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South Carolina Gullah Community Weathers Hurricane Florence


So more than a million people in the Carolinas were ordered to evacuate because of the hurricane. Many said they would stay behind and ride out the storm no matter what, including Emory Campbell. He grew up on Hilton Head Island off the coast of South Carolina. He's a fourth-generation member of the Gullah community, descendants of American slaves who live in coastal communities in South Carolina and Georgia. And he's on the phone with us from his home in Hilton Head. Mr. Campbell, thanks for being here. How - what's it look like out your window?

EMORY CAMPBELL: You're welcome. Well, everything looks clear here. It's been clear for the last several days. We knew we weren't going to get a direct hit, and so we didn't expect any weather.

MARTIN: Although, we just heard from our reporter that officials in the region say, listen, this is different. There are people, like yourselves, who always stay because they think they're going to be able to ride it out and that their homes never flood. But officials are saying, this is unprecedented.

CAMPBELL: Yes. But being 200 miles away north of us, we decided to stay because we didn't think we're going to get any real adverse effect from the hurricane.

MARTIN: You have grown up in the area. You grew up on Hilton Head Island. You've seen a lot of storms, I imagine. Have you ever evacuated?

CAMPBELL: Yes. The first time I evacuated - we evacuated was in 1979, when we had David coming directly at us. Again in 1999, we evacuated. And for Hugo in '89, we evacuated. So evacuation has been a part of us, but not one thing that - we didn't really like it.

MARTIN: How do you make that decision? Because, I mean, the South Carolina governor, Henry McMaster, ordered an evacuation for Beaufort County Monday, then he took it back. But you were going to stay no matter what. What calculations, what goes into your decision?

CAMPBELL: Pretty much the weather reporters, in terms of where the storm was going to land. We just thought that we were better off being here than getting on the road with all the traffic. We believed that we would be safe here.

MARTIN: Many in your community are farmers and fishermen. Do you know others who have chosen to just stay, take the chances?

CAMPBELL: Yeah. Many of our neighbors, as well as Gullah Geechee people around the coast, just north of us in Helena Island, those folks decided to stay. And so people pretty much knew that this one was not going to be a real threat to life.

MARTIN: Which is not necessarily what officials are saying though, and the storm - the path of the storm has changed. Do you have a plan for if things do get really bad?

CAMPBELL: Yeah. We have relatives just beyond - in safe areas just south of us. We decided that if things really change, we could just go several - a couple hundred - I mean, about 50 miles and be safe.

MARTIN: How are you spending your hours besides talking to us? Do you - you've got the Weather Channel on the TV? (Laughter).

CAMPBELL: (Laughing) Watching the weather all the time - for the last several days.

MARTIN: All right. Well, Emory Campbell, he has chosen to ride out the storm in Hilton Head, S.C. Mr. Campbell, be safe, OK?

CAMPBELL: We will. Thank you.

MARTIN: All right. Take good care.

CAMPBELL: Bye. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.