December 9, 2016

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…

Bravery or Stupidity – You Be the Judge

These stories are not in any particular chronological order, or of any importance really, except maybe to me. C.

Out On a Trestle

When I was a teenager I was with a group of friends who decided to visit a local railroad trestle so we could see it for ourselves. This took place here in western Washington State, but for the life of me, I can’t remember just where the bridge was. I just know it was up in the hills somewhere with no buildings or houses around. This trestle had no rails on it except the railroad tracks for the trains. I presume this was an old logging train route.  I didn’t go out on the trestle as far as the other kids because I knew there was going to be a train coming with just my luck and I wouldn’t be able to run to escape it. It seems like there might have been some curved culvert type things on the edge of the trestle but not all along the sides. That could have worked for a quick escape, but what if I dove into it and flipped right out? What if the air being pushed by the engine just blew me right out of there and into the creek below? In any case, I lived and never went out on a trestle like that again.

The Body in the Middle of the Road

This next event happened here in Port Orchard, Washington sometime in the early 1990’s. Jim and I were out in the early evening on Halloween night driving home to dole out candy to our own trick or treaters. We were just rounding the curve on Lund Avenue after turning from Jackson and alarm bells went off in my head as we saw a small “body” laying sprawled across the road. I yelled at Jim to pull over and I jumped out to go rescue the kid. As I was bending down to see what I could do a car was coming at me from the opposite direction. I put my hand up hoping to stop them but they didn’t seem like they were going to slow down. Great, not only would they run over this kid again, but me too in the process! It was one of those scenes where to you everything seems to creep along as it all happens, but in reality it was almost immediately that I determined that this was not an injured child, but a “body” dressed up like one and flung in the road for fun. In my defense, it ‘could’ have been a real kid who fell down and the other kids didn’t know it. We were in a heavily populated area and on Halloween you know how excited kids seem to dart from house to house and neighborhood to neighborhood. After I got back in the car I was amazed at myself to think that I was just ready to rush to some injured person’s aid.

The Attorney and the Homemaker

In the 1980’s we lived in a big two story house in rural Port Orchard. Surrounding us were neighbors with ten and five acre parcels. Ours was just shy of one acre and we had spent many days of hard labor trying to reclaim to the yard from the overgrowth of wild huckleberry and salal bushes. We’d even fenced off our yard in the front with the intention of keeping out ‘critters’ of all kinds. In that era Jackson Perkins would sell a large variety of roses in reduced prices. I wanted to fill my front yard with them and little by little we did so. In those days I was younger and spryer than I am now and I took on the task of mowing the yard and weeding the flower beds. It was so infuriating to me when I would go out to admire my yard, or to mow and there would be ‘deposits’ of dog poop here and there. The most frequent depositor was the dog across the street who had a whole ten acres to poop on, but no, it came in our yard to do so. Don’t get me wrong, I love dogs for the most part. It’s their owners who irritate me.

It wasn’t just this one neighbor, we had a few other dogs  on our street and in nearby acreages that would also come by to share their processed cheap dogfood piles. One of them was a big golden lab that came from our neighbors behind us who also had ten acres. This dog would show up in our yard way to frequently and after a while it was just too often. The road we lived on was about a half mile long and straight so some of the cars would really get up a full head of steam and race down the road at unhealthy speeds. With trees on the sides of the road too, there was no way that man nor beast could get out of the way fast enough. My first attempt at trying to keep the dog on its own property was to call the owners and let them know we had their dog at our house. On that occasion the wife did come and get the dog. The next time though, my phone call to them was for naught and it seemed like I was being unreasonable to ask them to keep their dog on their ten acres. That gave me a clue that these people thought that the leash laws didn’t apply to them and that I was just “bothering” them.

The next time the dog showed up I had a leash and I put the dog on it and called animal control to come pick it up. I felt sorry for the dog, but my intention was to send a message to the owners to follow the law. Apparently, that didn’t sit too well with the husband because a day or so later he and his wife, kids and the dog rolled into our driveway like Lord and Lady Gotrocks. Jim and I were sitting out in the front yard and the husband, who happened to be an attorney at the time, got out of the car and proceeded to berate me for having their dog impounded!

