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2017-08-31

Hurricanes so great we know them by name

By Raymond V Carter Research Historian ©2017

Anyone who has lived very long along the Texas coast will have their day with a tropical cyclone. Some just blow and some destroy everything in their paths. That can be heart breaking. I have experienced the forces of Audrey, Carla, Beulah, Fern, Claudette and now Harvey. There were many other storms that we prepared for, but we lucked out and only got the glancing winds.
We were living on Moses Lake at Texas City in 1957 when Hurricane Audrey struck the east Texas coast in July of that year. This hurricane produced a huge tornado and I can remember Mother and us kids going outside, looking up to see directly above us, the big black cloud spinning and coming down at us. Mother got us three kids into the bathtub and Aunt Lourene, who was visiting, got one of our bunk bed mattresses and put it over us. The tornado ripped off part of our roof off, then blew into the downtown area of Texas City, where it did major damage. Later, the sheetrock ceiling collapsed in our bedroom from the weight of the rainwater and fell directly on my brother's bed. The force of the hurricane winds pushed the water up from Moses Lake into our yard and over the road.
My stepfather was working in east Texas and made it back to us around midnight, rescuing us from the rising waters. I can remember the lights of the car illuminating the road covered with water and him wading to the house to get us. He took us to the safety of Grandma Mama Con's house.
Carla came in 1961 when we were living in Yorktown and set the standard for all storms. We were west of the eye, but caught the fury of the wind and rain. I remember watching the old windmill strain against the massive winds. The winds were so loud! We were terrified that the windmill would blow over onto the house. As Carla moved inland the winds eventually changed direction. Nothing escaped damage.
We were still living in Yorktown when Beulah came in September of 1967. She was not a very strong storm, but she dumped 30 plus inches of rain on us in a 24-hour period and produced many tornadoes across the coastal region. The Colleto Creek rose so fast that it surrounded our house, but only came up to level of the floor of our home. I can remember my stepfather getting his 12-gauge shotgun and wading in 3-foot-deep water out to the street and stopping the sightseers from driving around, creating wakes which pushed the floodwater into our home. The waters receded back into the creek, but after nightfall, the rain started again with a vengeance. The water rose so fast that at 11pm it came into our house. I can still see the brownish dirty water coming up through a wooden doorsill. It was a frightening site for a 14-year-old. The water rose to about 2 1/2 feet deep in our home and more than five feet deep outside before it started to recede about 3 am. The electricity never failed, and if you got to close to a wall socket, you would get a good electrical shock.
My parents parked the cars on the creek bridge, which was the highest point in our immediate area. Luckily, the floodwater never covered the bridge. Dad put our two flat-bottom boats inside the garage and at about 2 am decided to get us to higher ground.
As he went out the back door, he fell into the water. The wooden steps had washed away and if Dad had not been holding onto the screen door he would have been washed away by the current of the fast flowing flood waters. We ran to him and pulled him back into the house. It was a very close call.
We then called for help and George Klein came to get us in his 21-foot boat. I can still see him with his boat in our front yard, but at that time the flood water started to recede and Dad decided to stayed put.
The floodwater fell fast and after it was gone we took garden hoses and started washing the mud out of the house. It took the rest of the night and most of the next day to clean up. What a long, long day. Water — like fire —can destroy everything it touches.
Fern came when I was in college and brought more wind and rain. I remember a Rockport police car that had the paint sandblasted off one side by the blowing beach sand.
Claudette came in 2003 and, with wind gusts of 112 mph, did minor damage to my roofs. Others suffered worse.
Now here we go again with Harvey. The eye of this storm came within 10 miles west of my sister's home and 25 miles west of my home. My mother and sister have stayed put through this ordeal, and the storm dumped flooding rain and its high winds produced a lot of damage. We lost electricity and a large pecan tree, and my barn roof is damaged. My sister, my mother and I have been very lucky this time. My heart goes out to our neighbors who lost roofs, personal property, trees and buildings. Then there are our neighbors in Rockport and Houston. Good grief. Very sad. How close that devastating destruction came to us.
Anyone who has lived through one of these storms knows it is a horrible experience and clean-up takes weeks and is no fun at all. Harvey is still sticking around with his wind and rain. The most common statement I heard today is a question: “Will it ever go away?”