Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Do you remember Hurricane Hazel?

Ten years ago today Hurricane Fran came ashore at Cape Fear and ripped a wide swath of destruction up through Raleigh and across the Virginia border in a rampage that left distinctive marks on Raleigh. This city, once called the City of Oaks, could have been known for a while as the City of Blue Tarp Roofs; some of our neighbors in north Raleigh still had blue tarps showing as late as a couple of years ago. The morning after Fran came through, I spent more than an hour trying to find passable routes to work – and wound up getting guidance via cell phone from John Drescher, then an Observer editor in Charlotte who had recently moved from his west Raleigh home and had some suggestions for streets to try.
The Capital City’s trees were ruined in many places, just as Charlotte’s had been on Sept. 21-22, 1989 when Hugo came up through South Carolina and tore up much of the city.
We’re all a product of our experiences, I guess, and we probably rank hurricanes according to what we remember about the storms we lived through. Lots of folks will remember Fran or Hugo or Floyd (1999) as the worst; I expect folks on the upper Cape Fear River, dealing with flooding today from Ernesto, will remember this storm as the worst.
Count me among those who think Hazel in 1954 was the worst. It was a Category Four storm that took roughly the same path Fran would 42 years later. The Oct. 15, 1954 storm was hardly mentioned in local news reports here before it hit; I was in third grade at Irving Park Elementary School in Greensboro when the storm passed by well to the east and the weather was so awful they wouldn’t let students leave – even for my two-block walk home. We were spared the worst in Guilford, but the next summer my parents drove us to the coast and pointed out the houses awash in the sounds and waterways. Long Beach was just about scraped clean of cottages.
There were nine big storms that hit North Carolina in the 1950s, including seven in two years that gave our coastline the nickname “Hurricane Alley,” writes Jay Barnes in his book “North Carolina Hurricane History.”
What was the worst hurricane you endured? Were you on the coast when Hazel hit?

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Other than Hugo here in Charlotte and a few minor blows while living on Long Island in the 70s, I'd have to go back to 1960 in New York City for Hurricane Donna. She was such an awful storm that her name has been retired forever. Hundreds died during Donna and the destruction was huge. I was getting ready to go off to college. My little brother was in 6th grade. Schools were not dismissing the little kids unless adults came to get them because of the wind and driving rain. My older brother and I got permission from several neighbors to pick up their kids too. We took a rope to lash the kiddies together. We walked to the elementary school, got our four or five youngsters and set off for home, about six blocks. The wind got worse. Electric lines were snapping and breaking and sparks were dancing in the streets. Traffic signals were blown down. Signs were ripped from stores. Transformers were torn from poles and smashed in the street. We saw a city bus pushed sideways into a line of parked cars. Big brother was at the head of our roped-together gaggle of terrified kids, I was at the rear. One blast of wind knocked us all into a hedge and onto our knees. We did arrive home safely, but that short walk was one of the most frightening walks of my life.

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Cement Shoes said...

Oct 1954... It was raining hard and the winds were about 100-125 mph !.My parents and I were sitting in the living room of our Tenafly,N.J. home .We had a huge oak tree in front of the house,and we were worried about it blowing over ,In fact we had a tree surgeon come over to inspect the trees,and he informed us the tree in the front and another tree in the back of the house were ok, Anyway..the night of the hurricane my parents were sitting in the living room on the couch,I was sitting in the hallway .building a plastic model battleship and we were watching the news about the hurricane ..All of a sudden ,there was a huge ,noise,sounded like a bomb went off, I ran upstairs and turned ,only to see our living room ceiling about 5 feet high.I looked for my parents ,only to see them under our huge grand piano we had,my dad grabbed my mom,and dove under the piano,We didn't know what had happened,We then realized that the tree in the back of the house and snapped in half ,hit the brick chimney ,and ripped it off the house before it came crashing threw the dining room,and our leaving room,with such force,that the pressure built up, blew out our front window. I remember it like it just happened today !

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