MEMPHIS, Tenn. — This city on the Mississippi River hasn’t been the nicest place to visit during the past month. A freak chain of storms have hit the city — bringing blackouts, flooding, looting, and other measures of destruction.
My family lost a dog to the harsh weather along with our peace of mind. While most view the severe weather as a hazard, others are taking advantage of it. Some do so innocently, others do so with malicious intent.
A week prior to the flood warnings, a particularly harsh storm hit Midtown Memphis — my part of the city. That Wednesday night, a stretch of McLean Boulevard was hit so hard by storm winds that the power lines and phone poles were destroyed. Memphis Catholic High School was hit the hardest among the McLean establishments.
The private school was shut down for two days for repairs, and it likely would have been out for a third day had it not been a Saturday. While my younger sister, cousin and their friends rejoiced at the announcement of their four-day weekend, all was not well. The storm’s destructive tendencies might have had an innocent silver lining for Memphis Catholic students, but other opportunistic perspectives were not so harmless.
The following week, upon learning that our zip code was considered to be in the danger zone of the flood, we relocated some members of my family. My aunt and younger sister were sent to stay with another aunt in the safer eastern half of the city. During their stay, my sister discovered a peculiar flyer on the front door.
It read: “These premises have been marked for mandatory evacuation. This area is a known red threat level flood zone. Failure to vacate this property will result in a severe fine, potential jail time, and loss of home insurance. The state of Tenn strives to protect its citizens and will not permit them to remain in endangered areas. Refusal to obey this mandate will forfeit any allotted emergency services.”
The notice left on the door was a warning from the “Memphis Emergency Services & Relief” to abandon the house as a precaution against the flood. Granted, it read more like a threat than a letter of precaution. This was perplexing given that the news had made no mention of that part of the city being at risk. After making a few phone calls, we learned the truth: My aunt’s home was safe as we previously thought. The flyer was a forgery.
Some unscrupulous group or person was mass-producing evacuation flyers in an attempt to generate easy burglary fodder. At least that’s my guess. It’s unlikely that every household was clever enough to investigate these phony warnings and may have fallen prey to this scam. I can say my sister and the rest of the family seeking shelter at my aunt’s home were extremely vigilant against robberies during the nights with the flood warnings. The Commercial Appeal and Memphis Flyer, our local newspapers, caught wind of the scam too late to warn most people in its publication –unfortunately for any victims of the evacuation scam.