Sound Strategy: Ash Wednesday Storm doc good reminder not to sleep on our recent hurricane season luck

Sound Strategy: Ash Wednesday Storm doc good reminder not to sleep on our recent hurricane season luck

September 21st, 2023

When it comes to developing a strategy, there is a reason certainty never approaches 100 – there are some things, it turns out, that we just can’t anticipate no matter how hard we try.

As an example, we’ve just gotten plum lucky over the past few years (since 2019’s Dorian, really) when it comes to dodging hurricanes in the Atlantic.  We’ve seen quite a few approach the southeastern U.S. and then pull to the north. This magic, while fortuitous, will not last.  

In addition to dodging hurricanes, in case you missed it, the Town of Nags Head and the Outer Banks History Center recently released a great video of the Ash Wednesday Storm (this short film really needs to win an award).

What stands out, among many things, is the surprise of the storm itself.  It’s worth remembering that this storm hit in March – well outside of hurricane season – and has done as much damage to the Outer Banks as any storm in modern history, with the possible exception of the ferocious Hurricane Hazel’s late October arrival in 1954.  

We’re left, as a region, thanking the stars for our luck and at the same time the strategic challenge becomes one of recency – with every passing day, we tend as human beings to forget how serious these storms are and the amount of *hard work* and preparation that goes into managing the potential arrival of a storm.

In addition to our memories, we can also recognize that there are quite a few relatively new arrivals to the Outer Banks – either full-time or seasonal residents – that have yet to experience the confusion, drama, uncertainty, fear, and hesitation that comes with a big storm. 

With that in mind, it bears repeating that there are several widely agreed upon “first principles” that come into play when the National Hurricane Center begins to make track predictions: 

  1. Stay in touch with, and heed, government warnings.  One of the enduring lessons of the Ash Wednesday storm was its surprise and yet with modern technology there is no reason a storm should surprise us.  
  2. Remember, use a judicious caution when judging storms by their intensity–quite a few of our most damaging storms have come either outside traditional storm windows or have been judged–prior to their arrival–as “only” a Category One.  
  3. There was at one time a great sign spread along the hangar wall at the US Navy’s famous Top Gun community and it turns out that it is life, in addition to flying, advice.  In short, it said “great pilots use great judgment to avoid having to use great skill.”  There has never been better hurricane advice.
  4. Prudence, in addition to patience, is a virtue.
  5. And, lastly, perhaps the best memory tool ever created–the Five P rule.  In short, prior planning prevents poor performance.  

So cheers to several years of relatively good weather allowing for a sustained recovery from recent hurricanes like Matthew, Michael, Florence, Dorian, and Irene. 

And with that toast, we also nod to the knowledge that the next storm is just beyond our line of sight and with all the risks that those ferocious winds and waters entail. 

Those with the deepest memories will tend to prepare the most.

WOBX Publisher Clark Twiddy is the author of Outer Banks Visionaries:  Building North Carolina’s Oceanfront which is now available at local bookstores and online.  This is his second book about the Outer Banks. “Sound Strategy”, a weekly commentary from Twiddy, features issues, ideas and information focused on our mission statement of “Covering the Business News of the Greater Outer Banks”.

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