22 Elul 5781
I was born in Houston, Texas in January 1954 - 2nd generation Houstonian and 5th generation Texan. My ancestors bypassed the United States and immigrated to the Republic of Texas, some while it was still part of Mexico. Growing up as I did on the Texas Gulf Coast, I heard the stories about the unnamed Hurricane of 1900 that completely submerged Galveston Island and left 6000 dead in its wake. They tried to dump the bodies in the sea but the tide washed them up again and so they had to be burned in pyres. I had a morbid fascination with hurricanes from an early age - that raw, uncontrollable power of God!
I can still clearly remember the events surrounding the arrival of Hurricane Carla in 1961. Daddy set up a "weather station" at one of the windows where we watched the trees bending over nearly in half from the force of the wind while electrical lines snapped and popped with sparks. I was hooked. From that time on, every year I mailed off a letter to the local weather bureau requesting a hurricane tracking map and I would listen to the weather reports on the radio or tv and plot the coordinates of all the storms each season.
We were lucky. Except for Tropical Storm Claudette in 1979 which brought us 29 inches of rain in 24 hours, the flood waters just reaching to our front doorstep, we escaped the notice of the hurricanes. That changed in 1983. Hurricane Alicia arrived in full force about 3 am. Although we were 35 miles inland, the winds in our area reached 90 mph. I had put my four babies to sleep on a pallet on the floor of the closet under the stairs of our 1 1/2-story house. It would supposedly protect them from any uprooted trees that might fall through the roof or from projectiles should the roof blow off.
The terrifying sounds of a hurricane cannot be appreciated unless you've experienced it first hand. The roar of the wind can be deafening. You can't hear the person next to you speaking. And it goes on relentlessly for hours on end. When night falls, you can hear crashing and banging outside but with the electricity out and heavy cloud cover blocking any light from above, you can't see anything outside until daylight reveals the damage. The worst part for me was the aftermath - the week without electricity. No air conditioning, not even a fan to run during the August heat and humidity. Our freezer had been full of beef from a cow my father-in-law had raised on his Louisiana land. It all spoiled. There was no way to save it as no one else had electricity either. The blown down and broken limbs were piled head-high up and down the roadsides for blocks and blocks. As the days became weeks, it turned into dry tinder and I was afraid some crazy person would drive by and pitch a match on it. It would have been a conflagration, but God had mercy and that did not happen.
I left the Gulf Coast area in 1986 and never really looked back, but I've never forgotten what it feels like to ride out a hurricane. There's nothing quite like it to show you that human beings have no real control. It really teaches you to pray, because you understand that God is the only One who can do anything about it. It's a lesson for life.