Tuesday, September 23, 2008


It may be tacky to reminisce about another hurricane in the wake of the devastation of Hurricane Ike, but the older I get, the better perspective I have, and Hurricane Hugo becomes a more prominent event in my life than I ever assumed at the time. I have written copiously about it in the past, so I have purged much of the fire in me about the hurricane and its personal aftermath. I will not go into it much here.

Hugo hit 19 years ago as a slightly weakened category four hurricane. We feared it might be a full five when it struck Charleston, but we were relatively fortunate. As it was, the storm was so powerful, it crossed the capitol city of Columbia in the center of the state with nearly as much force as when it initially made landfall.

Hugo caused $ 7 billion in damage to South Carolina. It was the most expensive natural disaster to hit the United States at the time. Now, it is oly the sixth most expensive, which is all you need to know about how rotten the last two decades have been.

Many of our apocalypse obsessed Christians howled full blast the storm was a Sign of the End—clear evidence of God’s judgment. It was hard to dispute the argument. I lived far inland, but we were still without power for days. I recall the day after getting in the car and riding through my tiny hometown to gawk at the damage. The place looked like a war zone. Trees had fallen on house and cars everywhere. Power lines were down. But there was no one out and about, save for the occasional morbid sightseers like us.

We returned home, cooked our best frozen foods before it was too late, and sat in the dark until bedtime. I do not remember how long we kept up that routine, but it was the better part of a week before got any electricity. My parents headed off to Myrtle Beach to gauge the damage at our beach house. We were wiped out, but so was Myrtle Beach. We spent a year rebuilding that place, but it was never the same and neither was thecity. It became less a family vacation spot than a yuppie haven for golfers. I never cared for golf.

The economy was wrecked, so my father’s car business was wrecked right along with it. He crawled into a bottle and never crawled back out. My parents divorced and the rest, as the wise men say, is history.

The fascinating part of it all-bitterly fascinating, I should say—is how a hurricane works. For those at the eye of the storm, it can be a life altering, devastating experience. For the last people to experience its remnants, it is merely an inconvenient drizzle of rain. Someone more Zen than I am would probably make the analogy of a butterfly flapping its wing in the united states causes a typhoon in China, but somehow the idea has never filled me with any sense of enlightenment. I am personally amused the character of Hugo on Lost suffers a continual strain of supernatural bad luck , if that counts for anything.

But hey, a local printer started making “I Survived Hugo” tee shirts and made a bundle, so it was not a total loss. South Carolinians are gutsy folk who can survive anything. I did not need some overpriced rag of a tee shirt to remind me of that. But somehow, this song still seems eerily appropriate:

1 comment:

Don said...

This was one of your best to date. Kansas did a nice job of finishing it off for you!