HUGO - 16 years ago

By: carolinagal , 1:35 PM GMT on September 21, 2005

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Of course I remember hurricane Hugo, I just don’t always remember if the “anniversary” is Sept. 21st or 22nd . Most of the winds that I heard were after midnight making the 22nd work for me, however Hugo is always remembered by the local news on Sept. 21st as THE day. With that in mind, I will reflect on Sept. 21, 1989 – 16 years ago.

At that time, I was living about 80 miles inland. I woke up and phoned my family that still lived on a barrier island near Charleston. As I hoped, my mom had finally convinced my dad to leave and they were almost packed to stay with relatives about 25 miles inland (one of our usual evacuation plans.) We commented about how the storm seemed to be getting here quicker than expected yesterday.

I had a doctor’s appt. and planned to go to work later in the day. I began to hear weather and news that even our inland area should prepare for the storm. There was even talk that the schools HERE would be getting out in a few hours. With that thought, I quickly finished my appointment and hurried to the school where I taught 4th graders – knowing that they would be excited and nervous about getting out of school early.

In the classroom, we talked about hurricanes and I shared a little of my childhood on a barrier island. I tried to calm them by telling them that the conditions here inland would be much less than a full hurricane. I explained about securing things in the yard, etc. and that we’d have rain and wind. And that tomorrow we’d be raking our yards. (I really believed that. I didn’t mean to lie to my students.)

After the students were all gone, I offered to take another teacher to her husband's workplace because her car was in the shop. We were in a rural area but have to drive through “town” to take her there. I first felt a little panicky when I saw the steady stream (or slow stream) of cars that were passing through evacuating the coast. I had never SEEN the evacuation lines before.

I knew the routine, and we secured our yard and settled for the evening (in our “safe” place) with our flashlights and water in the bathtub. I was NOT prepared for the sounds we’d hear that night. The winds were catergory 2 when it came through. Since it was the middle of the night, we could not see, only hear the pine trees snapping and limbs hitting the house. The real shock was that first morning look outside and seeing that the world as we knew it had changed.

Personally, I was quite lucky and we had no structural damage – although the neighbors did. It looked like some would not even be able to move back into their house. I was anxious to hear some news of my family. I couldn’t imagine what it must be like closer to the coast. I wanted to know where/when about the eye. That was before cell phones – and of course the phone lines were down. During the night, I had listened to a battery radio, but only heard news reports from Chicago and such “faraway” places. I’d heard an AP report that sounded like Charleston had been completely blown away. I don’t remember how I heard from my family, but I think it was that evening. Since they would not be allowed access to their home on the barrier island they had decided to relocate to relatives even further inland to have electricity, etc.

Those of you that have been through hurricanes know that the aftermath is what you really remember – the stacks of debris beside the road for months, the lack of water and electricity, the sound of chain saws, standing in lines to get ice – and the kinship that develops with your neighbors as you share your food over someone’s grill. AND the wonderful workers that come from other towns to repair the electricity and other relief workers. …..even into these areas inland that seemed forgotten at first.

Our water was back on in a few days, so friends came to take cold showers at our house. The electricity was back in a week I think. We spent much time helping my family with the cleanup and repair at the home on the coast. My school started back after 10 days, but we did not have electricity or safe water. It was hot, the windows had to be opened, a small snake was found in my class in the middle of one day. We had to tape up the water fountains so the kids wouldn’t take a drink. There was an Army water truck on our playground and students took turns going to get a jug filled with water and we drank out of paper cups. Lunch was brought in each day and eaten on styrofoam trays. We were in a rural area and the electricity came back in about 3 weeks. Some of my students were not living in their own houses – and they’d come to school without their books or whatever would have been normal.

I know that this does not compare to the current level of destruction and loss of life from Katrina. Or the current threat and fear associated with Rita. Those people do not need to read another’s story because they are living their own.

I’ve written this as my own reflection. I don’t know if anyone else will read this long blog. Those of you that have been through a hurricane (or two three, ….) know that the date will always be a “anniversary.” Hugo was a “wake up” call to folks in SC. Folks on the coast and inland are more prepared to face a storm. Some may have become complacent again in the 16 years – but I’m sure they are hearing stories again on this date.

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6. carolinagal
2:01 AM GMT on September 22, 2005
I've enjoyed your Hugo comments. Thank you for sharing. I know that now everyone is focused on the current situation with Rita - and Katrina aftermath. My thoughts and prayers are with them. These storms are so much bigger than Hugo. I hope that many people follow wise advice and stay as safe as possible.
Member Since: July 15, 2005 Posts: 157 Comments: 6794
5. southernwxfreak
8:51 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
I, too, survived Hugo 16 years ago. My family's home was located in the West Ashley area in Charleston. We evacuated to Columbia, and the storm, pretty much, followed us.

The most striking memory that I can recall, was the smell of the house when we returned. 28 trees were lost in our yard, 3 of which demolished the better part of our home. The overwhelming odor of mildewed insulation, rotting food, and just damp carpet is what I remember more than anything else.

I was just a young teenager, but I recall it vividly. We made it through, rebuilt the house, and got on with our lives. It was, however, an experience that I will never forget as I keep the victims of Katrina and Rita (shortly)in my thoughts and prayers.
4. fivekeys
8:24 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
I was 35 weeks pregnant and living in a mobile home in Charleston. In spite of teasing from my well meaning neighbors I evacuated Charleston before anyone else was talking about it. I will never forget driving back afterwards and seeing the destruction as far inland as Columbia (100 miles!)I experienced Hugo only through a television screen 485 miles away in Alabama but my heart was in South Carolina that night with friends that chose to stay. I remember not sleeping because of the worry and the fear that my home would be gone when I returned. We were fortunate and only suffered "minor" damage but due to the lack of power, water and telephone service I had to move in with family in Alabama until after the birth of our first son just 4 1/2 weeks later. My husband returned from sea in late December or early January and was amazed at all the debris and at how much of the destruction was still so evident. My thoughts and prayers go out to anyone suffering from Katrina, and to those that will suffer from Rita. May God watch over you and bless you.
3. SunnyD
5:41 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
I also experienced Hugo. We live approx. 25-30 miles inland. And, you are right. It is a memory that never leaves you. I have 4 children. They were between the ages of 3 months and 5yrs. I kept my 3 month old baby strapped to me in one of those cuddle shacks the whole time. The sounds of that storm and the fear I felt for my children is something I will never forget. I remember going outside during the eye of the storm and looking up to see a star filled night. How erie that was... There is no way to prepare yourself for the destruction you find after the storm. We were without water and electricy for two weeks. The one good memory I have during that time is how willing neighbors were to help each other.
2. carolinagal
2:25 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
I should add to those currently inland from Rita - I have moved from that inland area, but many of the folks who live there now (that stayed through Hugo) would plan to evacuate next time. (Many did with the threat of Floyd - and added to that huge evacuation)
Member Since: July 15, 2005 Posts: 157 Comments: 6794
1. Obsidian
1:41 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
Yes Hugo was a monster. Although I was very young at the time, I'll never forget the effects that Hugo brought to Augusta Georgia. The winds were ferocious...

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