On Friday, November 15th, I traveled to the McKimmon Center at N.C. State University for a presentation and conference. the conference theme was When the Unthinkable Happens! Disaster Preparedness for Cultural Heritage Organizations.

There was a vast array of presenters from all kinds of institutions covering many types of disasters:

-State Historic Sites
-N.C. Emergency Management
-Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Wake Forest University
-Duke University Medical Center Archives
-Office of State Archaeology
-Core Sound Waterfowl Museum & Heritage Center
-Old Baldy Lighthouse & Smith Island Museum
-National Heritage Responders, Foundation for Advancement in Conservation
-Western Regional Archives

My presentation covered our water disasters in the Wilson Wing in May of 1995, and at our early Off Site Storage facility when a water main broke in 2004.

The presenters from along the NC coast really got my attention. Increased hurricane activity has stretched and stressed those along our coast. Not only that, but it seems flooding is becoming common.
Some barrier islands, Smith Island, home of Old Baldy Lighthouse and Harkers Island were mentioned, may have to permanently evacuate in the not too distant future. This has already been done on Portsmouth Island abandoned in 1971 and now operated by the National Park Service. Rising sea levels could potentially make these areas uninhabitable.

Disasters, as the word implies, are often unforeseen events. We can plan for a hurricane that is moving into our area, but what happens if that hurricane stalls in our area and does not keep moving? Hurricane Dorian essentially depopulated Abaco island in the Bahamas. The Abaco residents were used to hurricane season every year, but the intensity of Dorian was unprecedented (Cat 5, 183 mph winds).

The conference was great and it was a pleasure to see colleagues from across North Carolina and compare notes.