After Hurricane Arthur, review precautions

July 7, 2014 

CORRECTION: A previous version of this editorial incorrectly said the state ordered partial evacuations ahead of Hurricane Arthur. The evacuations were ordered at the county level. The incorrect sentence was removed on Wednesday, July 9, 2014.

It’s easy to wipe the brow in relief at the passing of Hurricane Arthur and reckon that it was not, fortunately, the destructive storm that was anticipated. Easy, that is, unless you’re one of the 80,000-plus Duke Energy customers who lost power last week when Arthur came along the North Carolina coast or one of the business owners who experienced flooding in the state’s northern barrier islands.

Storms are like that. Those who were missed are grateful, and those who were hit are rightfully angered by post-storm reports about how the damage was no big deal. For them, the disastrous effects will be felt for months.

The truth is, North Carolina got lucky this time. Arthur was a Category 2 storm that carried winds around 100 miles an hour. But damage was relatively minor, and the state apparently came through without serious injuries or deaths. Coming as the heavy beach-visiting July 4th holiday arrived, things could have been worse.

That said, state officials need to examine their decisions post-storm. That’s not to say they made bad ones. But certainly the holiday and what would have been a loss to beach businesses such as restaurants and hotels were on the minds of those who made the calls. Should they have been more cautious? Perhaps.

It is true that the methods of predicting storm paths and potential destruction are much more accurate than they were less than a decade ago. And in the end, those who were headed to the beach or were already there have to shoulder the responsibility for their decisions.

To his credit, Gov. Pat McCrory did what governors are supposed to do, which is to inform people and encourage them to be careful and to err on the side of safety. And the information pipeline from emergency services worked well. The state appears to be better at dealing with storms than it once was. That said, we’d just as soon not have any more practice.

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