Sep 27 2018

Sullivan’s Island Mayor’s Message: September 2018

Dear Island Neighbors,

 I am grateful to be able to report what you already know: that the Island’s loudest wind from slow-moving, indecisive, ill-tempered Hurricane Florence was the sound of our collective sigh of relief when we were spared.

Needless to say, no celebrations were in order, given the magnitude of destruction and displacement suffered by so many of our SC and NC neighbors farther up the coast and inland. Once these storms are anywhere near landfall, their tracks are zero-sum situations: to miss us they have to hit someone else, and vice-versa.

Don’t forget:

Wilmington could have been us with a track change of barely a couple of degrees latitude (north-south): a onedegree difference in latitude is only 60 nautical miles, roughly 69 of the landlubber miles we are accustomed to. We were less than two degrees latitude south of the point of landfall. And note that the distance that matters is direct, as-the-crow-flies distance, not the more meandering, as-the-car-rolls distance you get on Google Maps, Waze, etc.

In the aftermath of Florence, there is also long-overdue media and expert attention to the overemphasis paid to Saffir-Simpson categories, which are based solely on maximum wind speeds and remain silent on the geographic spread of a storm, its duration, its storm surge potential or its rainfall potential. Cat-1 Florence has certainly shown us that water is much more often the cause of misery.

Also, even just considering winds, (which we should not do), thinking in categories exaggerates the tiny borders between artificial distinctions which mask the really wide range of trouble within each category. Do you really care if you are on the upper limit of a Cat 1 storm (95 mph winds) vs. the lower limit of a Cat 2 storm (96 mph)? Personally, I’m more worried whether, for example, I will face 74 (bottom of Cat 1) or 95 (top of Cat 1) mph winds, not to mention the ranges within the higher categories.

Please remember:

If you’ve seen one hurricane, you’ve seen, well, one hurricane. They are as different as snowflakes, just way nastier. Don’t assume the next hurricane threat will turn out like Florence, for us or anyone else. The next time, and there WILL be a next time, it could be us, so…


 I’m sure many of you have already done what you can to provide aid to the folks who have suffered so much from Florence’s winds, flooding and other severe post-storm effects. However, if you are still looking for ways to provide help directly to the storm’s victims, here are two with local connections:

 Donate Supplies:

Our Sullivan’s Island Fire Department is partnering with the Isle of Palms Fire Department to assist North Carolina residents suffering from Florence. Through Oct. 3 you may donate supplies such as water, baby needs, building supplies, tarps, personal hygiene products or even Walmart gift cards. Articles of clothing are NOT needed.

 Items may be dropped at the Sullivan’s Island Fire Station next to Town Hall, or the Isle of Palms Public Safety Building on JC Long Blvd.

Those of you who went through Hugo may recall the kindness and assistance that small rural North Carolina communities gave to the barrier islands after Hurricane Hugo. This is an opportunity to either give back or pay forward.


The Lowcountry Mayors’ Disaster Relief Fund has been established, which will raise money exclusively for Florence-related disaster assistance via the Coastal Community Foundation’s Disaster Relief Fund. You can make a contribution to the fund online by visiting bit. ly/2MNw1YE and specifying the name of the fund in the comments section. You can designate the Mayors’ Fund (all of which, for the record, goes to SC and NC assistance…not to the Mayors) or to other Coastal Community Foundation funds for direct assistance to storm victims, designating the geographic area to which you wish your contribution to go.

Please consider these and/or any other fundraising efforts that promise to direct your contributions to the folks hit by Florence, and not for general operating or fundraising expenses.


 Florence reminded us again how fortunate we are to have the dedicated and knowledgeable staff who look after the Town in peaceful times and in threatening times. As in prior emergencies, I got to see them every day in action throughout this event. They were, as always, deliberate, well-practiced and very knowledgeable, putting in many, many extra hours. Every member of every department made important contributions to the Town’s readiness for this emergency, often at the cost of being with their families.

And this was yet more evidence of what a great Town Administrator we have in Andy Benke, who put in an incredible number of hours and kept our community informed throughout the event.

Please thank all of our staff when you see them. Every person played a part.

And let’s hope we are done with hurricanes for this year.

See you around the Island!

Pat O’Neil, Mayor

843 670 9266

| @oneilpm1

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