Friday, August 26, 2011

My Personal Hurricane History

So here we are, riding out Hurricane Irene. If we're lucky this is the only one we'll have to deal with this year. My personal hurricane history goes back to 1985 when my family moved back to North Carolina from Pennsylvania. We had only been living here for a couple of weeks when Hurricane Gloria made an appearance. I had no idea what to expect, having never been through a hurricane before. Since we lived in a mobile home, my parents decided it was best for us to stay with some friends who lived in a brick house. I just remember watching the trees swaying in the wind that night and being told that if the tops of those trees touched the ground we'd be evacuating to the high school, which was the nearest shelter. I wondered what the hell I was in for when that comment was made. Gloria turned out to not be all that bad.

Since then I've ridden out my share of hurricanes, most of them minimal. The ones I remember best are Bertha and Fran in 1996; Bonnie in 1998; and Dennis and Floyd in 1999. I probably remember these best because they were the most destructive and disruptive I've ever dealt with. And they all have stories attached to them.

1996 - Bertha hit near the end of the summer. I had graduated from UNCW in May and come home to work for the summer and made decisions about grad school. Eventually, I decided to go back to UNCW for grad school and I was in Wilmington, looking for an apartment as Bertha was nearing. In fact, I was on campus making a call from a pay phone (remember those?) when I was approached by a university staff member and told the campus was closing for the storm. I was working at a trailer park in Jacksonville and spent the rest of my summer cleaning up debris around the park, taking down uprooted trees, and other maintenance related work. Just a few weeks after returning to Wilmington, along came Fran and really thumped us pretty good. I lost power for a few days, but that was OK because I hung out with my buddy Joe, ate MREs for a couple of days, and generally had a good old time.

1998 - I was still living in Wilmington, only now in a new apartment near the hospital. My roommate was a Marine on delayed OCS; he was a full-time college student who had four years active duty under his belt and was serving in the reserves while he finished school. My friend Charlie came over to ride out Hurricane Bonnie with us that summer. We popped every package of popcorn we had in the apartment and when the power went out we proceeded to eat all the ice cream in the freezer so it wouldn't go to waste. In the middle of the storm my roommate pulled out his sniper rifle and started cleaning it. When asked why he was doing that at that particular moment in time he replied, "Gotta be prepared for looters." We put on ponchos and went out in the middle of the storm just to see what was happening. Good times.....

1999 - Of course, no one in eastern NC will forget the summer of 1999 when we got visits from Dennis and Floyd. I was living in Morehead City and rode out Dennis there (it was really nothing much to speak of except a lot of rain). With Floyd coming on, things looked more ominous. I had already planned a trip to Raleigh to visit friends that weekend so that seemed like a good idea. What Floyd brought us was a whole lot of flooding - some of the most devastating flooding ever in the area. A lot of folks who escaped to the west got stuck and couldn't return home because most of the highways were under water. I was lucky and got back home just in time to avoid being stranded. In some ways, this area is still recovering from Floyd and it was 12 years ago.

So that's my brief, personal hurricane history. So let's see what's happening outside right now!

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