ONDBEAT: Dear Dorian: A five-day diary on the latest storm and sea Jeep

Labor Day 2019, Monday, Sept. 2: An emergency gubernatorial message flared across my phone at noon, alarming coastal South Carolinians to evacuate immediately if not before ‘cause Hurricane Dorian was whipping up our way for a whirlwind visit.

This was the fine howdy-do-welcome-home I got upon my return from a family reunion in Tennessee this past holiday weekend. Too bad I was still scheduled to go to work in North Carolina on Tuesday or I’d’ve headed back for the hills.

Tuesday, Sept. 3: While South Carolina emptied, jamming westbound lanes, folks turned out en masse at Sunset Beach to bask in one last solar day and surf the sturdy offshore waves stirred by the approaching storm, driving my camera to convey the pre-Dorian seascape.

Walmart unveiled a full display of batteries, flashlights and emergency candy greeting guests at the entrance. There was still plenty of bread on the shelves. Nobody was panicking yet.

That all changed later in the day when Gov. Roy Cooper issued a mandatory evacuation order, starting at 8 a.m. Wednesday, for North Carolina’s barrier islands and beaches, including the ones in Brunswick County. So much for another sunny September day at the beach.

Ocean Isle Beach issued a water-and-utilities shutoff deadline.

Sunset Beach urged islanders to heed the mandatory evacuation order or sign a next-of-kin notification form after 8 a.m. Wednesday. Some towns don’t fool around.

Holden Beach, meanwhile, bid residents and Dorian adios by announcing town hall had closed until further notice. That was helpful.

Wednesday, Sept. 4: Telecommuted from home this morning awaiting what I thought would be my held mail from my prior trip because I didn’t want Dorian to blow it away. By mid-morning I realized the post offices in coastal S.C. had already shuttered and skedaddled, too. The postman may deliver in snow, rain, heat and gloom of night but not before approaching hurricanes.

Later, after wrapping up early deadlines at the Beacon, I ventured back over to Walmart to buy a bag of ice in the event of a refrigerator shutdown.

The battery displays were looking threadbare as the supply kept going and going and going (until gone). People were bustling about, many with multiple cases of beer and little else in their buggies, a sure sign a storm was brewing and they were in for the duration.

Thursday, Sept. 5: As winds whipped and rain dropped, tornado warning alarms ignited in my neck of the woods before 5 a.m. The windstorms hit several spots, including less than two miles away in the River Hills community in Little River where a couple told me they had retreated into their laundry room just as they heard the ominous freight train that mowed down several huge pine trees, including some crashing into their neighbors’ houses.

Two hours later tornadoes hit just up the road in The Farm at Brunswick in Carolina Shores, wreaking damages and spurring several families out of their homes. Tornadoes were nothing to joke about.

For those of us stuck at home doing armchair monitoring, the day’s comic relief winner was a red Jeep someone had abandoned in the ocean in Myrtle Beach.

All day long, thanks to ongoing electricity plus a passel of TV people who were out there whether they liked it or not, regional TV-land and then the entire country were glued to the tube and the fate of that mystery Jeep bobbing in the waves.

“Why is that so relaxing?” my sister texted from Tennessee. “Maybe it’s just because it is at the beach. Such a pleasant sound of waves sucking at the tires, then the way the ocean toys with the car like a cat with a vole. I could watch this all day.”

She had been thinking about a new car — “somehow this makes me appreciate the grace of this model.”

It was unclear what doofus had done this, I responded — maybe the local dealership?

Myrtle Beach police couldn’t remove the Jeep during the storm but eventually chased away a crowd taking selfies and acting silly in the middle of a hurricane, including a bagpiper serenading the Jeep with a funereal rendition of “Amazing Grace” and another man who struck a yoga pose after climbing on top of the jostled Jeep.

Friday, Sept. 6: The jiggly Jeep was removed this morning thanks to a backhoe and tow truck carting it to an unknown destination, a police spokesman told Time magazine. The Jeep’s owner, who told the media his cousin had borrowed the vehicle to take sunrise pictures only to get it stuck on the beach early Thursday morning, did not wish to be identified. We understand.

Jeep Watch 2019 was over and so, for the most part for Brunswick County, was Hurricane Dorian.

Adios and Namaste.

Laura Lewis is assistant editor for the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or llewis@brunswickbeacon.com.