Athens Review, Athens, Texas

September 10, 2012

Having hurricanes approach remind me of my childhood

Kathi Nailling
The Athens Review

Athens — It's hurricane season, and it sounds like it may be a busy one. Hurricane Michael is currently a tropical storm in the Atlantic Ocean. 

I remember when they only named hurricanes after women. Never did understand that one. Glad to see they gave men equal rights.

Growing up in  Florida, I lived through many warnings, and one big hurricane “Donna.”  I grew up in Jacksonville Beach. We were spared most of the damage Donna created.

If my memory doesn't fail me I think Donna hit around 1960. It was a very scary time for us that lived near a beach. The ocean has an angry appearance when a hurricane hits land fall.

This is what Wikipedia says about Hurricane Donna “Hurricane Donna in the 1960 Atlantic Hurricane  season was a Cape Verde-type hurricane which moved across the Leesward Islands, Puerto Rico Hispaniol and Cuba, the Bahamas and every state on the East Coast of the United States. Hurricane Donna holds the record for retaining major hurricane status (Category 3 or greater on the Saffir Simpson Hurricane Scale) in the Atlantic Basis for the longest period of time. For nine days, September 2 to September 11, Donna consistently has maximum sustained winds of at least 115 mph. From the time it became a tropical depression to when it dissipated, after becoming an extratropical storm. Donna roamed the Atlantic from August 29 to September 14, a total of 17 days. While crossing the Atlantic, Donna briefly achieved Category 5 strength.”

Jacksonville faired better than most Florida cities. The city received the high winds and rain, but not the damage the rest of the state and other states endured. That storm some did over $387 million in damage. Over 50 million people were affected by Donna. In 1960, $387 million was a major amount of money.

“Deadly Donna,” as she became known, did her destruction. The name Donna was retired forever.  Hurricane Dora crossed my path in 1964.   The only hurricane to have a direct hit on Jacksonville Beach, Fla. was that one. She forever changed the landscape of the beach.

Jacksonville Beach was not in the direct path of Donna.

But, Dora is a much different story. Dora hit Jacksonville Beach head on.

Dora was not intense as Donna, but just as frightening for a young girl. Dora did the damage to Jacksonville Beach that Donna failed to do.

I remember Dora like it was yesterday.

My parents had an argument the day Dora was scheduled to hit landfall. My mother decided to take my little sister, Maureen, and I to a motel on the beach for the night. We were pretty excited to get to stay in a motel. Not something I can ever remember doing.

Back then, there weren't any big hotels. These were all little motels. You remember the motels that were all one story, and had pools surrounded by a chain link fence.

Okay, not a great motel, but we were going to stay with my mother in a motel on the beach. Maureen and I could not hide our excitement.

We lived about five or six blocks from the beach. My mother walked Maureen and myself to the motel. When standing in the lobby, while my mother talked to the desk clerk, a weather bulletin came on the television. Dora was scheduled to hit landfall later that night.  As my sister and I stood there watching the TV, I could hear the large waves crashing into the seawall. It was right out of a horror movie.

Only for the grace of God, my mother heard the weather forecast, and decided we would be safer at our home.

Someone was looking after us that night. The motel we were to spend the night in was completely destroyed by Dora. My mother  was very devout in her faith, and  said prayers thanking god for sparing us. I have so many memories from that one night.

When that storm left the area the seawall along the beach area had completely been destroyed. The city replaced the wall with large granite-type bolder rocks.  Dora did damage in access of $280 million. In today's standards that would be equivalent to $2 billion.

Whenever I hear a hurricane is heading for landfall, it always brings me back to the night at the little motel in Jacksonville Beach, Fla.

My mother died in 1964 of cancer. When I think about her, I often think of that night in the little motel and how she prevented us from being hurricane statistics.

If you have never had the experience of living through a major hurricane, you may not know what fear really is. I lived through a lot, but the night Dora hit Jacksonville Beach may have been one of the scariest nights of my life.

There are days I miss living near a beach. What I don't miss are storms that came along with the beautiful view of the ocean rushing to shore.

Kathi Nailling is a Staff Writer for the Athens Daily Review.