One thing that will be absolutely essential is patience, especially in the next several weeks as emergency and life-threatening conditions persist.
How much destruction and misery can one region endure?
It's almost unfathomable that less than two years after Hurricane Matthew — the recovery from which is far from complete — much of Coastal North Carolina once again is underwater, roads are impassable and thousands of homes and other structures lie in ruins from the fierce winds and unrelenting rains of Florence.
As of Monday morning, the state's death toll stood at 17. Just as we know the water will continue to rise in many places, we fear the death toll will, too. (Hurricane Matthew killed 26 people in North Carolina and 1999's Floyd caused 51 fatalities in the state.)
As of Monday afternoon, the intense rain seemed to have ended as Florence inched across the Carolinas. And although about 500,000 customers remained without power in North Carolina — down from more than 800,000 — electric service was being restored in many areas, providing welcome relief in hot, dark homes and easing the demand for gasoline needed to run generators.
Unfortunately, that's about all the good news we can muster at this point, except for, of course, what the elder President Bush referred to as the "thousand points of light" — the people from all walks of life and working in all sorts of capacities who are doing their part to help their communities and to help each other.
For every report of looting or some other bad behavior we've read about, we've seen 100 documenting neighbors helping neighbors, strangers helping strangers and workers both private and public going beyond the call of duty to help those in need and, in some cases, save lives.
Sometime down the road there will be time to look back at the response to Hurricane Florence and decisions made in the past that might be making Coastal North Carolina more vulnerable to tropical storms. But for now we should stay focused on immediate needs and feed off the spirit of the tens of thousands of people who are helping us weather yet another devastating storm. We should all offer them our sincere thanks and help them in any way necessary.
One thing that will be absolutely essential is patience, especially in the next several weeks as emergency and life-threatening conditions persist — patience not only with government leaders, emergency responders and private businesses, such as utility companies, but with each other.
Let's all commit ourselves to replacing the floodwaters of Hurricane Florence with a flood of patience, goodwill and a spirit of cooperation. It's the one thing each of us can do to ease the heavy burdens we all are carrying.
REPRINTED FROM THE NEW BERN SUN JOURNAL