My insides are itching and twitching this morning. I am dying to be standing along the surf in Florida and North Carolina as Hurricane Irene approaches the US Mainland. I love storms, especially hurricanes of modest strength, a Category 3 storm is preferable.
I remember my first hurricane, Dora, which came ashore near Jacksonville, FL, on September 9, 1964. It arrived a few days after a most disappointing Hurricane Cleo which was no more than a messy rain and through which my buddies and I played football.
But Hurricane Dora was a real hurricane, for a young boy. Before nightfall when my Mom and Dad finally yanked me out of the back yard, I spent the afternoon watching the wind force the trees and bushes to bow-down low to the ground.
I pretended I was broadcasting live reports for the local radio station. This was long before The Weather Channel. I used my tennis racket as a microphone. I loved it when branches snapped from trees and flew across the yard during a wind burst and through a torrent of rain.
This was one of the most memorable afternoons of my childhood.
My only disappointment is that the brunt of the storm came during the night and I did not get to see a tree fall to the ground. God and I are still talking about that childhood disappointment.
During the night my family of 6 was huddled inside our hallway. We were well prepared to be survivors, since we had three cases of food stored in our hallway in case the Cubans and Russians decided to drop The Bomb on the Naval Air Station a few yards from our backyard.
About 2 AM we heard a loud crash on the house. My Dad, always the brave one, ventured into the living room and announced that a tree had fallen on the house, perhaps through the roof. He refused to let me go outside to check it out. (It’s hard being the youngest child, your parents never let you do anything brave!)
When the sun rose and the wind had subsided, we left the protective surroundings of our nuclear war enclave and went out to observe the damage. Yes, a tree did fall, but not on the house, just next to the house. I was surprised that a pine tree which looked so tall standing upright, was actually so short.
By mid-afternoon we were able to leave the yard. I renewed my radio broadcasts, reporting on the damage in our neighborhood. That evening we took a walk down a street, 5 blocks from our home, where a tame tornado had touched down.
We were without electricity for 6 days, also out-of-school. We cooked by charcoal and Sterno and kept things cold with dry ice. We did not have air conditioning in our house, so the loss of power did not cause us to melt away. It was like a six day camping trip for this young boy. For my parents, I expect it was more of a prolonged headache.
I do not wish to minimize the danger of hurricanes. The damage was real in Jacksonville. There was extensive flooding all along the river. Many of our friends spent days cleaning up from the floods. Houses were lost along the beach. Hundred year old oak trees had been tossed aside like matchsticks.
I was in Bay St. Louis, MS, after Hurricane Katrina. The damage was devastating. There is a time to flee to higher ground and to take cover. Because of this, I am praying for the safety of folks who live along our eastern seaboard
But for the little boy who still reigns in my soul, I wish I could be there today, reporting live for The Weather Channel.
For me a hurricane is an adventure. I am still itching and twitching while I enjoy the sunshine, high and dry in northern Illinois.