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Georgia editorial roundup

September 19, 2018

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

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Sept. 15

The Savannah Morning News on evacuation orders in natural disasters:

Hurricane Florence had barely made landfall Friday morning when the first rescue calls came in.

“In a matter of seconds, my house was flooded up to the waist, and now it is to the chest,” Peggy Perry of New Bern, North Carolina, told CNN. “We are stuck in the attic.”

Perry and her relatives were rescued, as were hundreds of others who ignored mandatory evacuation orders and were caught in the rising waters of Florence’s storm surge. Thank God — and the first responders — for that.

The situation is dumbfounding as it is horrifying. With what was a Category 4 storm bearing down on the coast of the Carolinas, many residents ignored a mandatory evacuation order issued several days in advance.

While predictable, this is unacceptable. We shudder to think about the outcome had the storm not weakened as it approached the coast. Had Florence made landfall with 140 mph winds instead of 90 mph winds, would the rescue crews have reached the stubborn in time? Would they have reached them at all?

Evacuations are difficult. To abandon home and property goes against our basic instincts.

You leave town understanding one thing: You have no idea what you will return to. Perhaps you will find nothing more than a yard cluttered with plant debris. Then again, you could discover your house flooded, crushed by a downed tree or missing its roof.

What’s more, fleeing often involves sitting in traffic, imposing on relatives or friends and unexpected financial outlays.

Worst of all, you don’t know when you will be allowed to return after the storm passes. ...

We here in the Coastal Empire and lowcountry understand these realities all too well.

In the last 20 years, three major storms have prompted evacuations. Two of them - Hurricane Floyd in 1999 and Hurricane Irma last year - moved away as they neared shore. Hurricane Matthew missed wide, passing 20 miles east of Tybee and Hilton Head in October 2017. The storm still downed hundreds of trees and flooded many homes and businesses.

We gained knowledge with each event.

Floyd led the state to develop the Interstate 16 “counterflow” plan to ease evacuations. Now when officials call for residents to leave, the eastbound lanes of the highway are converted to westbound.

Matthew convinced the ride-it-out crowd to rethink that position - if a Category 1 storm that misses us causes this kind of damage and leaves us without power for several days, what’s the point of staying?

Irma taught officials to moderate their message in advance of a storm. Projected to be the “storm of the century,” Irma led to an early call for an evacuation. Then the hurricane’s track changed and it passed into the Gulf of Mexico.

For all the lessons learned locally in recent years, we cannot discount the nightmare scenario Carolinians are experiencing with Florence.

A direct hit by a hurricane is nature unleashed. The storm surge alone can fill structures with water in minutes. Even weaker hurricanes can kill, especially in low-lying areas such as ours.

...The debate that raged last week — about whether to stay or go should the track change — is folly.

The next time the call comes, get out. One stubborn North Carolinian interviewed on NBC on Friday morning said, “I’ve been here 50 years and been through lots of hurricanes. We didn’t think it would be that bad.”

He was wrong and so were hundreds of others. They put more than themselves in jeopardy; they endangered the rescue crews, too. Only those whose jobs require they ride out the storm — emergency and medical personnel and a small number of media representatives — should do so. Other residents who choose to stay demonstrate a level of irresponsibility that borders on criminal.

Trust emergency management officials when it comes to hurricane threats. We thank them and support their efforts to keep our citizens safe.

Online: http://www.savannahnow.com

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Sept. 16

Valdosta Daily Times on accidents that involve farm vehicles:

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Back in March of this year, state troopers said a farmer was driving a 1964 International Harvester on Ga. 300 near Warwick with no lights, when it collided with a semi truck, throwing the farmer 125 feet and causing the tractor to roll over a few times. While the wrecked tractor was in the road, a pickup hit and destroyed it. The tractor driver was transported to a local hospital where he was listed in critical condition.

The Georgia Department of Agriculture and the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety say there is a lot that motorists can do to prevent crashes involving tractors and farm vehicles.

When driving through agricultural areas, motorists need to pay attention, slow down and check their aggression on the roadways.

Georgia Department of Transportation data shows there were 494 crashes involving farm and construction vehicles in Georgia last year that killed 12 people and injured 185 others.

“These tragic accidents can devastate a family and an entire community,” Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black has said. “But they are 100 percent avoidable. We are urging everyone on the road this harvest season and every season, to pay attention to our farmers so they can safely continue the good work of putting food on our tables and clothes on our backs.”

Almost 40 percent of the fatal traffic crashes in Georgia occur on rural roads, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Many of the crashes are caused by drivers traveling too fast and not being able to stop in time when they are approaching farm vehicles traveling between 18-25 miles per hour.

“Many farmers are literally having to look over their shoulder because so many people are not paying attention and refusing to slow down for farm vehicles who have the legal right to operate their equipment on our roads,” Harris Blackwood, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, recently said in a prepared statement. “Farmers are simply asking to share the road especially this time of year when they are working to get their crops to market.”

Georgia law requires all farm vehicles on the road to have triangle-shaped signs which signal they are traveling at speeds significantly slower than normal traffic.

Many farmers also use other devices such as battery-operated flashing lights to help other drivers see them. When it is safe for them to do so, farmers will pull over and allow vehicles to pass.

Motorists need to simply slow down and be cautious as they near slow-moving farm vehicles and remember these growers are feeding and clothing our families.

We all depend on our farmers to feed our families.

Online: http://www.valdostadailytimes.com

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Sept. 16

The Augusta Chronicle asks if Serena Williams and the sport both deserve blame for the U.S. Open controversy:

Hurricane Florence has nothing on Serena Williams, who formed her own “topical” storm the week prior.

The tennis superstar’s meltdown in the finals of the U.S. Open — which helped lead to her loss to Naomi Osaka of Japan — raised questions not only of her own behavior but of whether the sport expects more decorum from women than it does from men.

We agree with Williams that there can be no gender-based double standard. Tennis legend Billie Jean King, while acknowledging Williams was “out of line” at the Open, said there is indeed a double standard for women and men in tennis. “Men are outspoken when they stand up for themselves. And women are looked at as hysterical. We are not. We are also speaking up,” King tweeted.

This question deserves the utmost scrutiny by the world’s leading tennis officials.

That said, one can only hope that the single standard of behavior that should be applied to all players would’ve still ensnared Williams, who was inconsolably fitful and verbally abusive of the umpire.

“What was supposed to be history descended into histrionics,” one writer observed, noting that Williams had a chance to tie Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam titles but got in her own way.

It could’ve also been a triumphant return for Williams, who missed last year’s Open to give birth.

First, chair umpire Carlos Ramos called two violations on Williams, one for alleged coaching signals from the stands (which the coach admitted to) and another for breaking her racket in anger. Then, as Williams berated Ramos and tried to bully him into actually apologizing to her, she was assessed a third violation and a fateful game forfeit in the second and decisive set for calling the umpire a liar and thief.

This is not the first time Ms. Williams — whom we love and who is one of the greatest champions in sporting history — has been over-the-top abusive, at the U.S. Open alone. After a foot fault called against her at the 2009 Open she threatened the lineswoman that she would “take the ball and shove it down your (expletive) throat.” She was assessed a penalty, which happened to be match point.

Even tennis bad boy John McEnroe said at the time that she also should have been suspended.

Ms. Williams has thus been her own fiercest opponent.

But even with no sympathy toward her — the International Tennis Federation is backing the umpire in this year’s Open — the sport should do some soul searching and investigation into whether female athletes are held to a higher standard of decorum.

If so, the standard should be raised for all.

Online: http://www.augustachronicle.com/

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