked more like a lake.

Of course, UNC students found a way to make a meme out of this storm. Student Facebook pages were flooded (no pun intended) with events titled things like “Have Grayson Allen trip Hurrican Florence,” “Do the hokey pokey at Florence so she’ll turn herself around,” and “Take Hurricane Florence and Push it Somewhere Else.”

Luckily, I was able to reunite with my classmates after only one week of being home. In all seriousness, we dodged a bullet in terms of damage from this storm, and the frequency and intensity of hurricanes and other major weather events will only increase unless environmental conditions change drastically. Hurricanes and flooding are only two side effects of climate change, but they are arguably the most relevant to our home here on the Outer Banks.