Writer Wednesday: Natural Disasters

I have lived in hurricane country since I was ten years old, and have sat, slept, and occasionally cowered through more hurricanes and tropical storms than I can remember. The prompt for this month’s Writer Wednesday post sent me to Wikipedia, where I picked through several lists of storms (in Florida, Texas, and Louisiana) to find the ones I remember most.

WW JulyAs with many things in life, “firsts” have a special place. My first hurricane was Donna, which hit southern Florida on September 10, 1960, my birthday. (My birthday is often cited as the peak of the hurricane season in the Gulf of Mexico, although I celebrated this one in the suburbs of Miami.) My mother, used to life in Wisconsin, was terrified. My brother, who was seven, slept through it. My dad and I thought it was an adventure. When the storm passed, and the electricity did not return (I don’t remember how long it was out), my dad made a valiant attempt to bake me a birthday cake on his charcoal grill. It didn’t look much like a cake, but served with melted ice cream, it tasted just fine.

In the summer of 1969, when I was attempting to move from Tallahassee, where I had just graduated from Florida State, to New Orleans, where I would attend grad school at Tulane in the fall, the central Gulf Coast was hit by Hurricane Camille, a nasty killer that closed the coast highway for weeks, forcing us to travel inland and hope we could find gas stations with electricity often enough to make it across Mississippi. The coast road was open again in the fall, and I remember seeing huge commercial ships on the beach.

In 1974, Jack and I sat out Hurricane Carmen in our house outside New Iberia, Louisiana. Although Carmen was a serious storm along some of its path, it didn’t hit us too hard, although it made our tin roof rattle something fierce. On the other hand, I remember looking out the window and watching a cat, oblivious of the weather, wander across our lawn. Somewhere around that time, I had my closest encounter with a tornado, as we ducked behind the refrigerators in a New Iberia appliance store while a twister roared down the street out front.

We moved to Seabrook, southeast of Houston between the Space Center and Galveston Bay, in 1976. In 1979, Tropical Storm Claudette dropped 42 inches of rain on a nearby weather station and overflowed an open garbage can in my yard. No flooding in the house, but we were on an island for a day or two. Claudette was followed by Hurricane Alicia in 1983—lots of damaged vegetation, which all grew back in a couple of years, and a power outage that lasted a week or so—and Hurricane Jerry in 1989, a smallish, late season storm that went right over our house, the only time I’ve experienced the Eye of the Storm.

Hurricane Andrew, in 1992, scored a catastrophic hit on the Florida Peninsula, and scared Jack so badly he insisted we evacuate inland. The storm went to Louisiana, but we did have a nice visit with Jack’s uncle in Austin. Tropical Storm Allison in 2001 was the storm that refused to go away, circling around and causing severe flooding and a number of deaths in Houston, but the worst of it missed us and we watched it on TV. That was the last storm I shared with Jack, who died the next year.

By the time Hurricane Rita reared her head in 2005, only a few weeks after Katrina devastated New Orleans, local authorities had become a lot more emphatic on the subject of evacuation, and I had no desire to stay home, so I packed up my cat and dog and we went to Houston to stay with my friend Jo Anne, the day before evacuation was made mandatory for my zip code. That was a good move, because the storm caused such panic that people who tried to flee west were stuck on the highways for hours, sometimes twenty or more, while the storm went east to the Beaumont area, and Houston seemed deserted—and perfectly safe.

In 2008 we had a visit from Ike, a massively destructive storm. This time people not in the flood prone areas were urged to stay home. My cat and I went to Jo Anne’s, where I stayed until my neighbor called to say she was home and the power was back on—twelve days later. My yard took another beating, but my house was okay.

Since then the hurricane seasons have been quiet here. Last month Tropical Storm Bill paid the area a visit, bringing more rain than we needed but not much damage. If Bill is our storm for this year, we’ll be happy.

