SLOAN COLUMN: A whirlwind of hurricane memories
Like any longtime resident of the Carolinas, I’ve weathered my fair share of hurricanes. High winds and extreme flooding are now pretty much a been there, done that ordeal.
A classic country song written and recorded by Jessi Colter reminds us that storms never last. Storms, no matter how strong, eventually surrender to sunshine. The memories of those storms, however, can last a lifetime. Over the years I’ve amassed a decent-size collection of hurricane stories worth sharing. Here are a few, starting with the most recent:
Florence (2018) _ A category 1, Florence brought with it buckets and buckets of water. The fellowship hall and food pantry on the bottom floor of our church was flooded with about six inches of standing water. It took myself and two other men using a borrowed pump and six box fans to dry it out.
Matthew (2016) _ I had just recently moved to Society Hill from Hartsville and was in the midst of weathering a devastating storm in my personal life when Matthew decided to blow in. It was another category 1 storm with not much wind, but torrential downpours. The bridge down the road from the house flooded and trapped a number of residents. A group of men with a rowboat rescued several people.
Floyd (1999) _ Referred to as the “Flood of the Century” in North Carolina, Floyd was a category 3 hurricane. It followed Dennis, which had already dropped a significant amount of rain on the coastal region. I remember a ton of family members – maybe 15 – camping out in our house located in the Forest Acres subdivision of Lumberton. When the sun rose the next morning, water from the rain had reached the front porch. Our neighbor Brad had dragged a canoe out of his garage and was paddling through the overflowing roadside ditches in the neighborhood. Just a mere 30 miles up the road in Bladen County hundreds of people were being rescued by helicopter from the rooftops of their homes.
Bonnie (1998) _ Again, lots and lots of rain. The day after my two girls and I found a very tired and wet puppy stranded at a nearby park. Not surprisingly, we named her Bonnie.
Fran (1996) _ This one landed in Wilmington, just 90 miles away, as a category 3. We definitely felt the near 100-mile per hour winds packed by this fearsome storm. Dozens of trees in our yard were toppled, but luckily none landed on the house. The same could not be said for our neighbors’ homes on all fours sides. I grabbed my chainsaw and helped as many neighbors as I could.
Hugo (1989) _ I remember watching the TV weather report that night before I headed to work as a clerk at an all-night convenience store. The weather said with great certainty that the category 4 hurricane about to make landfall near Charleston would have little or no affect on the area.
It was about 4 a.m. when the lights went out in the store. Through the large panes of glass that made up the front of the store, we had a clear view of the swirling wind wreaking havoc outside. I hurried the few customers we had out the door and locked it afterwards. A regular customer named Tony decided to ride the storm out with me. I’m glad he did. We took plastic bags and covered the cash registers and as much of the merchandise as we could and then hunkered down behind the counter.
I can still vividly recall the mighty winds and the sound of part of the roof being torn off. The next 30 minutes or so were pretty scary. Wet and worried, we waited out the storm. As the sun came up, I was left in utter disbelief by the damage the hurricane had inflicted. The owner came by and thanked us for our efforts before telling us to go home and check on our families. It was a long ride home as time after time I ran into impassable roads.
At home, we sustained minor damage and were without power for weeks, but fared far better than many others.
Elsa will only be a passing thought, thank goodness, but you can be sure there are more storms and more hurricanes to come.