MURRAY – Monday morning, former Murray Ledger & Times Sports Editor Ricky Martin was continuing a mini-vacation back home in western Kentucky.
Having not seen his family since spring, Martin decided to leave the place he now calls home – Wilmington Island, Georgia, just outside of Savannah – last week and spend a few days back home. After all, his wife, Ashley – like Martin, a Murray State University alum – had gone to Arizona for the bachelorette party ahead of a friend’s wedding.
“I thought, ‘Well, there’s really no reason for me to stay in Savannah,’” Martin said Monday morning, remembering how last week everything was pretty much normal. Little did he know that the mini-vacation will probably now be extended, perhaps for several days.
That is because at 8 a.m. Monday, Martin received word that Wilmington Island and every other barrier island in southeast Georgia, as well as the city of Savannah itself, was under mandatory evacuation orders as a monster hurricane named Dorian sat poised to inflict a devastating blow along the nation’s Atlantic Coast. As of around noon Monday, the National Hurricane Center in Miami had Dorian listed as a powerful Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph.
Latest forecasts show that Dorian’s center may not reach the southeast Georgia area until possibly Thursday, as it is moving extra slowly – about 1 mph.
“The good thing, and most important thing, is that Ashley and the dogs and I are not there and I have some really good friends of ours down there that are going to be evacuating themselves (throughout Monday and today) and they’re going to go to my house and grab some of the things we have, some of the irreplaceable things,” Martin said Monday morning as he was having breakfast with a longtime friend, Murray State Racers play-by-play man Neal Bradley, at Murray’s Hungry Bear restaurant.
“I thought about trying to dead-head it this morning (and head back to Savannah) but I thought about it and said, no. I’m going to have a buddy of mine go by the house and grab some things like our hand-written wedding vows, our pictures, our safe and everything else that can’t be replaced. We have insurance on the house and on my boat, so whatever happens, happens.”
Ricky said Ashley is scheduled to return to Georgia tonight, flying into Atlanta from Arizona. Plans are for the couple to then use their season baseball tickets to watch the Atlanta Braves play the Toronto Blue Jays, provided rains from Dorian have not spread that far inland by then.
“So our plans are very fluid right now,” Ricky said. “That’s the hardest part with these hurricanes. No one knows what these things are going to do until pretty much the day before, and that’s what makes it hard for us. It’s the uncertainty, not knowing what it’s going to do, where it’s going to go and what it’s going to do when it gets there.
“With Savannah being evacuated, we already know that we can’t get home Tuesday or Wednesday, so if they don’t lift that evacuation notice, we’ll just drive back to Kentucky and get in some more extra time the family.”
RIcky said his visit back to western Kentucky had nothing to do with the hurricane. In fact, he said when he was planning to head out of Savannah late last week, Dorian was not even a consideration, as he thought it was going to strike Florida’s Atlantic coast, cross the state, then head into the Gulf of Mexico off Florida’s west coast.
Coincidentally or not, he said he is glad to be well away from Georgia now, and he is speaking from experience.
“I really hope people down there are taking it seriously and I hope the people being told to get out, well, get out, because a few years ago, I stayed for Hurricane Matthew, and that was a mistake,” Ricky said. Matthew in 2016 did not make landfall in Savannah, but was a Category 1 storm with 75 mph maximum sustained winds when it did make landfall a short distance away in South Carolina.
“I rode Mathew out. Ashley was on the hurricane response team at the time (as a hospital nurse) and that one followed a really similar path to this one. I didn’t want to leave without her, so I stayed. I’ve told myself that if one ever threatened that way again, I was going to get out.”
He said even though Matthew landed what amounted to a glancing blow to Savannah, it was more than enough to cause problems.
“We had a privacy fence ripped up out of the ground. We had a 30-foot tree come down on our screened-in patio, on the roof, and roll into the back yard. We had tons of debris,” he said, then going into what is seen by most weather forecasters as the most dangerous aspect of these storms: the water.
“Our house sits at 13 feet elevation and the water got to 12 1/2 feet and we had water on our screened-in patio, but it didn’t make it in the threshold to the French doors to get into our house. We were 6 inches from having our downstairs flooded with Matthew and this one looks way worse than that,” he said. “We have a couple of people we know down there and we’re trying to convince them that it’s not worth it, but people are stubborn. There’s always going to be a couple of people who stay behind.”
Ricky also said he would be closely watching the petroleum industry in the Southeast. Now a petroleum broker, he works for wholesale oil companies and he said he already has learned that 50 percent of the stations that company supplies are out of fuel. He said Georgia’s governor is trying to help that by issuing a state of emergency that would allow trucks to carry heavier amounts of fuel to replenish the stations, while also relaxing restrictions to allow drivers to work longer hours during this time.
“None of that is going to make much of a difference, in the grand scheme of things,” he said. “The biggest thing, and I never really thought about it until I got into that industry, is that people panic and they start consuming more than they need and that’s what creates the shortage. If everybody would keep doing as normal, there wouldn’t be these issues, but everybody panics.
“It’s crazy. Hurricane Harvey (which struck the Houston, Texas area in 2017) did a number on the petroleum industry because it shut down all of the refineries in the Gulf and we couldn’t get anything from the Colonial Pipeline over to the East Coast. Hurricanes can wreck day-to-day operations no matter how far away they are.”