In 1995, Elon resident Johnny Ayscue said he and his wife, Mary, experienced the force of Tropical Storm Jerry in their mobile home in Florence, South Carolina, with the wind ripping so violently that they felt the foundation lifted off of the ground, only being saved by the heavy rope the tied prior to the storm.
“I felt it pick up and hit back down pick up and hit back down,” said Johnny, 56. “When the winds finally died down, that was scary.”
Now, 23 years later, the Ayscues faced the possibility of another storm — which oddly shared the same name as their former city. Before Tropical Depression Florence tremendously decreased in strength as it inched further and further inland, the couple made a decision. The couple lives in the Elon Crossing Neighborhood, a subdivision about six minutes away from Elon University consisting entirely of mobile home. In early August, the area saw major flooding when the area experienced five inches of rain.
But if Florence, which was once forecasted as a Category 4 hurricane, directly hit Elon, flooding would have been the least of the Ayscues’ concerns.
Their survival plan if the storm hit was simple. They would tie their home down, board their coaches into a makeshift bunker, huddle with their dog and then pray for the best. Never once did they think about evacuating, however.
They did not want to leave their home.
“As far as holding up, a lot of us had decided to stay anyway because it was our home,” Mary said. “And, a lot of us, we talked to different neighbors and asked them if they were going to stay and they were. So, we decided if they were going to stay, we’d stay.”
Forecasts throughout the week suggested Elon would receive six to 10 inches of rain because of Florence. But the only remnants of the storm at Elon Crossing are soggy grass and damp roads. Today, the National Weather Service says Elon will receive one to two inches of rain, with Florence's path crashing into the Carolina shore, but curving Northwest, essentially missing Elon.
Johnny said he and his neighborhood are fortunate for that change.
“It would have done a lot of damage,” he said. “This trailer park would have be pretty bad off, cause mobile homes aren’t the safest place in the world.
As for Elon students who left campus to evade the storm, Johnny has a message for them as well.
“We’re just going to get a little bit of kicked up wind and some rain, but that's not too bad,” Johnny said. “I'd be telling them, ‘I think it's very safe for them to come back.’”