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The night the lights went out in Georgia

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POSTED: April 6, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Savannah decided to conduct its Saint Patrick Day’s celebration on Saturday the 15th rather than on the official date of March 17.

Someone should have informed the city planners that was a bad idea, because Mother Nature already had that evening booked. And then some.

I guess the reasoning behind the rescheduling was to take full advantage of the bulging tourist wallets and purses overflowing with cash which were expected to arrive in the city. I’m sure the event planners designed a schedule in such a way to make sure that most of that bounty stayed in Savannah once the three day party was over. Well, Mother Nature had other plans for that booty.

It was 10:30 p.m. and I was quietly enjoying myself at a St. Paddy’s Day party on Skidaway Island when the Island nearly did that – skid away. We were listening to Irish music on the radio when we were interrupted by this computer generated warning announcement. The voice sounded like Bugs Bunny. I kid you not.

"Warning. Seek immediate shelter if you are in the following Counties: Chatham County, Bryan County... Tornados and funnel clouds have been spotted approaching and may touch down in these counties!" Or something to that effect.

Naturally, I put down my 8 ounce tumbler of green mint Schnapps and thought, "Why does that guy sound like Bug Bunny? Is this a hoax?"

By the look on my host’s face, I suddenly realized it wasn’t.

Then the lights popped on and off – then just stayed off. The radio died with Bugs Bunny in mid repeat.

"Well, thanks for comin’!," our host blurted. And out we were shuffled.

All I heard behind me was the slamming of window shutters.

Thanks. Thrown out onto a pitch black street, Schnapps in hand, pointed toward Richmond Hill, with St. Paddy Day revelers in various states of intoxication to negotiate through, all on a Saturday night. Great. I left the drink in his mailbox.

The prospect of getting home in one piece suddenly didn’t look so good.

Tornadoes on Saint Patrick’s "non" Day celebration? Not the previously blessed 17th?

That’s when it became clear that the Savannah event planners and Mother Nature were definitely not speaking to each other.

Mother Nature said, "Okay, Savannah, for this sacrilegious digression, I’ll take your power grid now, which includes your street lights and traffic signals. Have fun with your little cash cow party."

The City of Savannah responded, "Oh, yeah. Then we’ll take away our police and law enforcement, as well as our search and rescue. We’ll put them all on River Street where the money is to protect our visitors – and to protect us from them. So there! We’ll even close off Abercorn Street as an exit out of downtown so they can’t escape. Ha, ha!"

Well, I had to drive up Montgomery Ave. to Abercorn to get home to Richmond Hill. No street lights, no traffic signals, no police – nada. It was the scariest ride home from Skidaway Island that I ever experienced. The fastest too.

I was proud of my coconspirators in running non-lights. In and out, zig-zag, in and out. We did it!

The Savannah Mall was but a blur, or would have been if there were any lights in there to see the darn thing.

During the drive, I tried to remember if my Will was in order, usually a thought process reserved as a pre-flight routine.

Then, there they were! Up in the distance. A comforting glow of flashing red and blue lights with streaks of yellow torches thrown in. Our "Boys In Blue" of Richmond Hill! Ah!

The lads were at the intersection of Hwy. 17 and Hwy. 144 expertly keeping things moving and safe. I never thought I’d be so glad to see Richmond Hill’s finest!

No dispute with Mother Nature here. She loves Richmond Hill as I suspected. She didn’t even touch down on the Ford Plantation which she has been threatening to do for years.

All’s well that ends well.

I just wish they’d get another cartoon character to narrated the National Weather Service. Elmer Fudd maybe?

But time to retire Bugs.

 

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