Hurricane Stories



Since it’s definitely in the news cycle until the next one, many of us probably have stories and impact decisions we have made through the years. I know it can be a political to many, hoping the discussions try their best to be an outer band and not the eye wall in this topic.
That said, grew up in SE Houston after moving from SE Arkansas at the young age of four. My first experience was Carla

My recollection was panic from my mom and boarded up windows. Hours of howling winds and water blowing under sliding glass door as the plywood shook, water up close to house and having to go next door to cook or have hot water ( our house total electric at time)
Our neighbor had just started building out a shell home on the very bare West End of Galveston Island. We went down weeks later and as kids had no clue, but spent all day with our beach shovels removing a few inch layer of sand in that shell 11’ off the ground
My parents joined the Galveston property ownership in ‘63 on a newly developed section of same subdivision with a canal to West Bay on filled land on top of marshland. The canal dredge was the “new land”
We spent our youth on weekends and summers an hour and a half drive from our home in Houston.
The roads were oyster shell and where I learned to do anything else but “ layin’ it down” as I learned to ride two wheel motorized bikes. Good times.
I recall several storms through the years where we boarded up, took boats off the island and hoped for the best. Some minor repairs through the years , but nothing major…my parents called me from KY while on vacation when I was 20ish. “ Can’t find your brothers, go close up house , tie larger sailboat best you can, go get trailer being repaired on other one and get it to Houston” I was overwhelmed to say the least but got buddies and off we went. I learned a lot that event!

The family luck ran out in 1981 as the first named storm, Alecia, took aim. Our house got hit with one of thirteen tornadoes confirmed in our subdivision. House on one side fine, the one to north had a orange couch and the toilet as only things left upstairs, our houses roof was in middle of street and the three walls on top of wet house contents. Never located the north wall closer to that bare deck next door. Across the canal, three more totaled houses. Most were 800 sq ft, two bedroom homes of same 63’-65’ buildup.
I was working for the power company in Houston and was to report as soon as storm passed. I sent my young family ( twins were born in April) to my parents house that survived Carla and I spent night listening to creaking house , power went out about midnight and cedar shake roof coming off. Winds calmed at dawn, I went out to survey damage, roof and fence and bare trees. Got a blue tarp from garage and covered the huge section of missing shakes and put my Jeep in 4WD and drove the typical half hour drive to work in maybe two hours having to drive through flooded streets and over and around debris. Worked dawn to dusk the next four weeks with zero time off to take care of personal property. Goes with the lineman life!
We rebuilt the coast house but my mom had had enough and I ended up with the deed in 1985 as my brothers and sister had zero interest. She said my day would come, still came to visit but was visually happy it wasn’t her problem.
I had many sleepless nights and watched the Weather Channel intensely during late summer. Had a few minor issues and fights with insurance over definitions wind? water? surge vs flood? It was a headache at times and I spent most my free time 245 miles from Austin. Met H in 2005 and she had a place to the east on Point Bolivar.

She didn’t get to retrieve any of her stuff as Crystal Beach disappeared. I have a pic of an ambulance buried with only top lights visible! Still looking.

Hello 2005 hurricane season and Rita… first big one since Katrina and Houston went stupid. Original track was west end near us! I met brother and son in law to prep, all three of us loaded trucks and trailers as we listened to radio forecasts. When they said 15’ surge where we were, my heart sank and I told group everything upstairs is now under four feet of water… time to go, retreating across the pass causeway into Freeport and hopefully home in a few hours…. Ran into closed stations before getting to US 90 and I-10 past that. Everyone in area was evacuating with all vehicles, pulling everything they owned from cows to race cars. EVERYONE. Took me 10 hours to use every back road in my recall to zigzag my tired body home. Storm tracked east at last minute.
I couldn’t believe how such an evacuation could go so wrong, and I was part of it!

Had seniority at work and no storm scramble in Austin yet. I returned to once again secure property with H and daughter and husband who were starting to use house a lot. Upon returning a week after the hit, I heard my moms voice and knew I was done. Had seven boats either under house, in yard, on fence, or where my stairs used to be. The lower floor, storage room and tiki bar kitchen were no more. The house was dry but had water blow through the storm shutter and windows. It took some time to repair as I knew I wasn’t doing anything this anymore. Sold at a loss as property values tanked post Ike, had some hurt feelings from my children ( who now understand) they weren’t in a position to take it on though we tried.

The layers of salt grass, dead stuff, building bits and marine equipment was staggering as the whole island was under for hours. It killed the 40 year old oaks we planted as kids and had seen many storms… whatever was in all that water was too much. The saddest sight in all of that was when FEMA removed them after I tried everything to revive them.

Seeing the repeated damage that comes to coastal communities in the subsequent years still takes me back and puts lumps in my stomach and heart seeing folks lives changed. For some, the options are limited as that’s their life. Places can be rebuilt and lessons learned and maybe acted on. You don’t understand the mindset of trying to ride it out or staying until it’s your life. Some places will never be the same… different is what is said. Barrier islands move… cannot beat nature, you can engineer and plan better but the results often look the same in the aftermath.