Millions of people across North Carolina and South Carolina are scrambling to acquire provisions as Hurricane Florence prepares to make landfall on the U.S. east coast. Stores throughout both states are empty and 1.3 million people have been ordered to evacuate:
With memories of the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria still fresh in the minds of US consumers, residents of South and North Carolina are taking zero chances as Hurricane Florence – now a Category 4 storm – barrels toward the eastern seaboard. According to local media reports, store shelves have been cleared of vital supplies like bottled water and food as anxious southerners brace for the worst-case scenario.
Shelves at Wal-Marts in North Carolina and South Carolina had been cleared out by Sunday evening, forcing the stores to frantically restock shelves as residents loaded up on everything from water to plywood to generators, per WGN9. Flashlights and batteries also flew off the shelves.
The pictures of vacant grocery store aisles are flooding social media. They show the places in supermarkets that are normally filled with pallets of bottled water and bread, among other supplies. They are being purchased in preparation for Florence, which is expected to be a “dangerous major hurricane,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster warned residents to prepare for the worst-case scenario. At a Sunday news conference, McMaster said “presume that a major hurricane is going to hit South Carolina. Be prepared. Be ready.” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper also urged residents in vulnerable areas to be prepared, noting that the storm is expected to generate massive waves and destructive winds. Currently, the storm winds have clocked in at 115 mph.
On social media, one user compared the pre-hurricane run to preparations for a “zombie apocalypse.”
If National Hurricane Center projections prove correct, the storm could be most severe to strike North Carolina since Hurricane Fran in 1996.
The NHC warned late Monday morning that “life threatening” storm surges could strike coastal areas of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia with hurricane-force winds expected to begin battering coastal areas beginning late Wednesday night before the storm makes landfall on Thursday (that is, barring some last-minute shift in the storm’s trajectory).
Meanwhile, insurance stocks tumbled on Monday with shares of AIG, Travelers and other non-life insurerers moving lower. According to Wells Fargo Securities analyst Elyse Greenspan, insured losses could surpass $20 billion – “a manageable level for the industry” – if Florence makes landfall in the Carolinas. Here’s an overview of individual insurers’ exposure, courtesy of Bloomberg.
Primary companies with the largest exposure to homeowners’ include State Farm, USAA, Allstate, Nationwide and Travelers Companies with the highest market share in personal auto include: State Farm, Berkshire Hathaway, Allstate, USAA and Progressive. Those with the greatest exposure to commercial- property exposed lines include Liberty Mutual, Travelers, CNA, Nationwide and AIG Reinsurers include Aspen, AXIS Capital, Everest Re, RenaissanceRe, and XL Group. Meanwhile, shares of Generac Holdings Inc, building materials maker Owens Corning and roofing-supplies company Beacon Roofing Supply Inc rallied and retailers like Lowe’s and Home Depot also climbed.
While the East Coast braces for landfall, meteorologists warn that this could only be the beginning of the region’s troubles during this year’s hurricane season. As the National Hurricane Center warned this morning, there are three hurricanes and a tropical storm already fully-formed over the Atlantic, while a tropical depression is presently forming over the northwest Caribbean.
As the timetable for the storm’s impact continues to creep forward, North Carolina officials ordered residents to evacuate from the state’s Outer Banks barrier islands beginning on Monday ahead of Hurricane Florence, Reuters reported. (source)
Emergencies are not unique to the USA. As the story notes, there have been several major hurricane that have caused serious damage to the eastern US coast. There have also been fires on the West coast and parts of the inlands, as well as the potential for future threats, including earthquakes and volcanoes.
However, regardless of what the threat is, one can expect that Americans will respond to it in a predictable manner, which is to wait until the final minutes or hours before a storm comes, and then rush to the stores, cleaning out the shelves and hoping “for the best” with the assumption they will get home in time. It is a reflection of modern life, where “just-in-time” shipping, continually stocked shelves, and obscene customer expectations make sure that in most cases, everything will be “just right” regardless of circumstances. This requires a tremendous amount of labor on behalf of the businesses, but is an expected way of life in the USA and is one of the reasons there is so much abundance available to so many people in areas that one may not expect.
