Monday, August 18, 2008

Hurricane Evacuations

The Eastpointer

Hurricane Evacuations

Richard E. Noble

A while back when I was covering the county commission meetings, an elderly woman from Apalach stood up and attempted to explain to all the listeners why it was that folks who work in the seafood industry are reluctant to leave town even when a hurricane is approaching. My wife and I have been two of those people.
We weathered most of the storms that struck in this area in our little mobile home. We slept on the floor over at Hobo's Ice Cream Parlor, when we owned it during one storm. We hauled our mattress from home and a bunch of blankets. My wife even had her favorite pillow. It blew pretty hard and it was mighty scary. We didn't sleep much that evening – even with our favorite pillows.
To be very honest for the most part we never left because we didn't have the money. Even twenty years ago, it cost fifty or sixty dollars to stay in a motel. We had no friends or relatives in the area we could visit. It didn't make much sense to us to be up in some forest or parked sleeping in our car north of Eastpoint in a hurricane. So we took our chances and sat it out. I have no difficulty associating with those "po" folks in Mississippi and hurricane Katrina. In our day we would have been right up on that bridge with the rest of them.
We left during only one storm. They were predicting over 150 mile an hour winds. Our new friend Ronald the Redneck had invited us up to his place in northern Florida if it ever got bad. So we gave old Ronald a call and he said, "Sure, come on up!"
I think Ronald made the offer in the spirit of generosity but was surprised when we took him up on it. But surprise or no surprise we got the royal treatment up at Ronald's place. He took us all over town. We met all his friends and relatives. We even went over to a buddy of his and watched them make cane syrup. Ronald's wife was one of the best home cooks I have ever met. I had food that I never experienced before - like deep-fried corn bread and chicken fried steak and gravy. I'll never forget it.
The hurricane landed and we watched it on TV every chance we got. I remember Ronald being curious about our concerns. He had a nice home and lots of possessions. He was aware that we lived in an old Airstream travel trailer parked on our lot on a bed of oyster shells with a septic, a light pole and our oyster boat out back - that was it. Finally he said, "You folks are so worried and you really don't have all that much to lose."
I said, "It may not seem like much to you, but it is all we got to us."
I know Ronald liked that answer because from then on that is what he told any of his neighbors who asked what we were doing up there. "They are running away from that hurricane. They don't know yet but they may have lost all they got." Most of his neighbors were impressed by that remark because they knew how devastated they would be if they lost "all they got." None of them knew how little all we had was.
One of the most interesting things about being away during a hurricane was watching the news. The news reporters, understandably, go to a spot that looks the most devastated to them and they start filming. "And here we are out in front of this devastated building. As you can plainly see the hurricane has taken its toll."
The trouble with that scenario in our case was that most of Eastpoint looked like a hurricane had struck it before any hurricane ever landed. The news media was on the Eastpoint waterfront taking pictures of the dilapidated oyster houses that had been dilapidated for the last 50 years. They were constructed dilapidated. They were built by Dilapidation Construction Inc.
My wife and I kept staring at the TV trying to figure out where the devastation was. We saw on TV the dealer house that we sold our oysters to and the only difference was the depth of the water and the waves crashing over the rickedy dock. There was nothing damaged at all as far as we could see. In fact after that storm, all the Dealers collected their insurance money and the shoreline in Eastpoint got a face lift. It had never looked so good before in its entire history. I wondered at that time, why they built such nice expensive buildings right along the water's edge. The dumple-down old oyster shacks and rickety unloading docks made more sense to me. Our recent hurricane Dennis I think has reaffirmed my contention.
I know this does not conform to "conventional" wisdom but if you are going to build your house on a railroad track, cheap and shoddy might be just what the Doctor ordered.

Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother, Hobo-ing America and A Summer with Charlie are books written by Richard E. Noble. They are all for sale on Richard Noble is a freelance writer and has been a resident of Eastpoint for 30 years. If you would like to stock his books in your store or business e-mail him at