Saturday, September 18, 2010

Hurricane Donna

Igor. Now that is a great name for a hurricane.

Donna?---not so much.

But there was a time when that name evoked great fear in Florida. That was 50 years ago last week and I was a  little girl. Donna set a record for remaining a major hurricane (Category 3 or more) for nine days. At one point, it was a Category 5.


When my dad heard that the storm had knocked over the airport control tower in Fort Myers and observed our small wood-frame house was already shaking, he decided our family might be safer elsewhere. We went to a concrete-block motel in town to ride out the storm. It turned out to be more of a mop out the storm, as the water swept in under the door all night. I remember how the wind howled and we watched out the window as the large, neon motel sign bowed back and forth in the wind, along with some palms. The lights went off and on all night. Each time they went off, my little brother would turn on his tiny little flashlight he kept ready in his hand. It was a long, miserable night but we were safe when it was over. My brother remembers that the wooden door had finally absorbed all the water it could and was swollen shut. We had to climb out the window.

Our car was fine and we drove as close to the house as we could before the debris blocked the road. We walked the rest of the way. Though many branches and a couple of trees were on the house, it was structurally sound. Many were not so fortunate.

As a slow moving storm, it dumped over a dozen inches of rain over much of Florida that had already been saturated by a previous system. Over 360 people were killed by Hurricane Donna and the damage figure ran almost to a billion dollars.  Because of its devastating impact and the high mortality associated with the hurricane, the name Donna was retired, and will never again be used for an Atlantic hurricane.

My parents have remained in the same house, though they have remodeled it several times. The family never again evacuated  and the house has continued to withstand many hurricanes.

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