Every storm has its own set of stories, but I still have fond memories of that first adventure in 1960, and my lop-sided, crispy-edged birthday cake served with melted ice cream by candlelight. Thanks, Dad!

For tales of more natural disasters, check out the Wednesday Writers in the sidebar to your right. Two of our merry crew have new releases this month: Carol Post’s Hidden Identity, a suspenseful tale of blackmail and murder is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Natalie Meg Evans’ The Milliner’s Secret is available for pre-order at Amazon and Amazon UK.

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12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. wendylacapra
    Jul 08, 2015 @ 09:07:46

    Wow, Kay! That’s a great many hurricanes! I love that your Dad tried to bake you a cake. And *shivers* on the eye of the storm!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • Kay Hudson
      Jul 08, 2015 @ 10:29:05

      I’ve gone through so many,. Wendy, that I could have gone on and on–Houston almost deserted, make-do replacements for electric power, kind people bringing truckloads of ice to the area, etc. But I’ll always remember that birthday cake.

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  2. Carol J. Post
    Jul 08, 2015 @ 10:39:26

    Great post, Kay! That’s a lot of hurricanes! I love the story about your dad making you a birthday cake on the grill. That’s so cool!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • Kay Hudson
      Jul 08, 2015 @ 10:43:44

      That’s not even all of them, Carol. Or the floods or even, once or twice, snow and ice (yes, in Houston, where no one, including me, knows how to drive in those conditions).

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  3. tamrabaumann
    Jul 08, 2015 @ 10:46:42

    Love the story of the BBQ Birthday Cake! (That could be a book title, no?) And I’m glad you made it through all those nasty storms!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • Kay Hudson
      Jul 08, 2015 @ 11:35:28

      I you live in the southeast long enough, you just expect some weather disaster every once in a while. The older I get, though, the more willing I am to pack up my pets and get away from the coast for a few days.

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  4. prisakiss
    Jul 08, 2015 @ 11:15:16

    Wow Kay, you’ve definitely seen your share of hurricanes. I remember watching Andrew on the television– we had just moved to Okinawa several days before– worried for my family and friends in the storm’s path.

    It’s awesome that your dad made you that cake. Shows what a great dad he tried to be! I’m sure his adventurous spirit seems to live within you, always riding out the storms and pressing forward. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • Kay Hudson
      Jul 08, 2015 @ 11:33:12

      When he was about four years old, my dad evacuated by boat from a flood on the Milwaukee River. He said the adults around him made it seem like a great adventure, not something to be afraid of, and that’s what he always tried to do for me and my brother. He’s been gone a long time, and missed the whole personal computer revolution, which he would have loved. Miss him.

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  5. natmegevans
    Jul 08, 2015 @ 13:08:01

    What a wonderful dad you had! But a lifetime of knowing storms and hurricanes by name . . . that shows how much they are part of living where you do. I do admire all of you who batten down the hatches, or evacuate, then get on with life. And thanks so much, Kay, for putting in the links to my book. Love you.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • Kay Hudson
      Jul 08, 2015 @ 13:25:11

      I did have to do a little research–the names of the big storms stick with you, but the years flow together. By the way, the Book Depository emailed me this morning to say that The Milliner’s Secret will be shipping soon–I’m looking forward to it!

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  6. Jean Willett
    Jul 08, 2015 @ 21:54:01

    What a great Dad! Making storms an adventure is a wonderful way to still the fear they create. I’ve managed to dodge the hurricanes and just live through them as tropical storms. Moving into Tornado Alley was a real experience. I stood outside in high wind watching debris fly over and angry green clouds swirl around. We thought the Wizard of Oz came to visit. Ah…no…a tornado passed over us and took out the church roof at the end of our street. I’m much more aware now 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • Kay Hudson
      Jul 08, 2015 @ 22:47:40

      Thanks for stopping by, Jean. I’ve got two huge oak branches on my patio this week, probably damaged by Ike in 2008 and finally giving up now. Looks like I’ll be spending a chunk of my weekend chopping them up.

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