“Hurricane season.” Who could get excited about those words?
Well, I did. As a child when you were told that a hurricane was approaching the coast… party time! That’s right, folks. A Hurricane Party.
How many of you remember or participated in such?
Well, my father never believed in leaving town just because a hurricane may hit the Charleston area. Who ever heard of that? You would hunker down and ride it out. No matter what. That’s what we were taught. That’s what we did.
Off to the store, stocking up on party food, putting ice in coolers, getting batteries, stocking up on water, etc. You invited all your friends, family and neighbors to wait it out and see what track the storm might take. Really hoping that it wouldn’t hit but come just close enough so we could get out of school for a day or two.
We would wait all day, and then drive over to some areas where we might have a good view as the storm approached. Did any of you ever do that?
We would sometimes go to the Battery. We would walk High and low Battery with waves splashing and soaking us.
Or go out to Folly Beach to watch the waves crash on the sand. It was always more beautiful and ferocious when a storm was near. And, we just couldn’t stay away from it all.
Hurricane Hugo was no exception.
But, this time, it was MY children who were the ones waiting to see where Hugo was gonna make landfall. And wait we did. We grocery shopped a little. But not that much – because in reality, we thought it was never gonna hit us! Famous last words.
When we decided we were gonna stay-- the finalization came from our friend, John Reid. We checked the topography map. The area that we were living at was the highest area. So, we decided we would stay.
After we went to look all around Charleston-- from James Island to Downtown, from the Marina to Folly Beach-- we went back to hunker down. We had boarded up what we thought we should have and still had some plywood.
Turns out we hadn’t done all of the boarding up that we should have… David had secured all the windows with boards except for the kitchen. And, Nana (who was staying with us as the time) was in the garage-- we moved her into the kitchen to be with us since it was where the family would be.
During the storm, the wind picked up and continued to get faster and stronger until it got so bad, we thought maybe we had made a mistake. As the night progressed, we were watching the windows in the kitchen move—breathing in and out. We thought they were gonna blow out but they didn't.
A twister tore down the street. The sound was horrendous. The tornado continued along the street popping lines and trees and ripping through yards, but somehow it seemed to just jump over our house, hitting down the street, taking out all of our neighbor’s timber.
Our kitchen had a “U-shape” to it (with an island) and we were sitting on the kitchen floor. It was me and Brandon and David and John on one side. My momma was across from us... And we started singing songs. We sang everything: from “Itsy-Bitsy Spider” down to all the “Church songs.”
We sang all night long. On one hand, the night flew by, on the other hand, it drug on.
Brandon and David fell asleep...
And… who was left singing?! Just me and John and Nana!
The eye of the storm came and the roar of the winds stopped.
We went out in the eye and our neighbors hollered at us to make sure we were ok. And we were… we had made it through the first half of the hurricane.
Only able to see the flashlights through the pitch black as the storm was returning, when the winds started picking up again, we returned to the kitchen and continued our concert. John had to be occupied because he was so scared and stressed.
When the sun came out the next morning we didn’t even recognize where we lived.
I had mowed the lawn a couple days before the hurricane hit. I remember lamenting: “I’m so tired of mowing this lawn.”
And… do you know that there wasn’t a strip of grass left!
It was difficult to get around in the aftermath of Hugo. So many trees were blown down to the point that we couldn’t find the road beneath our feet – until a sweet neighbor came through with his small bulldozer and pushed the debris to the side so we could move about.
Another neighbor, who had gotten extra water, appeared at our doorstep with water enough for our entire family.
Yet another neighbor emptied his freezer and cooked for all of us.
None of this was solicited. They just did it because we were in need!
Did you lose your phone service? We NEVER did! Not during Hugo. Power, yes. Phone, no. People called from all over to check on us (and our neighbors).
Remember how it was with the National Guard? Well, our son was on medication for seizures but do you think we remembered to pick up extra medicine or fill up our car with gas or get cash from the ATM? Why would we do that? We only planned for parties, right?
Storm wasn’t gonna hit us.
By calling around we found that we could get his medicine from MUSC – IF we could get there. .
Getting in our car, we headed downtown. What a mess – looking at large sailboats washed across the street from the Harbor. Telephone poles down. Buildings crumbling; some missing. But, we made it to our destination. And there they were – the National Guard.
What were we doing there? Did we look like looters to them? Maybe by that time we did. No power, no hair dryer, wrinkled clothes. Hmmmmm. Now that I think about it maybe we did look a little shabby. But definitely not chic.
Fortunately, my husband explained and showed the Guard the bottles for medications so they let him pass. Completing this task, we headed back to James Island. Just one problem…
They were stationed at the bridges not letting ANYONE onto the Island.
Oh, my gracious.
Never thought of this because when we left the Island they were not in place. We drove up to the Guard, showed our credentials, told them we were residents of the Island and needed to get home.
So what? So did everyone else.
He would let us on the Island… but, only if we walked to our house.
Are you kidding me?
That was miles away and we were not dressed for walking nor prepared for all that. We had sad little sandals on – not for walking. (Remember we had no air at home so we were wearing as little as possible.)
And, another thing – I had left our two sons home. So here we are – off the Island. Our sons – on the Island.
As the Guard continued to explain to us why we couldn’t do this or that, I took my house keys and handed them over to him.
With a curious look on his face, he asked, “What are these for?”
I said, “Well, since we can’t drive to our house… I’m making you responsible for getting this medicine to my son and babysitting them until we can get home.”
He paused for a moment. But not for long, and said, “Go right on through and have a good day.”
We all have horror stories: houses destroyed, lives lost, unimaginable flooding, rescues made. But, at the end of that devastation, everyone helped everyone!
God takes care of fools and children and he sure took care of us.
I vowed to never stay through another hurricane that looked like it would hit Charleston.
This IS Charleston.
We may not agree on everything. But, the bottom line… we are all “OUR CHARLESTON FAMILY.” We are there for each other!