Well Kiss My Grits Flo!

  1. The days leading up to Hurricane Florence's landfall from the perspective of a nurse and mother living and working in Eastern North Carolina.

    Well Kiss My Grits Flo!

    Well Kiss My Grits Flo! Hurricane Florence: A Tale from a nurse in Eastern NC

    I stole this title from a boarded-up restaurant window that I saw today in our small town in Eastern North Carolina. If any of y'all (see how I did that..y'all) have ever read my articles, you know that I am a nurse and my husband is a doctor. We have 3 young kids and are transplants (over 20 years ago) from the northeast. Yankee's as we are lovingly and no-so-lovingly (at times) referred to down here. Growing up, we both had snow and ice to contend with....lots of it. We are experts at getting to work, school etc in winter conditions. We know how to prepare for such...when to prepare and with what. We both practiced medicine there and know how emergency personnel will get you to work if you can't get yourself there. When you get to the hospital, you better plan on staying...indefinitely. That being said, we have weathered through some serious hurricanes and tornadoes here in North Carolina, however, nothing compares to this baby named Florence. She has set our state and several others in a widespread panic.

    We have been watching Florence casually for about 10 days, I am guessing, to see what she might amount to. Hurricanes are not unfamiliar here. Anytime you have a "season", such as hurricane season, and the storms get a name, you know it's a pretty regular thing. People down here know their storms. They can track a storm, know the wind patterns, surges and flood zones with more accuracy than the IV team placing an 18 gauge. They know their local weather person by name (good ones and bad). They will smack talk about another person's trusted forecaster like they are college basketball players, and each "storm-watch" day facebook lights up with memes of the local weather celebrities. So, when the locals tell you it's time to worry as they compare the storm statistics of Florence to a catastrophic storm tale from the 1950's, you know you know it's time to get serious. As serious as a post-op patient with decreasing urine output! Oh, and we got the National weather celebrities setting up camp at our coast...cue the memes.

    Thursday was the day we were told she would hit land as a category 4. We were projected to be hit by the eye of this massive storm bringing catastrophic conditions such as 30 to 40 inches of rain, severe flooding, crazy high wind and storm surges. So, Monday morning we started preparing. The grocery stores were already sold out of bread and much of their canned and boxed food. Water was sparse so I grabbed all that I could. Got batteries, food for pets, and other necessities. We just built a new house in the country that has well water. The power goes out easily here, and we are one of the last to get turned back on as we are the furthest out from the city. No power equals no water...no water also equals no toilets flushing! Yikes. Got as much water as we could by Monday night. Got all medicines refilled and emergency medications on hand for what could potentially be a week or more without power. My in-laws at the coast were on high alert on Monday. They expected to evacuate to us on Wednesday or Thursday. I bought wine.......

    Tuesday morning was when things got real. We started getting messages from our hospital's Emergency Response Command Center. At this point, they were offering optional time for staff to volunteer to work during the storm. They were offering to pay minimum wage for essential personnel to just stay at the hospital during "off hours". Overtime for those working extra. Our hospital hotel was preparing to house staff. Nutrition, pharmacy, IT, and materials management were working tirelessly to prepare for the influx of staff, families, and patients that would be stranded there as well as managing the communities needs. Transfers from coastal hospitals had started. Still category 4 with increasing strength possible before landfall. We get out all the emergency equipment. Get more water and canned meat! I project by the end of all of this, that we will all have gained 10 pounds yet be malnourished. How can canned meat, veggies, poptarts, and Doritos sustain us? Get a generator. Get the outside living areas ready and moved indoors. Reschedule all later week appointments.

