It happens every year. Newscasters forebode of the coming winds and the eyes of every student turn toward the Eastern Atlantic in search of a storm. Panicking parents and the administration’s reassurances that canceling class is never necessary. The evacuation pandemonium and standstill traffic develop as the wind and rain continue brewing just off the coast.
The past three years have seen Charleston evacuated for an imminent hurricane every fall, becoming routine to the students at the College. Students expect these hurricane evacuations, building them into their semester schedules and jokingly referring to it as a “hurrication.” When the semester starts getting rough and the tests pile up it’s not uncommon to hear people hoping for a hurricane to give them a few days rest.
Hurricane Florence, the spectacle of this past September, saw students logging onto Twitter and Facebook to post congratulations and relief at the impending hurricane.
“Come fuck my shit up please @Hurricanflor” One tweeter said. Another, “So If a hurricane destroys CofC do I get all A’s?” Another student proudly said, “Love a good hurrication thanks Florence.” Even the University of South Carolina cheerleaders joined in on mocking the hurricane:Happy Birthday Leah! For your birthday, we are giving you a Hurricane Florence! We hope you enjoy it, as it had already brought 2 days off of classes! Have a great free day today!…”
A parody account @Hurricaneflor began tweeting from the perspective of Hurricane Florence, creating tweeting along the likes of “I’m coming bitches.”
Even local business manipulated the impending natural disaster to serve as a marketing strategy, making light of a serious situation for those in the direct path of Florence. One tweeted, “Since Florence is gonna be tardy to everyone’s lowcountry hurricane party, we will be open on Wednesday! Come in and treat yourself to some of our new fresh tea blends to take home!” Another business tweeted, “Don’t blow away. Come have a drink with us as we prepare for Hurricane Florence. @ Charleston, South Carolina.”
Facebook events popped up proclaiming “Sacrifice FL to appease Hurricane Florence” or “Playing Nickelback & Creed to scare Hurricane Florence away” as a way of dealing with the impending storm.
Jokes and posts of this nature avoid and belittle the serious nature of Florence, and the threat it posed to individuals living under the storm’s threat with no way of escape – especially the poor and homeless. These problematic posts ignore the gravity of a hurricane that, for many citizens, have their lives uprooted, and cannot simply travel a couple hours back to their hometown to relax. For those who cannot leave, their “hurrication” consists of panic and a scramble for resources to protect their house and possessions. These hurricanes have real life consequences that do more than just delay stressful tests for a few days.
Despite its slow movement and last-minute downgrade to a tropical storm, Florence caused a large amount of damage, especially around Wilmington, NC. The storm brought up to 30 inches of rain in some places, causing major flooding across the Carolinas to people’s homes and vehicles. One million people affected by the storm lost power. 39 people in NC, nine people in SC and one person in VA died because of the effects of Florence. Even two weeks after the storm, people are still dying from storm-related afflictions as they venture out to repair housing and roofing.
In Charleston, Florence’s flooding also caused problems for the environment, overflowing sewage, hog farm waste and coal ash deposits into backyards and local waterways. This contamination can cause lasting effects on the local ecosystem water supply, but also increases the potential for bacterial infections and injuries from high metal content.
Hurricane Florence was a serious storm with serious consequences for people across the Carolinas, and trivialization of this disaster on social media negates the impact. Hoping for a natural disaster to get out of a few days of stress and have a “hurrication” risks the lives of those who cannot escape for an unworthy trade off.