May 9, 2015.
Woke early as is my custom, fired up my computer, and checked weather.com to see what the day might hold.
That was when I discovered that the subtropical “system” off the coast of the Carolinas had become a tropical storm with a name. Ana.
Personally I wished they had added another “n” so it would be named “Anna” after the little tropical storm of a daughter that lives in my house, but they didn’t. But I digress.
Although the 2015 Hurricane Season would not be declared for another three weeks or so, there we were with a tropical storm churning toward the Atlantic coast.
Although forecasters out at Colorado State University say that it will be a mild season – seven named storms, three hurricanes, only one getting up to Category 3 – what do they know? Colorado is a hurricane-free zone.Although the Colorado folks say El Nino and cooler Atlantic waters will save the day, I’m not so sure.
Down on the Gulf coast the water was warming (I went swimming in April) and the pompano were running. Lists of supplies you need if you ride it out and maps of exit routes if you don’t, were showing up in local papers.
So I took last year’s colored push-pins from the cork-board hurricane map on which I trace the progress of storms and put in a blue pin for Ana.
Meanwhile Ana came ashore around Myrtle Beach, S.C. and fizzled fast into a “rain event.”
Now I have been through tropical storms and hurricanes. They are fun until garbage cans begin blowing down the street at 50 MPH.
You wouldn’t think that growing up about 100 miles north of Mobile, I would have any hurricane stories. You would be wrong. We were frequently battered by what old folks called “September gales,” which were the remnants of stronger storms that hit the coast. Mostly we got rain, but occasionally the system was strong enough to produce high winds up in our area.
My first real hurricane was Betsy, 1965. I was in Fort Lauderdale.
This was before the days of satellites and round the clock TV updates, so folks in South Florida relied pretty much on reports from Hurricane Hunters that flew out to take a look.
Hurricane Hunters found Betsy well off-shore and predicted that off-shore it would stay. Down on the beach the surf was up, but the sky was clear and the breeze was light. Then the Hurricane Hunters went out again and reported that Betsy was turning west.
That night it roared in with 125 MPH winds. Fortunately we were boarded up, but when we emerged the next day, Fort Lauderdale looked like a war zone.
I had never seen anything like it.
And would not again until 2004, when nature unleashed its fury in a series of storms that made my hurricane map look like multi-colored spaghetti. Alex, Bonnie, Charlie, Danielle – down the alphabet they went, until the list reached Ivan.
Ivan is the one I remember. Not because of its fury, which was frightening, but because of how my parents rode it out.
Ivan hit Orange Beach on Sept. 16 and moved rapidly inland with gale-force wind and tornadoes, snapping trees and bringing down power lines. My parent’s home was right in its path. But they were ready.
When Daddy built his “Poutin’ House,” he installed gas appliances.
Not because he preferred gas, but because he wanted a backup stove in case the electricity was lost.
As Ivan approached the lights flickered, so Mama got on the phone and called Margaret and Stella, two friends who lived alone, and told them to come to our house to ride out the storm. They did and brought with them food that they feared would spoil if it was not refrigerated – or cooked.
The power went off shortly after they arrived, so out to the Poutin’ House they went, and the cooking began.
Once the storm passed, REA crews worked rapidly to repair the lines and get electricity restored, but I don’t think Daddy was in any hurry.
There he was, 87-years old, with three women (all in their 80s) cooking for him, fussing over him, and entertaining him with stories of days past and people long gone from the earth. And knowing my Daddy, a raconteur without peer, he entertained them as well. How I wish I could have recorded the tales they told.
Then Daddy realized that if power was not restored, he might miss the football games scheduled to be on TV the coming weekend. So he became concerned. Gas can only do so much. Then the lights came on. The cooking moved from the Poutin’ House into the kitchen.
“If you gotta weather a storm,” Daddy told me, “this was the way to do it.”
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson III is Professor Emeritus at Jacksonville State University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 9, 2015.