The sky over North Carolina was blue, and filled with puffy clouds and a bright sun on Tuesday, showing no signs of the eminent storm. But the rain is coming.
"It’s almost eerie," said Betsy Bertram, of Townsend Betram & Company in Carrboro. "You look at the weather forecast and then you look outside. They don't match."
Specialty outdoor retailers along the southeastern coast are in emergency preparedness mode, expecting Hurricane Florence, currently a Category 4 storm, to hit on Thursday.
Nearly 1.5 million people in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia are under mandatory evacuations, according to multiple news reports.
Great Outdoor Provisions Co.
In Raleigh, Chuck Millsaps of Great Outdoor Provision Co. (GOP) said that people on the East Coast have seen their fair share of hurricanes and big storms, so they know to begin planning days in advance. He said staff has rented dehumidifiers and fans for the Chapel Hill location, and they've bought sandbags to prevent water from entering the Raleigh site.
On the store's website, customers can make sure they have the items on the emergency preparedness checklist. Millsaps said he was thankful for the diligence of the store's buyers, because despite some hiccups, they're receiving a new shipment of stove fuel, batteries, and other items before the storm makes landfall.
"It’s gonna do what it’s gonna do and you just prepare as best you can to keep staff and customers safe, and fulfill and service your customers as best you can," Millsaps said.
He added that it's likely state parks and recreation areas will be closed because of damage, so the various stores will spread the word about what's off limits, if it comes to that.
Townsend Bertram & Company
So far, forecasts show the storm passing over GOP, Millsaps said. But Bertram says her store is in the path of the storm. Because of that, she said the team made the really difficult decision to push the 30th anniversary celebration slated for Sept. 22 to the spring.
"I am feeling proud of us for making the best decision we could," she said. "I am feeling fear and anxiety for our community and hoping that we can find calm. I think there’s such an energy of panic right now. Gas stations are sold out of gas and lines at the grocery store are long. It’s really my hope that people can find that sense of calm and grounded-ness."
Bertram said she was 5 years old when Hurricane Fran hit in 1996. She said her family wasn't able to leave their property in the country for three weeks and the storm caused extensive damage in the community—memories that are surfacing and stirring emotions today. She hopes that this storm presents the opportunity to band together and support one another.
The store is not scheduled to close, but Bertram said they will make the decision based on employees' safety. She said they want to provide their customers with Patagonia Provisions foods, headlamps, and other items for as long as they can. A checklist can be found here.
"It is an incredible reminder that we are not in control and that mother nature is always in control," she said. "And also that it is possible to not panic in scary situations."
About 200 miles from South Carolina's coast, Appalachian Outfitters in Greenville is preparing to be the safe haven for folks fleeing the storm. Co-owner Jonathan Welsh said they've stocked the shelves with energy-efficient headlamps, solar-powered lanterns, freeze-dried and dehydrated foods, water filtration systems, and other essentials.
"It's our belief that the Greenville area should be receiving tens of thousands of evacuees from the coastal areas," Welsh wrote in a message. "Obviously that's going to place a strain on our infrastructure (groceries, restaurants, gas stations, hospitals, hotels, roads, etc.). But the silver lining is that folks get to take an "unplanned" mini-vacation! It is our hope that the damage from the storm is primarily property damage and not the loss of life. But if this thing is as bad as forecasters are indicating, it's gonna be a doozie! Let's hope that folks living in its path make wise decisions regarding their family's safety."
If the storm turns out to be as bad as forecasters predit, our friends along the coast will need some help. Here are 9 ways to help during and after a natural disaster.