July 21, 2017

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…

Family Heirlooms – What Would You Take In An Evacuation?

When the dust has settled, or the waters receded, most people lament that they “should have taken the….”. What would you take if you had to evacuate in an emergency? I suppose the logical next qualifier would be, “How much time do I have?”  

If I had just a few minutes or more, I would look for the cat and grab him and get out of the house. I would try, because he is a living being and I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t at least make an attempt to save him. At age 16, he seems like an heirloom.

Given more time, like an hour, I would grab all the family pictures and documents that I have stored in boxes. Depending on what kind of emergency I was facing, I am glad that most of those things are backed up on disks and also shared online with other family members.  


As I look around my house, I see many things I cherish, like the two tintypes in frames that I believe to be my 5th G-Grandmother Deborah Holmes and her husband Miles Yates.


I have a picture taken of my mother with a metal toy car that was given to her when she was about a year old in 1924. The toy was made by Lehman and I still have it. It needs to be fixed, but I love it because she loved it too.

I have a beautiful hand crocheted tablecloth that I would hate to leave behind too. When my mom passed away there were many linens she had inherited from her family as well as my dad’s, but the tablecloth was always something I remembered that my grandma would have on her dining room table during the holidays before we would remove it to replace it with a white damask one she always used. When I got married, I had to have a tablecloth just like that when we were in Germany and entertaining our Air Force friends for the holidays. Luckily, German stores sold them by the dozens. 


One of the only heirlooms that belonged to my Grandma Minnie Yates was a child’s toy flat iron, and my dad let me have custody of it over 30 years ago. It has a wooden handle which is a little “toasted” after many times of being on a wood stove in the past. It is still in good shape all these decades later, but then, the other parts of it are cast iron! Can’t you just see some little girl ironing her doll clothes with it “just like mama”? (From the looks of it, I really need to dust it!) 

I feel very lucky to have all these wonderful treasures in my possession, but as I tell everyone else, I am just the caretaker for the next generation. 


I am participating in a Meme for GeneaBloggers at Facebook using this topic. Please join us! (See how below). 

Julie Cahill Tarr at GenBlog has a great post about Family Heirlooms (http://juliemc77.livejournal.com/4474.html).

She discusses not only the need to backup data but also how to be prepared to take heirlooms with you – and how to decide what to grab and what not.

Write a post on your blog explaining what you would save and why (include a picture if you like). If you’d like to participate, please send Julie an email (joodles77 AT Comcast DOT net) with the link to your post by September 13. She will post them on her blog the week of the 14th.

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