For new residents of our state the sheer advance warnings to us about “potentially catastrophic” hurricanes should be enough to send us to the grocery and hardware stores to buy out every battery and other non-perishable food item they have on their shelves. For the old timers we get a bit worried and, with an attitude of “Here we go again” set about tidying up things around the house, securing the boats and other vehicles and making sure that we have plenty of gas on hand with plenty of potable water and non-perishable food to see us through the next few days (weeks?).
If we really live in close proximity to the coast we probably have learned from past experiences that we’d best make arrangements to move inland until the danger has past. Either make advance reservations at some motel or beg some space with friends and relatives.
I once very foolishly tried to ride out a medium sized hurricane at our house on the coast and woke up at about one o’clock in the morning when the moderate hurricane winds blew the storm door off the house.Rounding up the two big dogs I jumped into the already packed car and, with the pre-loaded utility trailer behind, started to head west for higher ground.
Turning on the radio to see how things were going with the wind and water to the inland it quickly became evident that there were not many roads open in that direction. Trees were down all along most major roads headed west and the only route west from Aurora was over through New Bern and then head up Rt. 70 toward Kinston and, eventually, Wake County.
Dodging the many downed trees, limbs and flooded low spots in the road I finally got through New Bern and motored west in that long straight stretch of Highway 70 toward Kinston. The winds were probably at 60-70miles per hour and it was raining heavily. I had my dogs, a 4X4 SUV full of supplies and pet dogs and I was beginning to feel a little better about making the trip to home outside Garner.
Just east of Kinston I felt the car suddenly make a violent lurch to the left as the entire left front tire shot past us and disappeared off into the night. The loaded trailer started to jackknife with the car and I suddenly found two big dogs in the front seat with me as I fought to regain control of the car without rolling over or skidding off the road into a tree or deep, water filled ditch.
When the car finally came to rest along the shoulder of the road I just sat there for a few minutes shaking like a leaf. At least the dogs and I were not hurt and the car was disabled and hopefully not seriously damaged. Here I sat beside Highway 70, in the middle of Hurricane Dennis, wind blowing a gale, raining furiously, with two dogs in the car and wondering what to do next.
The what-to-do-next question soon was answered when a knock on my window revealed the outline of a N.C. Highway Patrolman standing out there in the pouring rain and asking if I was OK. He’d been following behind me and witnessed the entire ordeal as it happened.
As part of my hurricane preparedness activities I’d had my tires checked, rotated and balanced at a well-known tire dealer. I’d assumed(never assume things like this, check for yourself) that the tires were properly replaced and lug nuts secured. When the Highway Patrolman and I examined the car it was apparent that the entire tire and rim had come undone and separated from the car and gone its merry way across Highway 70 and off into the night.
The Patrolman called a wrecker, which came out in the middle of the storm and took the dogs and me along with the car to Kinston where we sat in the Exxon station and waited for repairs if that was possible. Luckily the station was in service and well stocked with parts even at that hour of the night in the middle of the storm and by mid-morning I was again underway headed west.
Our house in Garner had a minimal amount of damage and when I did finally find enough passable highways east I returned to Hickory Point to see if anything was left of the house there. The house there was still standing but the yard and everything inside the first floor of the house was a mess. The tidal surge on the lower Pamlico River had brought the highest tides that we had ever seen there and the water had gotten about six inches deep inside the house. It took weeks to get things cleaned up inside the house and the yard cleaned up from the assorted pier parts and other debris that the water had brought from hiding in the surrounding marshes. It’s amazing what the force of moving water has on anything that’s not well secured. Propane gas tanks were re-arranged far from the homes that went with them and docks and loose lumber from the entire lower Pamlico River area were scattered all over Beaufort County.
That was the year that Hurricanes Dennis #1, #2 and Floyd hit us in Eastern North Carolina. The floodwaters from the torrential rains of Hurricane Floyd caused millions of dollars of damage even in the relatively high sections along the river deltas of the east. The Highway 70 delta where the Neuse River runs made a mess of the Kinston area and the Tar-Pamlico River made Greenville into one big lake. A year of hurricanes like that sure made believers from a lot of us that thought that we were Old Timers enough to know what to do in case of disasters like Dennis and Floyd.
I’m headed to Aurora as I write this to get prepared for the worst with Hurricane Irene. I’m going to keep a good ear tuned to the weather reports and advisories and I’m going to secure the house as good as I can, move the boats to higher ground, cut the gas tank off if things look bad and head west before things get really tough. I’m definitely not going to try and ride out another hurricane at our house on the water.