Friday, August 17, 2007

Storm Clouds Rising

The approaching and gathering storm named Dean, causes me to reflect on childhood experiences dealing with storms on the Texas Gulf Coast.

When I was about 6 years of age, (hmmm. that would be 62 years ago), our family moved to the Gulf Coast of Texas, from the neighboring state of Louisiana. There was a large shipyard in the coastal town of Orange, Texas, and dad found work as a ship fitter (carpenter) building warships to support our nation during World War II. Because there were 7 children in the family, dad was given deferment from the draft. After the War ended in 1945, we transitioned to Houston about 100 miles west.

I spent my growing-up years, 6- 22, living in and around the Houston-Galveston area. We became familiar with the annual ritual of watching for Hurricanes. I can remember many of them; Debbie, Donna, and in 1961, a really big one, Carla, a category 4 or 5, set it's sights on Galveston and Texas City where we then lived. This was before political correctness caused them to use men's names for the storms, as well as females.

In earlier years, I can remember Mom gathering blankets, pillows, etc and the family would go to a local shelter, usually a school gym or class room, where we would bed down and wait out the coming storm. But this one was different.

Milbre and I had been married for one year and living in Texas City, across the bay from Galveston. All the weather statements were very grim and foreboding, advising everyone to leave, evacuate inland, away from the coast. "This one was different", they said. After some intense coaxing from my father-in-law, Harvey, we decided to evacuate. I remember the long lines of bumper-to-bumper traffic, streaming away from the area, but we finally made it to Milbre's parents home, safely inland, in De Ridder, LA.

All they said about Carla was true, and more. She was a really, big storm. It was a week or two before residents could get in to check on the damage. Our little rental home was flooded, but many homes in our neighborhood were flattened. When all was said and done, it was one of the costliest storms to that date.

On June 27, 1957, a hurricane named Audrey hurled a deadly raging ocean of water over quaint Cameron Parish, Louisiana. It was a Category 4 Hurricane and in a matter of hours, wiped out every movable object in her path, forever changing the lives and souls of Cameron Parish residents. Hurricane Audrey killed 425 people, 154 of whom were under the age of 9.

Coastal residents had learned their lesson. After Audrey, residents began to take the warnings more seriously. During Carla, they felt that several thousand lives were saved because people heeded the warnings.

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