A Walmart employee stocks Gatorade on an empty shelf on August 29, 2019 in Orlando, Florida. People throughout the Bahamas, Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas are preparing for Hurricane Dorian to hit beginning Sunday. (Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)
Residents stock up on food, water and prayer as Hurricane Dorian approaches the Bahamas and southeastern U.S.
When it comes to hurricanes, it’s the uncertainty that can be the hardest thing.
When Francesco Costanzo found out that Hurricane Dorian may (or may not) impact the city of Charleston, South Carolina, where he lives, he jumped in his car to buy water right away.
“I ran to the closest Walmart, and what was really strange was that the long line of shopping carts that you usually see next to the front door… was gone. There was nothing there,” he said. “That’s when you knew something was going on.”
Once inside he grabbed the last gallon of water available. Other shoppers seemed to have bought out the store, with piles of canned goods, water and batteries bulging out of carts.
What Costanzo noticed was the attitude of longtime Charleston residents. Some have lived through many hurricanes and appeared unfazed. One resident said, “Let’s see.” People seemed calm outside.
Yet the crowds within the stores showed the low-grade uneasiness that comes with an uncertain forecast.
When you have lived through a bad hurricane, it leaves you somewhat traumatized.
Costanzo lived through the devastation of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 in New Jersey, including a 15-day power outage in subzero weather, an experience he never wants to go through again.
South Carolina has already declared a state of emergency. Authorities have cautioned residents to have seven days of food supplies ready in case of blackouts, so Costanzo is spending his time cooking pies — quiches and fruit pies. It’s a good way to distract himself.
“My bag is packed in case I have to evacuate when Dorian comes. I already know where the evacuation route is, just in case,” he said.
When he remembers how bad the experience was with Hurricane Sandy, he remembers how strong the wind was. For hours, he and his family sat in the dark, wondering if the wind would rip the roof off his house.
“It felt like an earthquake. There was this sensation that we had no control over the situation, and it gave us this primordial fear, like you are an insect about to be squashed by something bigger than yourself. When I heard that a hurricane was coming towards Charleston this morning, that same fear came back to me today,” he said.
During the worst moments of that Hurricane Sandy, seven years ago, there was nothing left to do but pray.
“You feel like you come face-to-face with God. I once heard a rabbi speaking on the radio in Italy, and he said that the term ‘prayer’ was a request for God to change his plans for you. You find yourself praying that the eye of the storm not pass over your head, and that you don’t want this to be the day that you are called home.”
When asked what the best part of a hurricane is, his answer is simple.
“When it’s over. It’s that moment of relief when you realize that the wind is dying down,” he said.
“You realize that you made it.”