By Sam Burnham
As I'm watching the first of the outer bands of Irma begin to arrive here, my thoughts are still lying well to the south. Friends and family in the Sunshine State and those who live below Georgia's Gnat Line are still in harm's way or in the very early stages of recovery from what has been a nasty storm.
But there are divides here that I want to discuss as they will be pivotal points in the upcoming recovery.
There are two faces of the Florida peninsula. Along the coasts and through the I-4 corridor is the Florida most people know. Beaches, resorts, Disney, Universal, golf courses, urban areas. Then there is the rest of the interior. Orange groves, cattle and horse farms, small towns, fish camps, good grits eating country folks.
In Georgia, there is Metro Atlanta, the north Georgia area and then there is the plain south of the Gnat Line.
Florida is flat. The highest point in Florida is Britton Hill. At 345 feet, it's half the distance above sea level as my flat front yard. The highest point on the peninsula is Sugarloaf Mountain. This peak sits at 312 feet, give or take, depending on if there is a fire ant mound active at the top or not.
In Georgia, the Gnat Line, that prehistoric coast line that divides the present day Piedmont from the Coastal Plain, crosses the state from (roughly) Columbus to Macon to Augusta, Geologists and boat captains know it as the Fall Line.
These flat areas give little resistance to the wind but take the brunt of the storm as it weakens over the dry ground. That means that the storm is weaker by the time the geographic features of north Georgia shield us from most of the wind and turn the tempest into a trickle. But these areas also suffer the heaviest damage. They are often the areas that have the fewest resources with which to recover as well. Overwhelmed public safety departments in hundreds of small Southern towns are currently doing their best to protect and serve with what they have to work with. In the Southeast, as in Texas, the big cities are going to suffer but they'll also recover. My major concern is with the smaller towns - some already dying - that are now looking at a long road to recovery. A road I fear many will decide isn't worth traveling.
These are the quaint villages you see here or at Vanishing South Georgia and several other sites that also care about the loss of historical and cultural significance when rural towns die.
This is a rambling post, I know. It is as much for me as it is for anyone else. It's a way for me to put into words and visually inspect my thoughts and concerns. It's a chance to brainstorm for ways to help. It's a chance to hold up places like Brunswick, Waycross, or Tifton when I know Atlanta is going to take a shot, need help, and get it. It is me begging all of us to not forget Williston, Ft. McCoy, or Interlachen Florida in the shadow of Tampa's recovery.
Our big cities will need help. And they will get it. And I'm not arguing they shouldn't. Let's just please not forget the small places, the ones that feed and clothe us, while we help the bright lights recover.
Keep South Georgia and interior Florida in your prayers
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire