As I sit and peck on my iPad, the wind is beginning to blow, and the rain just started playing pitter pat on the windows. Hurricane Laura makes landfall tonight.
We’re 3 1/2 hours drive from the beach, but hurricanes are non-discriminatory storms, especially the wind. We’re lucky though. We’re west of the hurricane’s eye, the less destructive side.
Even so, trees will come down. Electricity will flicker, then fail.
Tomorrow afternoon the rain will wane, the wind will pucker out, and everyone will get on with things.
Growing up on the Gulf Coast in Angleton, Texas, floods, tropical storms, hurricanes, they’re just part of life. Tonight reminded me of a hurricane back in college, Hurricane Alisha, 1983.
I worked full time back then at the Brazoria County Juvenile Detention facility on the night shift. The most important part of the job was staying awake. Seriously. Fall asleep, you get fired. That’s when I learned to drink coffee!
Since there was little to do on the night shift, the chief officer encouraged me to study since I was also a full time college student. I studied 4 or 5 hours a night while getting paid. What a racket!!
Anyway, in August of 1983 Hurricane Alisha formed in the Gulf. I volunteered to help answer the county phones sharing the latest information and evacuation instructions.
It was busy! Almost 48 hours without sleep busy! Death would’ve felt like a reward.
My cousin and his wife had just bought a new house and were on vacation. They couldn’t make it back, so I stayed to watch their house during the storm.
Hurricane Alisha was going to be a direct hit in our area. I boarded the windows I could, taped the rest. The storm was supposed to make landfall about midnight.
At 8:00 PM, I settled in and turned on the TV. The electricity would go off in a couple of hours, if not sooner, just like every other hurricane.
A movie I naively wanted to see was coming on, The Exorcist!
Before watching it for the first, and only time, I’d been looking forward to staying by myself in the middle of the hurricane! What an adventure!
But after watching Linda Blair’s head spin around and see her stuck on the ceiling, the long night ahead seemed terrifying!!
Who was the cruel dude who decided to play The Exorcist right before a hurricane blew into town??!!
I was exhausted, alone, and about to be in the dark all night long in a hurricane after watching a horror movie.
Son of an Einstein! Not smart! But then, I’ve seldom been accused of smart!
The lights flickered a few times, but stayed on until The Exorcist was over at 10:00 PM. Right after the movie finished, the lights flickered one last time, and went off.
I reached for the flashlight, but the light was dim. Holy mother of Sponge Bob! The flashlight was so bright when I checked it in the daylight!
The winds picked up, and I about jumped out of my britches when someone’s trash can clattered from blowing into the neighbor’s fence!
As the wind gathered more strength, there were cracking sounds, like tree limbs breaking, or maybe, maybe it was the house rafters!!?
I started imagining the roof blowing in on me, and then, an evil figure from The Exorcist, one that was lurking right outside in the dark, pouncing on top of me!
I was as jumpy as a kangaroo on a trampoline!
A tin can blew into the front wall. It sounded like a creature with long talons scratching at the bricks, searching to break in and suck out my gall bladder!
The never ending thunder, lightening flashes, and constant whistle of wind blowing kept reminding me of the movie I’d just watched.
With no warning, goosebumps would roll up my spine, then hair on the back of my neck would stick out like an angry porcupine about to shoot its quills!
It didn’t take long for the flashlight to burn out. Then, the whole house was just black, foreboding, dangerously dark!
My palms were sweaty, mouth dry, and every cell of my body was crying out for sleep. My imagination though would have none of it! My imagination was in high gear and gaining speed!
Jeff, you’re all by yourself in this hurricane! Jeff, whatever you do, don’t look in the closet! Jeff….don’t go to the restroom. Who knows what’s under the commode lid?!
Finally, but only for a few minutes, my body won.
At 11:45 PM I laid down in the hallway by the front door, away from the windows in a desperate need for sleep! I immediately dozed off.
When I woke up, I was sitting straight up in the hallway! Cold water was pelting me, with drops hitting my cheeks that felt like miniature darts! The front door was wide open!!
Gushy pelts of air kept me off balance, and 100 mph wind gusts whistled through!
Terrified, I sat frozen, staring outside the door. I was breathing heavy, expecting to see the ominous figure burst inside!
I glanced at my watch. 12:00, midnight!!! Not 11:59 PM. Not 12:01 AM. Straight up MIDNIGHT!!
My gall bladder quivered. I’ve never been more scared in life!
Jesus, please come take me home…. NOW!!
I jumped up and battled the wind to close the door. This time I latched the deadbolt, not just the door knob that gave way to wind pressure. For good measure I leaned a chair against the door knob for extra strength.
I didn’t sleep a wink the rest of the night! Not. A. Wink!
About 3:00 AM, I opened the back door, opposite the wind flow, and stared up at the incredible, aqua blue and black storming night sky. Lightening was in every cloud, at every level. It flashed and twinkled more beautifully than anything I’ve ever seen in the sky before, or since.
Somehow, the storm itself brought soothing comfort, and dulled the terror of a horror movie. Even the sound of Hurricane Alisha’s whistling winds became comforting. It was as if the hurricane, while flexing its powerful muscles of wind and rain, was also beckoning, calmly saying, “Relax. Do not resist me, and you shall peacefully pass through my mighty terror.”
There’s something about the enchanting danger of a hurricanes that moves the senses.
Maybe it’s just an awe of nature’s awesome power, power that man cannot conquer. Maybe it’s a refreshing reminder of how small we really are.
Maybe it’s just a hurricane’s destructive beauty, flowing like angel and bat wings at the same time, whirling against each other, battling in the midst of the storm. Maybe it’s just me.
I don’t know.
I do know it’s time for bed now, now as the hurricane is about to make landfall.
Tonight, in this storm, I plan to sleep soundly and rest through the night. I respect the storm, but do not fear it.
See you in the morning, Hurricane Laura.