HURRICANES I”VE EXPERIENCED
Pat and I are in Maine watching the weather chanel track hurricane Matthew as it heads towards Florida and the Carolinas We’re thinking of Dora and our offspring as they evacuate Hilton Head Island and head towards Clemson. Mathew has already left the island of Haiti and the Bahamas in ruin.
The first hurricane I remember was at age five – the great New England Hurricane of 1938. With hardly any warning, this storm slammed into Connecticut and Rhode Island late one afternoon. My twin sister Mercy and I were at home in Moosup, Connecticut with our babysitter, Julia. Mother and dad had driven to Providence Rhode Island to pick up our grandfather, coming down from Maine by train. I was playing with my miniature cars on the floor while Mercy and Julia were looking out the living room window at mother's garage. All at once Mercy yelled, “Hank, you missed it.” Sure enough, I glanced up to see the entire garage had blown sky high—and Mercy and Julia had seen it happen.
Later that same afternoon the three of us held hands and walked up to see if mother's Mercury car had sustained any damage. We were barely able to walk against the high winds and finally made it to the garage platform, all that was left of the building. The car did not seem to be scratched.
Later that evening dad and mother arrived home with Grandpa Haskell and a amazing story of how they had driven back from Providence on the railroad tracks. Dad thought of doing this, as he knew that the New Haven Railroad cut away all trees and bushes on either side of their tracks. Trees, including huge oak trees, were falling everywhere. 682 people were killed in that storm.
16 years later in late August, 1954 my father, brother Peter, and I were on board our father’s motor sailor in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. Hurricane Carol was coming up the East Coast and predicted to hit New England. I was taking a nap down below when I glanced up and saw the aluminum radar detector at the top of the mast spinning madly and then blow away. I ran up on deck and noticed we were dragging our mooring. Dad suggested we head out to sea and ride the storm out on the broad Atlantic but I definitely didn't want to do that. We turned our engine on just as some Coast Guard men on their 85-foot cutter (tied up to the dock) called to us suggesting we tie up along side them for the duration of the storm. That was our life-safer.
The storm roared through Boothbay just before midnight. It was pretty scary but we were secure tied up to the Coast Guard ship. The eye of the storm passed right over Boothbay Harbor and a friend of mine from Bowdoin asked us if we’d take him out to Squirrel Island so he could check his family’s cottage there. He said he’d pay us $50 and my father said, “Step aboard Bob. Let’s take him out there, Hank.” Again I told father he’d have to do it by himself. I was certainly not going out in the middle of the storm for anyone. Dad decided he wouldn't go alone.
About a week later, I brought dad’s boat back to its Connecticut port of Stonington, Connecticut. As I cruised past Block Island, Rhode Island, I heard the Coast Guard report this island had reported a gust of 132 mph. I'll never forget damage we saw along the Massachusetts and Rhode Island coastline.
Hurricanes are very dangerous, especially when the combination high winds and storm surge reach an island like Hilton Head. I took a short cruise on my 22-foot boat yesterday on a beautiful sunny afternoon. As I tied my dock lines to secure my MORGAN to our float, I thought of my limited hurricane experience and hoped that Mathew will turn out to sea and go away before he does even more damage to our U.S. coastline. I’ve seen what hurricanes can do.