October 2017

Notes from The Cone of Uncertainty: Eternal vigilance the price of paradise

Author: Barry Kaufman

I sit here in my home office, typing away, without a single home maintenance issue to think about beyond a doghouse that needs fixed, and I’m grateful. I’m grateful because my Bluffton home escaped the wrath of yet another hurricane, protected in the same bubble that sheltered it when Matthew rent my one neighbor’s tree into kindling and perforated my other neighbor’s fence.

I’m grateful because not everyone had the same Irma experience I had. My fellow Blufftonians in the Alljoy area aren’t sitting in a dry home office without home maintenance to worry about. Another neighbor, a gorgeous crackerbox home tucked away near Oyster Factory Park, saw a corner of its roof sheared off by a fallen tree.

I’m grateful because, as bad as Bluffton may have had it, there are people right now in the Florida Keys, the Virgin Islands and all across the Caribbean wondering where they go from here. There are people burying their dead while I sit in comfort, sipping my coffee and trying not to look too hard at how the capricious nature of a storm saved my home and my family.

We spent a lot of time in the cone of uncertainty with this one. The early European models had Irma coming right for us, bearing down on our coast with an unheard-of fury. Some of my neighbors went into panic mode early, and before long, a window-boarding party formed. To the surprise of no one, I was the least competent person on my block when it came to climbing a ladder with a sheet of plywood.

But we all came together. Without asking, without reservation, we all did what we could to protect what we have. And besides the bonds of neighborly assistance, we all shared an unspoken dread of what was to come next. If the models held, if Irma were to hit us dead on, this could very well be the last time we would all meet as neighbors.

Each of us had our own outcome we didn’t want to think about. I’m confident I could get my family to safety, but as a freelance writer, I didn’t want to think about what a direct hit meant to my livelihood. What happens if the storm is so bad no one puts out an October issue? Or November? What if all of my local copywriting clients have to shift resources to rebuild and work dries up? How long can I last without anyone to write for?

It wasn’t any different for my neighbors. Small business owners, food and beverage workers, all of us depend on somebody else to put food on our table. We all shared that dread, even if each us of was too terrified to speak about it, as I’m sure it wasn’t any different for many people reading this. How long could any of us hold out if Hilton Head Island had to be rebuilt?

Thankfully, we didn’t have to answer that question for now. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

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