Hurricane fascination: Living on the Gulf Coast, storms remain etched in our minds forever
Jun 20, 2015 | 2:00 pm
So for Houston, Tropical Storm Bill turned out to be a dud. Good. That’s how we like em'. But deep down, I gotta admit, I was a little disappointed.
For reasons unknown, hurricanes have always fascinated me. As a kid growing up in Beaumont, a hurricane warning was thrilling. It created instant excitement and anticipation. The kind you felt right before school let out for summer or on Christmas Eve.
When we got there though, there was nothing but gray slab wiped clean as a plate. It was my first close up of what a hurricane could do.
Before Hurricane Carla hit in 1961, Mama stocked up on canned goods and filled the bathtub with water while her four children ran around like wild hogs. The category 4 hurricane made landfall miles away at Matagorda Island, but by next morning, it had delivered a whole new playground for us kids.
The streets were flooded, filling yards right up to the houses. We borrowed cousin Bill’s boat from next door and paddled around the neighborhood for hours. It was a world we’d never seen before, and everything looked different. Houses sat like ducks on a pond and water moccasins moved across like satin ribbons falling in mid-air.
A week later, we all loaded into the station wagon and Daddy drove us 50 miles south to Bolivar Peninsula. We rented a beach house there every summer and we wanted to see what the place looked like. Driving west on Highway 87 felt really like walking through a tunnel. Walls of sand stood so high on either side you couldn’t see the Gulf of Mexico or anything in between.
We maneuvered around refrigerators, a commode and God knows what else. From Rollover Fish Pass, Daddy used the odometer to find the house, 1 and ½ miles further. When we got there though, there was nothing but gray slab wiped clean as a plate. It was my first close up of what a hurricane could do.
Adventurous to foolish
A few years later our boat ride through the neighborhood turned from adventurous to foolish. The day before a tropical storm hit, my oldest brother and his friend strapped their surfboards on top of the car and headed for Bolivar. I rode in the back seat feeling gleeful that my brother, had finally said, “Alright! Get in.”
The Gulf of Mexico that day is still vivid in my mind like looking at a black and white photograph.
The Gulf of Mexico that day is still vivid in my mind like looking at a black and white photograph. From the bluff where I was sitting, the picture was both frightening and mesmerizing.
The whole ocean was swollen, wind pushing water the color of gunmetal and my brother and his friend the size of sand fleas fighting under-tow to catch a wave. All this energy beneath a kaopectate sky. There was no fear on their faces, only mine, but I’m pretty sure all three of us left the beach that day feeling humble.
A lot of things were different then. There was a lot less concrete in the world for one and the wetlands went for miles. Our neighborhood including the bayou was an open playground. Cattails grew taller than fence posts along the road to Bolivar where clams dotted the shoreline in pastels and crabs scurried everywhere. Horny-toads were plentiful too. Fascinating to a 10-year old as much as they are now.
Considering there was no place for water to drain, we dodged a bullet with Tropical Storm Bill. If it had flooded clean up into the yard though, it wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world. I might have pulled out the pirogue from the garage and paddled around for a while.