December 14, 2010
Originally published September 24, 2002
After a very calm tropical storm season through the summer, Mother Nature has decided to show her nasty side as fall begins. Three named storms are churning in the ocean, and at least one of them has a fair chance of affecting my life.
Isadore, after meandering around the Gulf of Mexico like a drunken bag-lady, finally may stagger ashore as a hurricane near where MOMMIE JOIE lives in Louisiana. Unless Joie is foolish enough to go to the beach and watch the waves when the storm hits, she'll probably be okay, as long as she has lots of canned food, plenty of liquor, flashlights and batteries, a propane grill and a few full bottles of propane, a chainsaw and all the baggies and milk jugs of frozen water she can manage to store. And a portable radio with fresh batteries.
When Hurricane David hit Savannah in 1979, It was a pretty weak hurricane, but I was without electrical power for three days. My parents, who lived on the south side of town and possessed a BIG FREEZER full of meat, had no power for nine days. I ate well as all the steaks and roasts and ribs defrosted and my dad cooked them on a gas grill before they spoiled. There's not a lot more that you can do.
When Hurricane Opal hit the Florida panhandle in 1995, I was in a small, A-frame cabin on top of Blood Mountain in North Georgia. I happened to hear about the storm on my truck radio while I was driving back from an afternoon in a Biergarten in the pseudo-Bavarian village of Helen. The damned aftermath was coming my way, but I figured that by the time it reached north Georgia, it would be pretty well played out. I stopped and bought a couple of flashlights anyway, just to be on the safe side.
That night, about 4:00 in the morning, I awoke to what sounded like gunshots and noticed that the cabin, the rear of which stood on stilts overhanging a severe downslope, was rocking with a very strange, rhythmic motion, almost like a boat on the ocean. I was in the loft, and I heard the noise of a bunch of dwarves with hammers banging on the roof.
I went downstairs, grabbed a flashlight and started to open the sliding glass doors to the deck. That's when I noticed that the doors were BREATHING! The glass bowed in for a moment, then straightened back out. I put my palm against it, and I could FEEL it move. I opened the door and stepped outside.
Those weren't dwarves on the roof. The noise came from sticks, branches, small animals and bejus knows what else flying through the air, banging off the A-frame and rocketing off into the night parallel to the ground. The gunshot sounds were trees snapping off large limbs and breaking at their trunks. I was dry where I stood, without a roof over my head, and I saw why when I shined the flashlight straight up. EVERYTHING, INCLUDING THE RAIN, WAS GOING SIDEWAYS! I went back inside, careful not to close the sliding glass door all the way.
The tempest raged for hours, with winds in the 60-70 MPH range accompanied by tons of rain. When I heard that the storm was coming, I neglected to consider that my cabin was 3,000 feet above sea level and tropical storms have higher winds at higher elevations. Opal damned nearly blew me and my family off that mountain. At the time, Blood Mountain Cabins consisted of eight units. Three had trees fall on them and do various amounts of damage, including one that was damned near severed in two by a huge, uprooted hemlock. Those were the only cabins not occupied that night.
The electricity went out, and without that, the well pump was kaput, so none of the cabins had water. We might have stayed anyway and just roughed it, but Quinton was a mere pup of 2+ years at the time, so we decided to leave, which we did, after waiting over six hours for the road off the mountain to be open again after all the fallen trees were removed.
I have a healthy respect for high winds and incredible rainfall. That was a spooky experience.
Good luck, Joie.
All content © Rob Smith