Community fights Hurricane Florence together


Saijleen Chawla

Myrtle Beach evacuee Robert Born poses by his grill that accompanied him to the trailers set up in Atlanta Motor Speedway. Cookouts used by the grill helped many of the evacuees feel at home during a trying time that forced them to evacuate.

Saijleen Chawla, Staff Writer

Although most known for opening its campgrounds and grandstands once a year to host a NASCAR tripleheader race weekend in February, last weekend Atlanta Motor Speedway opened its facilities to those displaced by Hurricane Florence.

“We’re just glad to help, even if it’s little,” Atlanta Motor Speedway Track President Ed Clark said.

We were thinking back to Houston and New Orleans, and how people had to be rescued from their homes, and my thought was I didn’t want to be one of those people.

— Hurricane Florence evacuee Robert Born

During times of distress, it is not uncommon for communities to join as one and weather the storm together. Hurricane Florence was no exception. Florence evacuees, displaced from their homes and made to watch the destruction from afar, still found strength in numbers by being together in the trailers set up by Atlanta Motor Speedway.

“We had 5,000 camping spots open, [where] we provided water, sewer system, and electricity,”  Clark said. The evacuees only paid around $20 to spend their nights in the trailers while they waited for the hurricane to complete its course, for it “was of little cost for us,” Clark said. What was “little cost” for AMS, became something that offered much respite to the Florence evacuees.

“We were thinking back to Houston and New Orleans, and how people had to be rescued from their homes, and my thought was I didn’t want to be one of those people,” Myrtle Beach, S.C., evacuee Robert Born said.

Born and wife Stephanie had a next door neighbor that did not evacuate, who has been their informant on the situation’s status. According to Myrtle Beach evacuee Stephanie, the updates they have been getting have been a relief. “[The evacuees] generally checked the situations through their neighbors back home,” Stephanie said.

I don’t think there is anything we can do to prepare for the worst, but we can hope for the best.

— Hurricane Florence evacuee Robert Born

Robert has taken a logical viewpoint on the prospective effects of the hurricane. He chooses not to think or worry himself about Hurricane Florence.  “I don’t think there is anything we can do to prepare for the worst, but we can hope for the best,” Robert Born said. Robert and Stephanie both planned to return home by Sept. 18.

Myrtle Beach evacuees Martin and Sheila Reed also expressed minimal worries about the category 4 hurricane. This wasn’t the first major hurricane the Reeds had underwent, so they knew what to expect and how to prepare.

“Before leaving, we put the porch chairs and table inside to avoid wind damage,” Sheila said. They also had been getting community updates before the power went out. The updates that they had received before, prevented them from feeling like they were completely lost and in the dark. “We didn’t have [community updates] during Hurricane Katrina, and they would have been a great thing to have back then too,” Martin said.

Evacuees Vincent and Roberta* did not benefit as much from the strength in numbers as many of the other evacuees. “Our daughter stayed behind in North Carolina, and we assume that their power is out,” Roberta said. Roberta worried constantly about her daughter and her two brothers that stayed behind. Vincent was accepting of their decision, nevertheless, still worried.

“It is very hard to leave our home, we were thinking about staying too. But we decided that it’s better to be safe than sorry,” Vincent said. Their community was not as interdependently involved as well, for Vincent said that “it was every man for himself.” They are thinking of returning by Sept. 19. “One of our main worry is finding out what’s left when we come back,” Vincent said.

Regardless where the evacuees came from, they all found some form of relief in being together as one, facing the same situation together. The Reeds and Borns found out that they were all from Myrtle Beach, and became quick friends. Because Robert brought his grill with him, he would hold cookouts using it.

“It genuinely made us feel like an actual family,” Robert said. Regardless of how bad things had gotten due to Florence, the evacuees fought it with friends, family, and the help from the community as a whole.


*Last name of Vincent and Roberta withheld at their request.