Remembering Hurricane Hugo 25 years later!

I saw this article    posted on facebook by a friend  and immediately said “Wow, I can’t believe it has been 25 years” and then I found myself thinking about my experience with my first Hurricane.

This is just a very brief summary of my experience:

Twenty-five years ago I had moved to South Carolina with my boyfriend and his brother. I grew up in upstate New York, as in the Adirondacks. Where it is cold more months than it is warm. Lots of snow, but no hurricanes. We had moved to South Carolina so we could attend Francis Marion University located in Florence, SC. I lived with room mates and my boyfriend and his brother lived right on Myrtle Beach. We had not lived there long when I realized it was the wrong move for me (little did I know it had more to do with the boyfriend than it did where I was living) I called my Mom to tell her that I was coming back home.  She made plans to fly down and then we would drive back together. Shortly after her plans were made, we heard chatter about a hurricane coming.

As the days counted down and the hurricane was gaining strength, it was time for her arrival. She was arriving the same day Hugo was expected to make landfall. She insisted on coming. If you know my Mom then you know she was not about to let her daughter experience a hurricane in a strange place with no family. There was no talking her out of it. I remember that morning. We had been preparing and getting things packed up when we received a knock on the door that there was a mandatory evacuation. We had minutes to get whatever we were taking and get out. As we were packing up our vehicles, I remember the wind was blowing so hard that it made it hard to open the doors. We had no idea where we were going to go, we just knew that we had to start driving. All the while my Mom’s flight took off and she was on her way. Trying to get anywhere was a nightmare. Traffic was an understatement. It was creeping at it’s best and I was driving a stick shift to boot. It was hot for a northern girl. And remember, there were no cell phones. I had to make stops every now and again to find a pay phone to check in with my Father & Grandmother as my Mom would do the same. That is how we relayed messages back and forth.

The more we drove the more we realized that Hugo’s path was following us. It felt like we were being chased.  I was starting to feel like I was not going to see my Mom. The airports were closing, we were driving all over the state to find a safe place to stay along with everyone else. My Mom was coming no matter what, even if that meant her flying the plane herself!We finally met up with my mom around dinner time.  I was so relieved to see her! I was very worried about her safety as she was mine.

With mom in tow we spent the next few hours driving more until we were finally able to find a school that was serving as a shelter. We were off the road by the time Hugo hit. I will never forget the sounds I heard.  We all tried to remain calm waiting for Hugo to leave. I can only imagine what my family must have been feeling back home not knowing what was happening. It was not easy to find pay phones and make phone calls during a natural disaster. It was long distance so most of the calls were made “collect”. Does anyone remember that term? I am sure my parents won’t forget it after they got the phone bill the next month.

We spent the next few days at the shelter.  Where my boyfriend and brother were staying they were not able to return for a while as there was alot of damage. I remember the pool looking like a sardine can that had been rolled up. Once the roads were opened up as best as could be and my boyfriend and his brother were able to find a hotel to stay in temporarily, it was time for me to go back home. My mom and I set off for our long drive back to New York. I was very happy to go back home. It was not easy to have witnessed what others had before them. You wanted to be able to help everyone. If you have never seen what a Hurricane does it can be mind blowing. I remember driving and we saw one house was totally fine and then the next house was just bits and pieces. There were boats in the roads. Homes were moved from their location to a new location. I could spend all day writing about everything that we saw.

I do wish that I had written in detail about my experience at the time as I think it would be great to go back and read all the little things that as time has gone on I may not remember.

Hurricane Hugo did not make me afraid to live in the south as I eventually moved back and have been living in the south for almost 15 years now. I have experienced driving through a tornado but have not had any more first hand experience with another hurricane.

It doesn’t seem possible that it was twenty-five  years ago. I surely can’t be THAT old…

So, tell me, where were you during Hurricane Hugo and what was your experience?