Hurricane Florence: Beaufort County, governor out in front this time

Editor’s note: In a press conference Tuesday morning, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster lifted the mandatory evacuation for Beaufort, Jasper and Colleton counties. To read more, click here.

Beaufort County is sweating out its third hurricane in three years, but the fatigue is not showing.

Of all the recent hurricanes — one that smashed us and one that flooded us — people seem to be taking Hurricane Florence most seriously.

“I know the track is north, but it still smells like a hurricane. Can you smell it too?”

Author Roger Pinckney XI asked that in an email Sunday night, sent from his island dangling in the Atlantic to mine.

I asked him what he meant.

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Here’s how he put it in his Hurricane Matthew story in Gray’s Sporting Journal:

“We knew there was trouble and we could smell it too, an unseasonable cool breeze, some strange electric crinkling at the end of your nose. If you came up around here, you’d know what I mean. Don’t matter what the TV says. They said it would miss us but we knew it wouldn’t.”

Pinckney, mind you, was among the infamous “Daufuskie 100” who refused to leave the island with no bridge as Hurricane Matthew approached in October 2016 — and then-Gov. Nikki Haley railed at them and said “it’s going to be underwater.”

Either that or splattered to splinters by a tornado.

“We’re trying to get them to leave,” Haley said. “They’re just not leaving.”

Welcome to Daufuskie, guvnah.

My first signal that Hurricane Florence is different came from our current governor, Henry McMaster.

You may remember that last year as Hurricane Irma lurched up the coastline, he would announce a news conference, then start it late. Not much urgency in the matters of urgency. Maybe it was because of his sharp contrast to Gov. Hurricane Nikki, but I came to know him then as Gov. Hemhaw.

Not this time. You’d think McMaster was guiding Apollo 13 back to earth. The state started talking to us before the weekend began.

And so did local leaders.

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The first Facebook post I see on it from the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office is 6:50 p.m. Friday, and that was followed by constant Nixle messages coming in by text.

Palmetto Electric Cooperative also chimed in on Friday.

And on Saturday, the Beaufort County School District posted information about the storm on Facebook.

This is almost a week before the hurricane is expected to slam the East Coast, and days before a potential evacuation.

Facebook feeds and emails have for days now been filled with updates and warnings from mayors, legislators, state and county agencies.

Liz Farrell, who has been running our newsroom’s Storm Center for all these storms, virtually 24/7, from multiple cities, said all this early communication is unprecedented.

Maybe its because Hurricane Matthew did more damage here than any storm in decades.

Maybe its because Hurricane Florence is barreling across the Atlantic for a potential head-on landing that will flatten the land the way Hurricane Hugo did in 1989.

Maybe its because there are two more storms spinning right behind Florence.

Maybe its because we’re sick of hurricanes.

But this time, it seems, we can smell it coming.

David Lauderdale: 843-706-8115, @ThatsLauderdale