December 8, 2016

Hugo 1989 – Charleston Trip

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.

 

Escape From Hurricane Hugo 1989

Up Close and Personal with Hurricane Hugo

The Sea Islands, Amelia is the southernmost is...

The Sea Islands, Amelia is the southernmost island. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With hurricane Matthew making a beeline towards the east coast, it brings to mind our own brush with an imminent hurricane threat we had to deal with in September of 1989. We had arrived at our new home base of Amelia Island, Florida in October of 1988. It quickly became apparent that we were in for some different weather conditions than any of us had experienced before. Almost within a week in 1988 we were subjected to the brunt of a tropical storm which set us up for what would be some wild and sometimes worrisome hurricane seasons.

Back to September of 1989…Even after a short time living in Florida we were quickly educated to always keep a weather eye, especially in the fall. We were constantly updated about weather systems coming off the coast of Africa that had the potential to become major hurricanes that could make landfall. So, we had been tracking hurricane Hugo for quite some time when it finally got close enough that we were forced to make a decision to either stay on the island, or leave. We chose to leave. I do think our location to drive too might have been a bit of an overkill, but more on that later*.

For most of the last few days before Hugo made landfall, it was aimed almost directly at Amelia Island. It wasn’t until the day we left and through the night that it’s path was changed and pushed eastward by another weather front pushing east that moved Hugo’s track in that direction as well.

We were living in a rental house that September and all of our belongings we owned were there with us, courtesy of the US Navy who had shipped it cross country for us. That included a big heavy picnic table Jim had built. You know, when you have to evacuate you learn to set your priorities quite quickly. For us, that meant gathering up our important documents, pictures and the cat. It was never more apt a phrase that when you have to get away quickly “you can’t take it with you” applies so well.

When we drove to Florida from Washington in 1988 Jim had put together a small trailer and mounted a cargo container on top. We still had it when it came time to ‘get out of Dodge’ and proved to be a lifesaver so we could add containers, a cooler and tools to it. Inside the car (a Honda Accord) we had us and our cat, along with the cat box and her crate. How quickly we forget…I guess our son Greg rode with our friends in their vehicle.

From that last statement, you can see that we didn’t travel alone when leaving the island. We left town with our old Washington friends and previous next door neighbors, the Hesses. None of us had been in a hurricane before, or knew what to do when we had to leave the island. How far should we go, how far inland would the storm reach? How high could the storm surge be and how far in would it reach? I can tell you, I had visions of our house being swept away and the island being left barren! Hey, I’m a Washington state girl. You know…earthquakes, volcanoes and winter storms.

*Not knowing how far reaching the storm might be, we headed to Tallahassee. It might seem silly now, but because we didn’t get the alert to evacuate until about a day ahead of time most of the motels along the routes were already full. Instead of making tons of phone calls to try to find rooms for all of us close to the island, we just opted for Tallahassee and held our breaths that we would have homes to come back to the next day.

The weather was uncomfortably calm in Tallahassee and in our rooms we were glued to the TV’s hoping for any update about our little island. As I mentioned earlier, Hugo turned northeast and instead hit Charleston almost directly. Amelia Island had been mostly spared from the storm, but we had friends living on the outskirts of Charleston, South Carolina and the wife had stayed in their house with the kitties, while her Navy husband was on his ship that had made its escape from the base and put far enough out to sea to avoid the brunt of the storm. It was about a week later that I found out how our friends had fared in Charleston.

To be continued…

If You Knew My Dad – William Gale Yates

In honor of Father’s Day, I’m answering this questionnaire about my dad William Gale Yates 1920-1996
1. He is sitting in front of the tv, what is he watching? Either golf, or The History Channel. He thought All in the Family was hilarious too.
2. You are out to eat, what kind of dressing does he get? Probably French dressing
3. Name a food he hates:  My dad loved almost all foods, yes, including liver.
4. You go out to eat and have a drink, what would he order? Steak and a beer.
5. Favorite kind of music? Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra. Perry Como, anything from the 40’s.
6. What is his nickname for you? He would call me “honey” occasionally.
7. If he could collect one thing, what would it be? Now, he would tell you something like $100 bills, but I think he would have collected good friends too.
8. What would he eat every day if he could? Pork steak, gravy and potatoes
9. What is his favorite cereal? He didn’t like cereal all that much. I don’t remember seeing him eat it. He did eat oatmeal sometimes, and loved Wheat Hearts (as did I).
10. What would he never wear? Flip flops, shorts, a tank top.
11. What is his favorite sports team? He liked to watch the Mariners, Seahawks, and the Sonics.
12. What is something he did he wishes he wouldn’t have done? Dad smoked and drank from an early age.
13. You bake him a cake for his birthday, what kind is it? He loved chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting.
14. Favorite sport? Bowling (doing) and golf (watching).
15. What could he spend all day doing?  Snoozing in his recliner and, when he was awake, watching TV.
16. What is something he did consistently? Weather permitting, he would golf at least once a week.
Mom watched TV in her room (because Dad had the living room one so loud) but each night he would open her door and tell her goodnight. Whenever he was going somewhere, he would always kiss Mom three times. It was their thing.
More stories that include my dad:
William, Joan and Carol Yates

Memorial Day: Honoring America’s fallen

SAN DIEGO, May 24, 2016 – Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday commemorating fallen veterans, observed annually on the last Monday in May. Originally known as Decoration Day, it was first celebrated in 1868 following the end of the Civil War, as an attempt to heal a divided nation while also honoring the soldiers… [Read more…]

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