Sadly, hurricanes and the damage they can do are currently a hot topic of discussion. The poor residents of Houston, TX are, and will be for quite some time to come, trying to recover and rebuild after the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Now, residents of the East Coast are watching with trepidation trying to determine if they are in the path of Hurricane Irma.
Though I no longer live in an area affected by hurricanes, I still have family and friends all along the East Coast from Florida to Maine, and I am praying that they will all remain safe. I am praying that Irma’s impact will be minimal.
Focusing on this season’s hurricanes has me reflecting on those of past years. Thankfully, though the state of Virginia has weathered many bad storms, none of them ever left me or my loved ones without a home. That being said, I do remember a few of them.
Hurricane Gloria came thru our area in September of 1985 and to this day I wonder what possessed my mom to let me sleep in the barn with my pony. Yes, I was concerned that Crazy 8 would be scared during the storm and I wanted to keep him calm; however, I was only 14 at the time. I teasingly asked my mom, “What kind of parent lets their teenage daughter sleep in the barn during a hurricane? Who was concerned for my safety?” She does apply a certain sort of logic when she tells me I was probably safer in the barn than she and my siblings were in the house. The barn was relatively new and made of stucco (cement). If any building could withstand hurricane force winds, it would most likely be a stucco barn. I suppose if it flooded, there was always the hayloft (at least for me).
In 1999, Hurricane Floyd hit the area. Again, I survived unscathed, but I vividly remember watching the news reports of the massive flooding in nearby Franklin, VA. It was the worst flooding Franklin had seen in a century, and it took years to recover. The flooding of the Blackwater River also impacted the area where my sister and her husband lived. Though it did not reach their home, nearby streets were under water.
The hurricane which personally impacted me the most was Hurricane Isabel in 2003. My mom and I stayed home rather than evacuating because we had no way to transport our pony anywhere else and we did not want to leave him behind. I don’t remember us getting a lot of rain. The day the storm hit seemed eerily calm though there must have been a good deal of wind to hit our area. Around 9am, we watched the first tree fall. It was a rather small one and it fell right beside my hunk of junk car. I remember teasing my mom that the tree couldn’t even do me the favor of falling on my car so that I could get some insurance money to put towards a new one. In retrospect, that joke wasn’t funny. So many people near us experienced significant damage. We were fortunate. The hurricane left our side of the street alone, but wreaked havoc on the neighbors across the street. When it had passed us by and it was safe to go out and inspect the damage, my mom and I went to check on our neighbors. Their backyard full of pine trees was completely decimated. It looked like a war zone with downed trees criss-crossing their property. All we could do was stand with our backs up against the rear of their house and stare in amazement. They were so incredibly fortunate that none of those trees landed on their home. The only impact Isabel had on my mom and I is that it knocked out phone and power lines and left us relying on a generator for the next twelve days. The biggest hardship was that as our home was more or less in the country and had well water rather than city water and sewage; we needed power to run the pump. That meant for twelve days we could not shower or flush toilets. We had prepared somewhat by filling the tub and buckets with water prior to the storm. We used that for flushing toilets. Every few days, we went to a friend’s house nearby to shower and fill up coolers with water for the pony. We did have a ton of debris to clean up, but we were exceptionally lucky, which leads me back to the present.
My few encounters with hurricanes and tropical storms were nothing compared to what Houston recently experienced. I simply cannot begin to imagine the hardships they are facing. The one good thing to come from the destruction is that so many people set aside their differences and gave of themselves to care for strangers in need. Our country has been riddled with so much negativity and division in recent months, but when push comes to shove, we pull together. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could learn to recognize that sooner or later everyone needs a helping hand and that it should not require such blatant need to make us step up to the plate?