Jottings: Storms I have known
Watching the news about Hurricane Ida, I recall how Hurricane Katrina impacted Galveston, 368 miles away from New Orleans. Katrina struck New Orleans about 16 years ago, August 29, 2005. Hundreds of Louisiana evacuees descended on Galveston. Most residents of Galveston had endured multiple storms and were compassionate and welcomed the evacuees. I recall my sense of urgency to help. Not knowing how I could help, I went to Walmart to support the first family I saw. The family had left Baton Rouge in a hurry and did not have time to pack. They brought very little money with them. Their cell phones were dying. Based on a bank in Baton Rouge, their credit cards were not operative because of a power outage. I invited them to our home, and we shared stories and a meal. They were sharing an apartment with two other families for shelter, so visiting our home for several hours was a welcomed respite. Jan and I insisted on giving them money so they could buy food and diapers. I did not expect to be repaid. We exchanged addresses and phone numbers with them. When they returned to Baton Rouge, they sent us a thank you. In late September of the same year, Galveston was in the path of Hurricane Rita, and people were evacuating Galveston. We got a phone call from the family we had hosted offering us shelter in Baton Rouge. We might have gone, but we had made arrangements to visit Jan's parents in Missouri.
Hurricane Jerry, back in October 1989, was a mild Category 1 storm that affected Galveston. In graduate school at Rice University in Houston, our son decided to visit us to experience the "excitement" of a hurricane. This was the son that used to record the weather channel. I had constructed plywood covers for all our windows, which would not have survived an extreme wind event. The house was very dark with all the windows covered. My son wanted to go see the waves on the Gulf of Mexico.
Galveston was protected by a 14-foot seawall built after a 1900 storm killed 6,000 people, the largest natural disaster ever in the United States. Seawall Boulevard ran along the top of the eleven-mile seawall, so we felt safe. No sooner had we turned onto the seawall than a wave crashed over the wall hitting the car so hard we thought we might be swept into the Gulf. We got off the seawall immediately.
My son had driven his older car to Galveston. We reasoned he would need his car to get back to school, so we put his car in the garage and left my newer car out for safety. What we did not count on is shingles flying off our roof and badly scratching my newer car.
The biggest threat was from Hurricane Gilbert back in 1998. The meteorologists were sure that Galveston would be hit after it crossed the Yucatan as a Category 5 hurricane and regained strength in the Gulf. We evacuated to a friend's house in Conroe, Texas. The storm veered away from Galveston while we had a grand time playing games and visiting with our friends. (That friend's house was later flooded in another hurricane.)
Another small hurricane generated a tornado. Jan and I huddled in our hallway with all the doors closed as we heard a tornado roar over our house. We learned the next day it had blown the roof off an apartment house a block away.
I was never comfortable during hurricane season. After I retired, I was anxious to move away from the coast. Jan was still working, so we delayed moving until 2006. In 2007 Galveston was hit with Hurricane Ike, a major storm. We learned that the house we had sold took on four feet of water which backed in from the Houston Bay behind the island.
I am delighted to be away from the Gulf Coast. I have great empathy for the people in Louisiana enduring Ida and its aftereffects.
Cecil Denney is a member of the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center Jottings group.
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