Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hurricane Ike

Calling Sam
8.5" x 11 "
As I watched the four storms blooming in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, I couldn't help but think of storms from the past. Images on tv brought many memories from times on the coast. Somehow, Ike reminded me of Hurricane Carla from September 11, 1961 as it struck the Texas Gulf Coast. Some of the weather forecasters are relating this storm to Carla, now.
I waited out the threat of Hurricane Carla in the junior high cafeteria for several days. Highway Patrolmen were going to take me from our little lake cottage to the shelter when my husband arrived. He took our most valuable posession, our tv set, a stack of English notebooks, and me to the junior high school where I was teaching English.
He paced around for a while, as did other men there, while it stormed outside.
Carla was a very undecided lady and would move forward, sideways, back up, turn around, not making up her mind where to go inland, for days. They thought we were in the path. Of course, weather forecasting was not what it is today.
I walked down the hall at one point to see who else was here besides the few people in the cafeteria. The gym was filled with a lot of people, many who had children. People were sleeping on the bleachers or the floor. We didn't think to take things like bedding, food, clothes, etc. I guess it was because we really didn't want to be there, or thought it wouldn't last for long. But Carla had other plans and teased the Coast for days.
People were getting hungry and everything in the cafeteria was locked. Finally, we thought things would be great. The Red Cross was coming!
Alas, they came with a small truck, one lady who loved reading movie magazines, and a man to drive the truck. The man left and the woman stayed inside, reading her movie magzines in the kitchen, most of the time. She only came out when it was time to serve a meal.
Now cooking in someone else's kitchen, or eating cafeteria food was not my thing, at all. But, I was bored and volunteered to help make meals to serve the people. Ladies lined up on both sides of the long tables in the cafeteria. We were given packages of bread, balogna, a couple of jars of mayonnaise, and waxed paper. We passed bread down first, then some people spread on mayonnaise and passed that on. The next people slapped on a piece of bologna, and passed it on. As we got to moving pretty fast, and the supply of bologna became low, some of the sandwiches ended up with just two pieces of bread, or some with only mayonnaise. At the end of the line, the sandwiches were wrapped in waxed paper. Those were taken to the serving bar of the cafeteria.
In the morning and in the evening, the Red Cross lady assembled us workers, then called in the refugees. Everyone was given one bologna sandwich . Children were given a pint of milk to go with their sandwich. Adults were directed to a water fountain if they asked for a drink. The Red Cross lady put the food away after the meals and locked it up, then went back to her movie magazine.
Eventually, people were really hungry, as well as being anxious. One man went out in the storm and opened his conveneince store. He said he had had enough. My husband and other men went with him. My husband brought back some potato chips and a case of Cokes for me. He also brought another case of drinks for other people who wanted a drink. People were going back and forth in the storm to the store to get food, diapers, and things that they needed.
It was raining, dark, and stormy most of our time there, with Carla just off the coast. Some of the men went out in the storm and picked up limbs and debris in order to keep the streets clear. I was nervous about what might happen. And I was bored.
I went out to the car where my tv was and brought in my school things to work on. As I graded my big stack of English notebooks, one man walked by and said, "You are the most dedicated English teacher we have ever had!"
Actually, that was one time that I got caught up on my paperwork and had it all done early. It did take my mind off worrying about whether the building was going to cave in on us, or if we were going to all drown, or what!
Some people slept on the tables. I would sit on the bench and put my head on the table to sleep.
Then it was back to grading notebooks.
Eventually, Carla made up her mind and went inland south of us. We drove home, cautiously, tv set and graded notebooks in the back seat, not knowing if we would still have a house to live in. Tree limbs were down, but the house was fine.
The newspaper came out with a picture of us serving food to the refugees, and big headlins with the Red Cross begging for donations. They told of the thousands of dollars they had spent on feeding people in the shelter and doing work like keeping the streets clear. I couldn't believe what I read. Surely that bread, bologna, mayonnaise and waxed paper didn't cost that much. And it was the local men who were doing clean up duties. If they got a meal, people had to risk going out in the storm to buy something. If they didn't have transportation or money, they were out of luck.
In the drawing above, "Calling Sam", I was remembering Hurricane Beaulah in Port Lavaca in 1967. My parents came with a big cattle trailer and a pickup truck to move all my furniture and belongings to their home inland. We loaded up, spent the night with the idea of leaving early the next morning.
I went out in the night, big as I was with my daughter being due any minute, trying to get my Siamese cat, Sam, to come in. The rain was blowing sideways, a small tree was bending over in the wind. A yard light in a neighbor's yard spread an eerie light over the neighborhood. I held onto my hair and called and called for Sam, but he never did show up. I finally went in the house and tried to sleep. We got up early and again searched for Sam.
During the night, two tornados had hit on each side of us. We just heard a crash or big boom. A farmhouse was lifted up, except for the floor and the beds where people were sleeping. Boards from the house were scattered in the ground as if a giant had thrown them, spear fashion. The people didn't even wake up until morning when their house was gone from around them. Some dishes also were moved and not broken.
On the other side of us, a highway department building was destroyed by a tornado.
I never did find Sam. In fact, I never saw him again. My husband wasn't too fond of the cat. He stayed behind to work, but said he would look for Sam. Of course, he didn't, and later told me that someone probably ran over the cat.
Now we are inland, but Hurricane Ike is seemingly taking aim on the Texas Gulf Coast. It's a big one, they say. And, since it is so large, we are likely to get tropical storm and hurricane conditions, we are being told. Refugees are coming in, and Houston tv is staying on with hurricane coverage. Even here, over 150 miles inland, we are being warned to get out of mobile homes, prepare for high winds, etc. Big cargo planes were supposed to come in yesterday with special needs refugees to go to Reed Arena. 200 doctors and nurses were brought in from the north to take care of them. But, no one showed up! They were supposed to come in today. School has been cancelled here tomorrow. Traffic in town is terrible and you can no longer find things like water and batteries.
Living in a mobile home, we are not really sure what to do or where to go. We're trying to find someone to haul off boards etc. that workmen left, and cut some limbs away from the house.
I'm especially concerned about the things in the small buildings out back. So much art work and writing in my studio building, and more art work in the storage building. Not to mentinon all the old pictures and genealogy things in my house. I don't worry so much about things like furniture. My daughter wants to stay in "her house". So do I, but not if it is going to be blown over!
I'm wishing for Daddy with his pickup truck and cattle trailer!
And I'm hoping that this storm just falls apart or goes somewhere else. I'm not ready for this!
Good luck to everyone in Ike's path!

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