My 1st Day on the Job & the Importance of Disaster Prep

Jamie Butler Alt |

  June 11, 2024 |
 Disaster Prep & Support

September 2018 was one of those milestone months for me in three ways:

1.) It was my birthday month.

2.) I was about to start my new position as Executive Director of Feeding the Carolinas.

3.) Hurricane Florence was about to arrive.

Florence originated from a strong tropical wave that emerged off the west coast of Africa on August 30, 2018, and reached peak intensity on September 11, with winds of 150 mph.

Early on September 14, Florence made landfall in the United States just south of Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane.  Though Florence made landfall as a “greatly weakened” Category 1 hurricane, winds associated with the tropical cyclone were strong enough to uproot trees and power lines, and the slow pace of the storm caused massive flooding. Overall, the devastation of the storm caused $24.23 billion in damage (mostly in the Carolinas) and 54 deaths.

So, that was what I faced my very first day at Feeding the Carolinas. I was on the phone with each state’s Emergency Management operations the weekend before I even started, and I headed for the coast my first few days on the job.

Florence was a devastating storm for the Food Bank network – five out of my ten member Feeding America Food Banks were directly impacted by the storm. The extreme flooding made the logistics of moving food to those in need nearly impossible. Wilmington was cut off from the mainland by flooding, becoming in essence, an island. It was a daunting and overwhelming task.

I watched the waters rise on Highway 15-501 as we drove from Myrtle Beach to Columbia, right along the roadway. And I mean you could see the rising waters, making one wonder if you would be able to stay ahead of the storm surge. I saw the damage and could imagine the devastation that was to come with the flooding.

This is when I got to experience the power of the network that is Feeding the Carolinas. The CEOs of the ten Food Banks immediately were on a conference call, facilitated by FTC, to assess the damage, determine the urgent needs, and identify priorities. The Food Banks not directly impacted—without hesitation—provided trucks, drivers, and other operations staff on loan to the coastal Food Banks to help. They provided food, packed (literally thousands of) emergency food boxes to send to the coast (without regard for cost), and offered any other support they could provide.

It was an incredible experience to see the leadership and staff of these Food Banks come together to literally ‘feed the Carolinas’ and, more importantly, provide hope and comfort to both of our states’ neighbors in need.

Florence was a true test of our resiliency. Not just the resiliency of the Carolinas, but the resiliency of Feeding the Carolinas and our partners. It took a long time—and there are still places where work is to be done—but we delivered on our promise to be there to provide both food and hope.

I think about this every time hurricane season approaches. You never know when the next Florence is coming. But one thing we can trust in is that the Food Banks of Feeding the Carolinas stand ready.

Please make sure you are ready as well.  Learn more about preparing for emergencies here.


Mike Darrow, Executive Director