But life is not perfect. As noted before, one of the greatest threats that the USA faces as a national security threat is either “natural” or “weaponized” weather disasters. For to attack the USA is to commit national suicide due to the American temperament’s propensity to annihilate another entity once blame has been assigned to it, a pattern which can be seen in legal, business, and personal relationships within the USA. However, if the blame can be reassigned to a theoretical “third” and “neutral” party, such as a storm, “retribution” cannot be so easily exacted.
In addition to weather, the temperament and expectations of life that the average American holds are his greatest enemy. One can prove this true by going to any fast food restaurant or coffee house anywhere in the USA and intentionally find a reason to obstruct the flow of customers from order to checkout, especially if it is during a busy time of day, such as in the early morning while people are going to work. Find a way to jam up the line, and watch the anger explode. If one wants to see a particularly acute variant of this social tendency, repeat the same at Wal-Mart or another “big box” store in any week from October to about mid-January.
Each culture in the world has its strong and weak points. In the USA, one of the major weak points is that Americans are addicted to and rely on a functioning system that allows for them to indulge in what are personal luxuries or personal pursuits with ease. If those are taken away, it will cause social chaos. The more items one adds, the more chaotic it becomes because most people will not be able to cope with the unexpected as they are used to being able to procure what they need with ease.
I remember years ago there was a major snowstorm. I was working in a retail business that was one of a few establishments that stayed open throughout the story. The place where I was became one of the only businesses that remained open as the snow poured down and knocked out power throughout most of the region, which ended up being a period of over a week. At the business, people came in to sit down and warm up, and since many of them still had to work, to get access to the few plugs that were in the store, which we let them use. What was an average store soon looked like a refugee center, with people sitting all over the floors, hallways, and anywhere there was a space. Some were sleeping, others were working, and near fights started over access to our electrical supply. It was a chaotic mess that looked like a scene out of a movie. I spent hours working with the other employees less on what our main tasks were, and more on keeping order in a tense situation.
What surprised me continually was the level of unpreparedness that those I saw around me, some of which included by own neighbors, to the events around them. Men and women who are otherwise normal were reduced to states of absolute dependency and had to rummage for survival. It was a healthy reminder of the thing surface which society is built upon, and that when order is established it works well, but should the surface be struck then the veneer can shatter into a chaotic mess that can be difficult to reassemble.
The USA has been very blessed that she has not experienced a serious crisis comparable to, for example, the mass starvations of eastern Europe, or a major on-ground war with modern weaponry. Certainly, one hopes that she will not experience anything like this at all. But neither does she experience the problems that many people around the world endure as a part of daily life, such as routine shortages of electricity, or delays on receiving products because of shortages.
The USA has been through many natural troubles, all of which have been resolved with comparable speed and minimal loss of life. However, the public at large has not learned how to prepare for the future or the unexpected, especially with comparison to the past century, and in the event worse tragedy was to happen, the loss of life and troubles it could cause may cripple the nation itself.
It is not unreasonable to say that, based on current patterns, there is about ten years left before a major war in Europe begins, of which would have drastic consequences for the USA. It could happen sooner, but assuming the above scenario, there is still time to get ready. This means both having, as many people in old times did, a pantry or cubbard as well as lifestyle changes to maximize personal savings, minimize expenses, and live an overall simpler life.
The future always belongs to the prepared, and one cannot expect there to be tomorrow in either the stores, or in simply life itself, what is there today.
People talk about salvation and their relationship with Jesus. But would they be ready to meet Him now, knowing that God is Mercy and Justice that is perfect and final?
I know that I want to be more ready.
That said, would one not equally want to make sure one is ready to meet one’s daily needs in a temporal sense, instead of assuming that what is there now will still be there tomorrow?
Again, I would want to be ready too.
Each day is a gift to be thankful for, and another opportunity to prepare for what will come, because the day of reckoning will come for all me, if not in this life then at death.
One does not want to be caught unprepared either in soul or body, as the consequences could be dire.