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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Unnatural Disasters

416 Killed

 The most recent media headlines about floods in San Antonio remind me of the years we lived in Texas.  Hurricane Audrey was the largest (strongest/most destructive) hurricane to make landfall on Texas (1957) during the 1950’s.  Even then, as a child, I wondered why adults were not smart enough make the conscious decision to get their families out of harm’s way.  Had I been in control I would have taken my immediate family for a drive far enough to avoid the initial and most dangerous impact of the storm.  Of all Natural Disasters, Hurricanes provide the most advanced warning for residents to prepare.

In the 1950s, five tropical cyclones made landfall on Texas as hurricanes. Starting in 1955, hurricanes that caused substantial damage to any country could have their name retired from the list of names for the Atlantic basin. Hurricane Audrey, the most destructive Texas hurricane during the 1950s, was the first hurricane to impact Texas to have its name retired.

Often you hear people lament that our society is losing faith (in a religious sense as compared to faith in our government).  Yet many with a strong sense of faith believe that their family members will be spared from the pending danger and hunker down until the storm passes.  I believe that taking every precaution to protect your loved ones in no way diminishes your religious faith.  In fact, I feel that a strong faith would require that you be proactive.

Three feet of water inside our house
I remember the anticipation of the storm making landfall; we boarded all our windows and even the doors from the inside.  My stepfather reasoned that the strong wind would create a suction effect and that boarding from the inside would provide the best protection. As Audrey approached land, we stayed tuned to a local radio station until it went off the air.  We could hear the wind howling louder and louder, until the fear became so strong that you wished you could turn off the sound.  Some people described the sound as that of a freight train going past you at maximum speed.  I had never heard a freight train sound so loud.

We were fortunate to not be in Audrey’s direct path.  First reports were predicting landfall near Brownsville, but it shifted East last minute (closer to the Texas-Louisiana Border).  Two things that come to mind about lessons learned firsthand are:

  • The calm before the storm
  • The eye of the storm

My stepfather was a hardworking man with a third grade education and a doctorate degree from the University of Hard Knocks (street smarts).  Just before the time the storm (Audrey) was expected to reach us, there was a very eerie calm as if someone had flipped a switch and turned the storm off (calm before the storm).  After what seemed forever the roar of the powerful winds died down, and to the inexperienced came the feeling of relief that the storm was over. I must have said something to the effect that we had survived the storm, but my stepfather cautioned us that we were in the eye of the storm.  The eye of the storm differs from the tail end of the storm in that the eye of the storm is abruptly calm and quiet.

When the storm resumed we noticed that water was entering into our house which was elevated on a foundation of about 18 inches.  We quickly placed furniture under our beds to keep the mattresses dry, and we all climbed on to our beds.  Eventually while the storm was raging outside the water level inside our house rose to about 3 feet.  The worst part was not knowing how high the water would go.  My stepfather kept a crowbar handy just in case he had to remove the plywood from a window so we could exit.

Audrey caused 416 fatalities, and tied in with another storm front, to affect as far away as Canada.  Deaths were reported in Ontario, and Quebec Canada (15), and Montreal (11) from high winds and flooding.  Approximately two months later things were back to near normal.  Funny thing is I don’t remember anyone worrying about mildew.  That is the reason why I am so happy to be living in Paradise.  See Post; Living in Paradise (April 23, 2013).  The best is yet to come….

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