Hurricane Hugo Memories – 30 years ago today…

Memories of Hurricane Hugo… Category 4 – Thirty Years Ago Today

Hurricane Hugo (great short video link) was THIRTY years ago today. I moved to this area in 1989 and a few months later there is talk of a storm heading our way. I only heard it second hand and not that often. I worked a lot and was busy with other things. (Another EXCELLENT glimpse of Hugo is from THIS LINK, great images!)

Someone asked what I was doing for the storm. What am I doing for it? It’s a storm (not thinking hurricane) – I’ve never been through a hurricane before. We don’t have those in Michigan, or at least that I can ever remember 😉 I woke up thirty years ago, got up and went to work. It was odd. NO ONE was out. Until I got to work – at that time I worked in for a large pharmacy chain, we were so busy until 11:30AM when we had to close down, cover equipment and pack up “just in case”. Only myself and the pharmacist showed up, everyone else had evacuated. The store let us use two of their cashiers so that we could concentrate on filling prescriptions as quickly (and accurately) as possible. It was an odd feeling knowing that we were the only people working (usually 2 technicians, 2 pharmacists and a cashier at that time)… I ran out and bought candles, water and not sure what else (it was 30 years ago) – not much in comparison to what I buy now days… perhaps that’s because I have been through a wicked Category 4 hurricane. BUT, WE were fortunate. SO fortunate.

It was just my sister and I. We were living in Summerville, SC, away from the coast. We watched the news 30 years ago, and they newscaster’s were shouting “Get out, get out now” but it was really too late. You don’t want to get stuck on the road with no gas and a hurricane on its way. Charleston, SC was to be where the hurricane makes landfall. Not good.

8:30 PM – The power goes out and stays out. The wind picked up immensely. I had a little radio that we listened to throughout the night. But one by one the radio stations had gone out due to loss of power. We were listening to Michael D (radio station Q107  which was the last station to stay on the air but was cut off at 12:20AM. Q107 returned on the air by 9PM. To be cut off completely and have no idea what happened anywhere is awful, there was no internet, cell phones, etc. ) – Michael asked people to call in and share their stories. There was comfort in that. We felt connected. The fear was real but be able to listen to others and to Michael was a blessing.

Shortly after the power had gone out and the winds really picked up, my sister and I and her basset/beagle rescue mix had moved to the hallway. We had moved a large piece of furniture in front of one of the bedroom windows, bedroom doors closed in case of flying glass. I had a shower curtain liner, duct tape and a staple gun in case the windows broke, I could possibly do something to minimize damage. This is not my forte. I am not a fixer. But I felt better if we had something we could do.

We were in the (now very warm) hallway listening to the radio and as I stretched out near one of the doors the wind was so strong coming underneath the doorway that it blew my hair sideways. I am not exaggerating. We heard SNAP, SNAP, SNAP over and over and over. The stress of that night was unbelievable and we were fortunate. It turns out we weren’t in the worst part of it, it made landfall on Sullivans Island, but other areas also received the brunt of this storm, like McClellanville where they were having to shove children in high up vents on a school stage (from what I remember) because of the water. (Read the articles where the orange links are!)

We actually fell asleep during the eye (thanks to my remembering that there was a mini beer, who knows how old, in the fridge – we split it), when it went from so loud to an eerie silence. We woke up at 9AM to the sound of chainsaws. We opened the blinds and peeked out.

OH…. NO….. those weren’t branches snapping, they were trees. HUGE pine trees cutting through people’s homes. Ours was untouched. The community came together, everyone cooked everything they had, and worked together to move the large trees that prevented anyone from leaving their homes.

I learned many lessons, like there is no gas and no groceries for weeks after a hurricane. Nothing. We had no electricity, no water, no phone. We were fortunate to travel to a friend’s house (that was nearby but took an hour + to get to because of all the downed trees, power lines, traffic lights, church steeples, bill boards, you name it) to take a shower, a cold shower but it felt so good to get clean after yet another brutally hot and humid day.

We volunteered with the Red Cross until we could work our regular jobs again (the store where I worked had the roof peeled off, so it was months before it could reopen, shortly after the other location in Charleston was open I transferred to that store). The Red Cross had coffee in the morning and after about a week, one pizza place opened. The Red Cross had pizza each day. It was just what you needed after a long day.

The devastation was everywhere. From homes to churches to businesses. Rumors spread quickly, I remember hearing that the Market in Charleston was leveled (it was not). Large boats sat in the middle of the road and stayed there for so long (that was real). Eventually we got our power back, but it took a long time before stores could open, in the interim, they would take people 5 at a time into the darkened stores with flashlights. There was no electricity so the only items you could buy were on the inner aisles, bread, peanut butter, crackers, etc. (cash only!) Roofs were damaged, buildings damaged or destroyed… It takes time to get everything fixed and at a time when EVERYONE needed work done. I do remember linesman from all over the country coming to help restore power. I cannot imagine how long it could have taken without them. It’s eerie to drive by stop lights that are hanging level with your car. Now I know that wasn’t smart and we shouldn’t have been out driving, but we were trying to check on a friend who was alone and her husband was in the Navy and at sea. (She was fine)!

The image above is a cable guy (red shirt) restoring our service after Hurricane Dorian. Thankfully, we fared well in this area. Trees down, big limbs down, but for most of us, we were OK, and very, very thankful. #dontmesswithmothernature

Catch you back here tomorrow!





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