My Trip to Charleston After Hugo
It was a couple weeks after Hugo that I rode up to Charleston with a friend who lived in Fernandina Beach, Florida. His mother lived in Charleston and my friend Sheryl lived in a suburb of the city.
In 1989, Hugo had veered more northeast and mostly bypassed Amelia Island, but it made a direct hit on Charleston. I had kept in contact with my friend until her phone and power went out. The last I had heard was that the authorities were advising everyone to evacuate to near Columbia where there might be accommodations. I waited and hoped she was OK, but it took a while to hear from her, as you would expect. Keep in mind, we too had evacuated from Amelia Island, and we didn’t have cell phones in those days!
Sheryl had ridden out the storm at home in Goose Creek, and from what she told me later it was something she would never want to do again. One of the reasons she didn’t want to leave home is that she had three cats that she would have had to take care of in a shelter too. I’m sure her thinking was that the cats would be happier in their own home rather than being jolted around in a car and temporarily in a motel. Just for the record, veterans of hurricanes already have a plan on what to do and make their getaways early on. That means, motels fill up mighty fast. You snooze, you lose.
As Rufus and I rode along, closer and closer to the Charleston area we began to see the swath of wind devastation. At one point on SR 17 it looked similar to the blowdown of trees from Mt. St. Helens. Instead of fir trees though, these were pine trees natural in that region. The way they got the highway open was to just cut the trees off near the road and open a path. I had been on this trip before with Rufus and to see these same trees just completely wiped out was shocking. Both of us were wondering just what we would find further on.
I knew from talking to Sheryl that the damage to home in her area of Goose Creek was amazing. When I got there and she and I had a chance to drive around her neighborhood there was debris everywhere. The image that sticks in my memory though is of a tree trunk sticking out of the side of someone’s house. Just like a javelin had been launched into it and it stuck. As you can see from the storm surge map I’ve included from the NOAA site, even far inland the surge had some impact.
All in all, everyone I knew had survived the storm. I did talk to our son about where he was and it turned out he had stayed with a friend in Yulee just off of Amelia Island. After twenty-seven years my memory had failed me. I thought he had gone with us to Tallahassee. My bad.