He began his little tirade and I gave it right back to him. He thought he could brow beat me for reason. I knew he was wrong and told him that as an attorney of law he should know there are leash laws in this county and he needed to abide by them. All this time Jim is sitting on the picnic table just watching the verbal exchange. It wasn’t about winning the argument and him driving off in a huff, but I did feel rather brave to go up a practicing attorney, make my case and not be browbeaten by some pompous ass. Also, I don’t think their dog came in our yard ever again.

 

 

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The Good Smells Of Childhood

Quince2

I was always a “noticing” kind of person. Good smells always put me in a certain frame of mind. Some were cozy, some exciting, some, downright appetite provoking.

This is just a sort of reminiscence of the ones I remember, in no particular order.

The smell of the people around me was most likely some of my first memories. Mom always smelled of cigarettes, coffee and on special occasions when I was very young there was the fragrance of Tweed perfume. I imagine she had it from before she was married and it always made me think of her life in Seattle where she lived with her parents before she married my dad. In later years she wore violet perfume on special occasions because we had found a source for it when we lived in Iowa and she would wear it when she knew we would be seeing each other. She also wore Charlie, which I didn’t especially like, but she did.

My grandma Yates always had the fragrance of face powder and toilet water. A sweet, older lady smell that was light and not overpowering. I don’t remember a particular fragrance my grandma Moline wore. I know she used Oil of Olay though because I remember seeing it on her dressing table.

My dad was fond of Mennen after shave, and his dad liked to wear the simple smell of “I just shaved”, as in the lingering odor of the shave cream he wiped off.

Where we lived, at the end of Dennis Street in Tumwater, Washington, was a seasonal mix of spring, summer and fall smells. I guess winter had a smell too, if you count the Christmas tree (a real one, cut in our back field) in the house. Spring seemed to erupt in our front yard with everything at once. The people who had lived in our house prior to us had planted bulbs and shrubs that were well-established by the time we moved in during the early 1950’s. I probably visit these memories of my childhood yard more often than I should, but this was part of “my world” and I cherish them.

It was the bulbs that came up first in the yard. Old ones like muscari and snow drops. Then, the irises would peek their pointy leaves up from the cold ground and signal the advent of more to come. All of this was followed quite closely by the buds on the quince bush, the sweet smell of the lilacs and the apple and cherry trees bursting into bloom.

Mom was never one to stifle our creativity, so she willingly let us raid her sewing cabinet for thread and needle to string leis of quince flowers as our own tribute to celebrating the spring equinox. The poor visitors to our house in spring were always gifted with sprigs of lilacs to put in makeshift vases until they could carry them home.

Summer brought the seasonal smells of dry grass, or the lovely aroma of wet dry grass after a summer shower. Although I’m writing about smells, I remember those summer mornings when I’d wake up and hear through the early morning summer stillness birds like the ubiquitous robins, the sparrows and chickadees.

I didn’t get much chance to go camping when I was younger, but I did get to sleep outside in the front yard in a sleeping bag with a comfy air mattress for cushion. Waking up in the early, early misty morning air was almost intoxicating. So close to the earth you can almost feel it breathe. I would just lay there and drink in the quiet.

Other smells come to mind too. That wonderful new baby doll plastic smell, the minty fragrance of Doublemint gum when grandma would open her purse when we were sitting in the pew at church on Sundays. How did she know I needed something to stave off ‘starvation’? I suspect she might have been treated to the same thing herself when she was growing up.

Is there nothing more warm and inviting than going through the door of someone’s house whose been cooking a turkey since the wee hours of the day? The sage smell of the dressing; the crispy skin done to perfection by a veteran cook; and all the other smells like candles burning, fresh homemade yeast biscuits coming out of the oven, a recently ironed white damask table cloth, and the blackberry cobbler tempting us to skip the main course and dive right into it.

My life has been constantly assailed by food smells, environmental smells like the brewery, a pulp mill, the smell of my dad when he would come home from working with wood all day and there was a mixture of good honest sweat along with sawdust. One facet of life, the smells, but oh so memorable.

© Carol Yates Wilkerson 2015 – All Rights Reserved

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