ST. SIMONS ISLAND, GA. | It’s not the smartest thing I’ve ever done, evacuating to a tropical storm, but it was not my intention.

 

There I was Monday night sitting in my mother’s living room Anderson, S.C., in the dim light of a battery-powered lantern with a black TV screen in front of us. There was no picture, but there was sound, a roaring wind that wouldn’t stop.

A worst-case-scenario TV weatherman said the next night — after the electricity came on after about 27 hours — that the sustained wind was 39 mph. He didn’t hazard a guess on the gusts, but felt like 50. Hey, I’ll take it after what the Georgia coast went through.

Headed out on Interstate 95 on Saturday morning, there were still vehicles going south. There was the occasional electrical contractor’s bucket truck, a few gasoline tankers and some passenger cars. No vans with luggage carriers on top, no SUV’s with loaded bicycle racks. It was no time to vacation in Florida.

You can tell it’s serious when big construction barges with cranes are anchored in shallow Cathead Creek in McIntosh County. At exits off I-95, people were sleeping in cars with Florida tags, and the Motel 6 in Eulonia in northern McIntosh County was packed. There’s not one thing wrong with Eulonia, but it’s not a tourist destination.

People along the way went about their normal Saturday morning business. Guys in farm caps were seated at a long table in McDonald’s in Glennville drinking morning coffee, laughing and talking until the Irma update came on. Every single one of them turned to the TV and watched with me.

About the friendliest, most efficient person I had ever seen was taking orders, but she probably had her own worries. The McDonald’s where she works near Savannah had closed so she drove an hour inland to work.


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“I couldn’t go without that paycheck,” she said.

There were as many Florida tags headed up U.S. 1 as there usually are New York tags in Boca Raton. People were afraid and they had every right to be.

I was beating myself up, however, for not staying on St. Simons Island like many of my friends, but I got a lot of work done on the road. Although I didn’t need to keep a five-gallon bucket ready for, well, just in case, or to try to cook on a camp stove we last used about 10 years ago.

Besides that, my mother needed someone to sit with her in that dim light through that boring night as the wind roared.

The next morning, I fetched her newspaper and she sat reading it in her wheelchair with a little LED flashlight. I think she was more worried about our stuff back here than all the limbs crashing outside.

Before the storm, we saw Clemson and Georgia win and Ohio State lose so it was a good football weekend. By the way: I’m a Georgia fan only when they play Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame and a few others.

The only thing I saw that aggravated me up there was an electronic sign at a landscape business north of Anderson: “Irma Goodness,” it said. “It’s a Hurricane.”

I don’t know why that bothered me, but it did. Millions of people were worried if they would have a home when the sun rose over Florida on Monday.

Obviously here was someone without friends in Tampa, Miami, the Keys or even the coast of Georgia. I don’t wish anything bad on him, but I wouldn’t be too upset if he were to get the Round-Up mixed up with the liquid fertilizer while spraying a rich customer’s lawn. And maybe his power line got knocked down by one of those big water oaks that fell all over Anderson.

I came home Wednesday ahead of the rest of the family, did some newspaper work and checked things out. So far, so good. All the problems seem minor.

On the way home, I stopped at a fast food place to walk the dogs and get something to eat. Then I remembered what some Democrat said — I think during the economic meltdown or maybe Katrina — about not letting a crisis go to waste.

This hurricane qualified so I peeled the top off a can of crisis rations, reached in a pulled out a Vienna sausage. They’re better when you’re fishing, but you can’t let a good crisis go to waste.

By the way: If there is a next time, the roar I hear will be Niagara Falls.

terry.dickson@jacksonville.com, (912) 264-0405