Hurricane Florence made landfall early Friday morning, bringing with it life threatening storm surge that pushed miles inland and shredded buildings with howling wind and torrential rain. More than 60 people had to be saved from a collapsing hotel, and those who defied evacuation orders are regretting their decision to shelter in place, as already weary first responders struggle to rescue people from rooftops and stalled cars in waist deep water.
The storm crashed ashore as a strong Cat I hurricane, not the Cat IV or Cat V monster forecasters had predicated. Nonetheless, Florence is proving that even a Cat I hurricane can take lives and cause billions of dollars in structural damage. But what if it had not. What if Florence did not live up to the hype the media had invested in the storm? What if a million people evacuated for no reason?
Mainstream media personalities began asking themselves those very questions when Florence weakened Wednesday evening from a catastrophic Cat IV to a Cat II hurricane. They went into panic mode, fearing the storm would fizzle out and erode their credibility. According to a White House source, even President Trump considered tweeting “Florence falling apart. Very weak storm, very small, very puny,” but aids urged him to reconsider because flip-flopping would have painted him an indecisive leader.
The mainstream media, however, showed no restraint; it needed a contingency in case Florence had not met projected expectations.
Quoting Mrs. Kwittle: “They wanted to know why we wouldn’t listen to state orders to leave. I told the truth. We have survived many storms here. Our whole life is in our house. Our belongings, our family, our pets. The news people seemed upset that we were so calm. They tried to rile us up and make us worry, but that seemed silly. They said ‘if the storm doesn’t end up being so bad can you at least pretend it was. We will interview afterward and would appreciate it if you could embellish a story that you and your family barely survived the storm.’ That’s what they wanted me to do.”
When Mrs. Kwittle refused, the interviewer offered her $750 cash in exchange for fictitious testimony.
“When I said no again, they had the nerve to offer my husband the same deal. We asked them to leave. Then they got angry, saying several neighbors had agreed to do it. I know my neighbors—few stayed behind. And I know those who did would never lie for money. We are good people,” Mrs. Kwittle said.
A Morehead City couple corroborated Mrs. Kwittle’s story. John and Dana Plinkett, lifelong residents of the North Carolina coastal community, said a local ABC News affiliate crew showed up at their home while they were placing sandbags around their property.
“We told them we survived [Hurricane] Andrew in a trailer home in Florida and would survive Florence here,” Mr. Plinkett said. “Andrew, Floyd, Irma—we’ve made it through those. We’ll make it through this. When I said Florence was now only a paltry Cat II storm and was no big deal, they got upset. They tried to impress upon us that the storm is a killer, and that no matter what, we ought to treat it as such. When I shrugged it off, they got even angrier. We told them to get the hell out of our home.”
Much like the case of Mrs. Kwittle, the camera crew tried to bribe the Plinketts. Mr. Plinkett said he was offered $1000 to tell a fantastic tale.
“Regardless of the water level, they wanted us to go to our roof and spray paint S.O.S on it so they could fly overhead in a helicopter and see us frantically begging for help. We declined,” Mrs. Plinkett said.
Unfortunately, Hurricane Florence’s fury was not overestimated. At the time of this writing, 400,000 people are without power and up to ten trillion gallons of rain are expected to fall on North Carolina.
I attempted to contact both families this morning, to no avail. We pray for their—and everyone else’s—safety.