    Many friends have beach houses. They head for the coast to literally batten down the hatches and move their boats and personal belongings to safety. Evacuations start to become mandatory along the coast by early afternoon. State of emergency is declared to assist with much-needed services and supplies. Both sides of highways leading away from coast get opened as traffic is bumper to bumper. Pets! Get your pets ready. People pleading for anyone inland who can take horses, chickens, goats etc. Bring dogs in. Set up plastic pools with sod in them for safe potty locations for dogs. Farmers are working non-stop to harvest their tobacco, (one of our largest sources of agricultural income here). Preparations for the crops of soybeans and cotton that were planted a few weeks before. Schools make the decision to close early Wednesday and remain closed Thursday and Friday so that families can prepare and/or evacuate as many have chosen to do. My in-laws (hard-of-hearing, judge-whoever-watchin, leave your chewed apple core on the couch arm...) have come......get more wine.

    Wednesday morning the weather celebrities bring a bit of good news. Overnight the storm has shifted some to the south. We MIGHT not get the eye directly, however, she is expected to stall adding strength and increasing our flood potential. Emergency resources start coming in. Urban search and rescue, medics, ambulance strike teams, swift water rescue and the national guard. Ok...now I am scared.

    Hospitals along the coast start to evacuate their patients inland. Our hospital is now on high alert. Any persons able and willing to work in any capacity at the hospital are requested. Those scheduled to work must be prepared to stay indefinitely. You will be fed, housed, and paid. The IWarn emergency paging systems are tested over and over. IT is preparing for probable power outages which makes patients medical records unattainable in our paperless charting world. Our ambulance and air transport teams are activated and ready.

    Facebook lights up with messages of stores that have water and batteries. Check on the elderly people in our lives. Make sure all friends and family are ready. The phone calls from friends and family out of state are increasing...."Where are you in relation to all this?" About 100 miles inland I say but this storm is huge, slow and powerful. "Stay safe...you are welcome here....we are praying for you".

    Kids are released early. The schools have been sending messages of how to help our children cope with the stress and anxiety of all this. With all of the panicky adults running around preparing for doomsday, with our constant news feed running on our phones, radio, and TV warning us of the damage to come, and the discussions at school and home about how to stay safe or evacuate in case of emergency, it's no wonder they are a mess. We all are. "Will our Nintendo switch work off the generator?"...sigh. Have cards, board games and books onhand...check! State of emergency starts Thursday night at 5p, meaning no unauthorized persons are allowed on the road, and YOU CAN'T GET ANYMORE WINE.....

    It is now Wednesday night. We are watching the latest on the storm. It looks quite beautiful from the space station. Massive (covering the state) and beautiful. Our sunset was particularly stunning tonight. Stars are out, air is cooler, wind is slight, bugs are less. Would be a great night to sit on our front porch in our rocking chairs....but alas, they are safely stored away. We are as ready as we can be. We now watch, wait and pray....and have a glass of wine.....
    Last edit by Joe V on Sep 13
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    About smatacale, BSN, RN

    My name is Sarah Matacale RN, BSN, CCS, CDI. I have been a nurse for more years than I care to admit. I live in Eastern NC with my husband (who is a doctor), 3 young kids, 2 big dogs, and 2 cats.

    Joined: Jan '17; Posts: 47; Likes: 379

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  3. by   tnbutterfly
    Stay safe!! I hope the winds and rains are not as bad as projected.

    Please keep us updated if you can.
  4. by   Nickc58
    The wine is what truly makes this story awesome. Good luck to you, stay safe!
  5. by   pixierose
    Thanks for sharing, and keep us updated when you can!

    To everyone in Florence's path, much love and hugs. Stay safe ❤️. We're all thinking of you in the NE.
  6. by   DowntheRiver
    I'm glad you were able to find some humor in this situation before it gets serious, and I mean that in a kind way (from a lifelong coastal Florida resident).

    As I type this, I know the eye is hitting your general area. Hope you and your family are safe. Please update us when you are able to.
  7. by   elkpark
    I saw a photo of the boarded up restaurant window in the coverage of the storm; "Kiss my grits" was originally, many years ago, the catch phrase of a diner waitress named Flo in the TV sitcom "Alice," which was based on the movie "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore."

    Kiss My Grits - YouTube
    Last edit by elkpark on Sep 14
  8. by   46srh
    Hope your family made it through safely. Loved your article!