Wednesday, September 14, 2016

EDITOR'S NOTES: When disaster strikes keep Pop Tarts nearby

By David Kennard

I drove down to Jessens Landing twice on Friday just to see how high the Ashley River was in the wake of Hurricane Hermine.

A few days before, when forecasters were calling this the next great storm since the days of Noah, I had the family begin preparing our go bags. By Thursday night, the car had a full tank of gas; we had several days’ worth of water stored on a shelf in the garage; and we had filled the pantry with an ample supply of Dinty Moore Stew and ramen noodles.

My provisions here at the office weren’t quite so high brow. They consisted of a box of strawberry Pop Tarts and a six pack of Cherry Pepsi.We closed the newspaper office on Friday, as did many other businesses, schools and government centers.Then they downgraded the hurricane to a tropical storm. Then it rained a little bit.

As a newcomer to the Lowcountry, I was not impressed.Now forecasters are blaming the storm that never happened on faulty equipment and a pattern of recent weather anomalies. I’m pretty sure weather experts can agree that weather is simply unpredictable.I don’t blame them too much, though.

After the floods of last October, it’s really a wise move to prepare for the worst.

I’ve been through plenty of other natural disasters, but never a hurricane, so I was actually a little thrilled when forecasters were talking about Hermine like it was the end of the world.

As a child growing up in Colorado, I had similar feelings when a big snow storm would blow through – because it meant no school and days filled with sledding.

In 1982, when I was still a teen, Denver got walloped by a blizzard that froze the city solid for more than a week. Find pictures here.

I was in high school in 1980, when another disaster struck the country. Up in the Northwest, Mount St. Helens blew its top and sent ash to several states to the east. We saw a little ash fall where we lived out West, but otherwise it had little effect.

Although, nearly 10 years later when I got my first real job at a newspaper in central Washington, I remember cleaning ash out of photo and printing equipment from time to time.

As disasters go, though, I suppose the most frightening experience we had as a family was several tornadoes that blew through the area we lived in near Dayton, Ohio.

The first time it happened, my wife called me at work one day and said, “The tornado sirens are going off, what should we do.”

I said, “Take the kids and go to the basement.”

She did, the children actually had a great time making beds on the floor of our unfinished basement.

The storm passed and everyone was OK.

Several years later, another big storm known as a derecho blew through Ohio knocking down trees and power lines. We suffered more than a week during a very hot July with no power – and since we were on well water, that meant no running water.

My children still give me a hard time for running a hose down the hill so we could steal water from the chicken house, where I had built a rainwater collection system. Find a short video on that event:

Another “disaster” struck when we lived in Boise, Idaho. I was working as an early morning editor and was the first into the office every morning. One day as I sat down in front of my computer to begin uploading stories, I felt a little dizzy. I brushed it off as being tired, but moments later I got a call by my environmental reporter.

“Dave,” he said in an almost panicked voice. “I think we just had an earthquake.” Indeed we did. It was small. A few people reported cracked foundations and broken dishes.

Through all these rather minor disasters, I’ve come to appreciate the importance of being prepared and remaining calm.

As I check the weather forecast every week, I’ll be looking for the big one. And in the meantime, I’ll keep my provisions of Pop Tarts and Pepsi well stocked.

David Kennard is the executive editor of Summerville Communications, which publishes the Berkeley Independent, Goose Creek Gazette and Summerville Journal Scene. Contact him at or 843-873-9424. Follow him on Twitter @davidbkennard.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

EDITOR'S NOTES: National Parks mark 100 years of amazement

By David Kennard

I knew instantly from the familiar rattling sound that my next move might be my last on that muggy summer day deep in the backcountry of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

It was the biggest rattlesnake I had ever seen. Just moments earlier I was walking happily along the familiar path to a small waterfall to rinse off from a long day of trail work.

Back in the early 1980s, I worked as part of a six-person crew rebuilding trails with the Student Conservation Association. We lived 10 miles from the nearest dirt road, armed with shovels, axes and four weeks of provisions.

I had none of those as I stared down the 5-foot timber rattler that was coiled and ready to strike. With a bath towel over my shoulder and a bar of soap in my hand, I could do nothing except stand frozen in the shade of the tall hemlocks.

Last week, without anyone looking, The National Park Service turned 100 years old. A significant event to South Carolina. We have six national parks or historic areas in the state.

Congaree National Park, located just south of Columbia, joined the National Park Service in 2003, preserving the “largest tract of old growth bottomland hardwood forest left in the United States,” according to the NPS.

As one of the smallest National Parks in the 58-park inventory, Congaree boasts more than 26,000 acres of remote, lush floodplain forests.

The park is one of several nationally designated parks or historic areas that include Charles Pinckney National Historic Site, Cowpens National Battlefield, Fort Sumter National Monument, the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, Kings Mountain National Military Park, South Carolina National Heritage Corridor, Ninety Six National Historic Site and the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail.

Admittedly, I’ve been to none of these since I moved here less than a year ago. But with a track record of visiting many other amazing national parks all across the United States, I have no doubt I will make my way to one of the local parks soon.

As a family we’ve laid on our backs and looked up at the massive trees that scrape the sky in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park in California.

We’ve taken a photo class at the Grand Canyon in Arizona to capture the array of colors that wash the desert cliffs at sunrise and sunset.

We’ve watched satellites track across the designated dark sky area at Natural Bridges National Monument in southern Utah.

We’ve hiked the loop trail at Mount Rushmore and stared up into the granite nostrils of four U.S. presidents.

We’ve ridden the bike/train trail at Cuyahoga National Park in northeast Ohio.

And, of course, we’ve driven among the buffalo and elk and seen Old Faithful erupt at America’s oldest national park, Yellowstone in Wyoming.

Just before moving my family east from Utah, my sons and I hiked the Angels Landing Trail at Zion National Park. If you are any kind of national park enthusiast – and aren’t afraid of heights – this has to be on your bucket list.

As you can tell, that early experience with a venomous snake in Tennessee didn’t scare me away from exploring the wonders of our beautiful national parks.

Only somewhat apologetically to all you reptile lovers, I’ll admit that the snake met its demise under a giant rock that day. In an attempt to honor its memory, though, I cut off the rattles with the intent of having proof of the my near-death experience. But the joke was on me.

Seconds after I laid the rattle on a nearby stone to dry, a raven swooped down and stole my prize from me.

I have no desire to collect more rattlesnake rattles on any outdoor adventure, but I do plan to continue visiting our amazing national parks and other sites.

You should, too.

David Kennard is the executive editor of Summerville Communications, which publishes the Berkeley Independent, Goose Creek Gazette and Summerville Journal Scene. Contact him at or 843-873-9424. Follow him on Twitter @davidbkennard.