Hurricane

Popular hurricane ‘voice of reason’ from Beaufort County SC silenced for Hurricane Florence

Sonny Bishop of St. Helena Island shows his upbeat attitude in this 2016 photo.
Sonny Bishop of St. Helena Island shows his upbeat attitude in this 2016 photo. Submitted

Hurricane Florence blew in a sad silence for Beaufort County.

This time — unlike our back-to-back-to-back years of stressing over hurricanes seen live 24/7 swirling toward our bedrooms — we haven’t had our lone voice of reason.

That calming voice has been provided by 83-year-old retired St. Helena Island farmer and educator, Sonny Bishop.

He never came to us dressed in blue rain gear, goggles strapped to his head, leaning into the harsh winds of TV ratings.

He came to us through his Facebook page, in short spurts pecked out as he stared over the home place called Yard Farm and its sweeping tidal creek.

And he used his passion for weather observation, his decades of life in the eye of the storm, his degree from Clemson University and his common sense to tell us why the threat was not nearly as dire as popularly believed.

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While they were saying last year that Hurricane Irma would be the greatest storm in these parts in 100 years, he looked at the tide chart, the NOAA maps, the Weather Underground projections and his watch to say we should expect 3 or 4 inches of rain.

And Sonny has been counted on to interrupt our fuzzy recollections of the way things used to be by producing newspaper clippings and old photos to show how things truly were.

I miss his voice, and so do a lot of people in Beaufort and greater Frogmore, the stamping grounds of his life well-lived.

Sonny had a large stroke back in mid-July.

His daughter, Elizabeth Bishop Later of Utah, told me that her father is recovering better than could be expected in an inpatient rehabilitation center.

“He’s walking on his own and moving around,” she said Tuesday. “He’s struggling to talk, but this is coming along.”

She said “he’s definitely himself,” making people laugh and staying in a good humor himself.

Together, they wrote a book about Yard Farm, “A Place Called Home.”

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Oddly enough, Sonny was talking about the weather when the stroke changed his life in an instant.

He was telling his wife, Mary, as they went to bed that he thought they were going to get a thunderstorm. Then the stroke came.

And two weeks later, Mary had a stroke.

That, too, was odd because it means the couple that has done everything together for 61 years was once again together as roommates in the rehab center, doing everything together.

Mary Bishop’s stroke was not nearly as large, and Elizabeth said she should be going home soon.

When Hurricane Florence started coming at us last weekend, people around Beaufort started saying how much they missed Sonny’s storm updates.

So Elizabeth shared some of her father’s weather beliefs online.

Since Sonny is not here to calm us down this year, maybe her words can fill the sad silence:

Don’t panic.

Use NHC.noaa.gov and wunderground.com. One of the reasons Sonny stays so calm is because he understands the science.

Bill Walsh — Live 5 news — is highly recommended as he doesn’t sensationalize things, and explains things really well so people can make their own decisions.

Stay off The Weather Channel. Their business is to alarm you so you’ll keep watching.

Tides are important — know the tide when the storm will hit — low tide is better.

David Lauderdale: 843-706-8115, @ThatsLauderdale
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