Saturday, November 19, 2011

November 19th

I've been reading a blog topic about "small moments that stick with us". And I immediately thought of Hurricane Donna in 1960. There was a ritual to getting ready for a hurricane. Bring in the trash cans and flower planters. Fill the bathtub with water (for flushing). Fill jugs with water (for drinking). Put down the storm awnings, fasten plywood over the doors (which were glass). Check for sterno and candles, get some dry ice if you could (for the fridge), batteries, matches, maybe a camping lantern and camp stove (we didn't have these usually), pull the car up against the house, get non-perishable food, and of course milk and toilet paper, those two indispensable items even today, (only now for snow storms). Listen on the TV or radio, and then get ready for the power to go off, usually well before the actual winds hit. I remember it was exciting, being at home in the dark, hearing the wind shriek outside. Donna was a very destructive hurricane, the "most destructive hurricane of the season. After reaching Category 5 strength in the open ocean in early September, it passed north of the Greater Antilles as a Category 4. Donna hit the Florida Keys, Fort Myers, Florida, the Outer Banks, and finally Long Island, New York on September 12. Donna caused $400 million in damage (1950 dollars, $3.3 billion in 2005 dollars), and caused 364 deaths, of which 148 were directly caused by the storm." (Wikipedia) It wasn't until days later that we found out how much destruction Donna really caused. We were lucky; we missed school for several days, and that was exciting, and got really tired of baked beans and such. My parents missed work, of course, which meant no pay for those days, so there was an economic pinch later, independent of actual damage. Mom had 3 or 4 flat tires over the next week or so, from nails in the roads. But what I remember the most was that the eye of Donna passed directly over our house. One minute the wind was screaming, and the next, all quiet. We popped outside to check on one of our trees, which eventually had to be cut down since the roots had pulled loose. It was strangely still inside the eye, blackness all around the sides and blue sky in the middle. The air was breathtaking, I guess due to atmospheric pressure, but it felt like I breathed in more than I blew out, a strange feeling. Then back into the house, and soon the wind was howling again, only from the opposite direction. We hurried around and closed the windows on the storm side and opened them on the downwind side; this was supposed to keep the roof from blowing off, but I don't know, that may have been a superstition. I don't figure a few open windows would do much if your roof was blowing off.

I remember Mom telling us that our aunt had lost part of her roof, and I pictured that as a whole chunk of roof open to the sky, you could look straight up and see the rain; but of course what it really was, a bunch of the shingles and the roofing paper were blown off, so the rain got in. I was terribly disappointed when we went to her house and it still apparently had a roof that was just fine.

There were several hurricanes over the years and I think their stories just got folded into the Donna storm, when I was 9 years old. But being out in the eye, that I remember like it just happened. Memory is a strange thing, isn't it?

This is Donna.

Bumper sticker of the day: "Remove backing and adhere to any smooth surface."

1 comment :

SkippyMom said...

Hurricane Agnes 1972 and Hurricane Isabel 2003 stand out as the most destructive I have been through here in VA. Still we thought it was an adventure and thankfully survived no worse the wear.

I am loving your daily posts! Awesome.