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Slow-moving Hurricane Florence, after being advertised for days, finally made landfall about a mile from our house. We knew what to expect, having survived more than a dozen such storms over the years. More than 20 years ago, we lost half of our house in one, an experience best forgotten.

This time, everything on our checklist seemed to be covered: Current house high enough above sea level to avoid damage from storm surges and flooding? Solid home construction with strong windows, roof tie-downs and braces? Homeowner, windstorm and auto insurance current? Electric power, cable and landline telephone service stable? Lawn furniture, potted plants and other potential missiles brought inside? Full gasoline tanks in cars? Enough cash on hand? Emergency drinking water purchased? Ice stored in Styrofoam for future use? Non-refrigerated food available? Emergency butane burner and cartridges? Full bathtub of water to flush toilets? Separate battery backup for cell phones? Fresh batteries in portable radios, flashlights, lanterns and the NOAA emergency radio? Telephone numbers for local contractors? Boots, tarpaulins and Gatorade for hot-weather cleanup after the storm?

We didnt evacuate (it was voluntary in our immediate area) because we knew that damage mitigation during and after the storm-particularly during the calm of its eye-could be critical. Also, area flooding could prevent us from returning to combat water damage and the resulting mold and mildew. We didnt board the windows, having learned that boarding up often caused more damage than the storm itself. And we didnt purchase flood insurance because our area had never flooded.

Well, we were lucky: minor home damage, lack of power, intermittent telephone and internet service, trees down and bushes stripped of leaves. But the smell from hundreds of rotting fish along the shore of a nearby pond fouled the air. Fortunately, turkey vultures came to the rescue. It took those birds awhile, but they cleaned up most of the mess. They put forth unusual effort and should be commended.

Others in our neighborhood were not so fortunate. It was heartbreaking to see the roof of a friends house destroyed by a fallen tree and her damaged possessions piled out front. Mold grew and floors buckled at other houses in the intense heat and humidity after the storm. Trees blocked roads, and emergency services were restricted.

But then it got better. People showed up from everywhere to help, and a few stores equipped with generators opened up to sell limited merchandise, usually for cash only. Gasoline and fresh groceries were missing; the city had become an island due to flooding, and all highways, even the interstates, were blocked for deliveries.

Possibly the most surprising thing about this storm was the array of reactions from those whom we thought we knew. As might have been expected, most people responded well; they were helpful, concerned and caring. But some previously kind and gentle individuals surprised us; they had obvious difficulty handling the stress, and became aggressive and unpleasant. With time, of course, theyll get over it.

At the very least, weve learned a lot about how different people handle adversity-but we certainly dont need a refresher course anytime soon.

Jack Goodhue, management coach, may be contacted at

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