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Off The Beaten Path

With Jack Armistead


Playing “Dodge Ball” is not always fun - especially when you are dodging hurricanes.

I send prayers and complete recovery wishes to all friends and family members who have felt the recent brunt of Hurricane Harvey (Texas and Louisianna) and Hurricane Irma (The entire state of Florida).

My first encounter with a hurricane was when I was nine-years-old. I remember being amazed as I looked out the window of my West Ghent home into the ravaging scene of Hurricane Hazel. Hazel was a Category Four Hurricane that came ashore in North Carolina in October, 1954. It ended up bringing hurricane force winds as far north as Canada. It passed 95 miles to the east of Charleston, South Carolina and made landfall near the North Carolina and South Carolina border. According to news accounts then, it brought a record 18-foot storm surge at Calabash, North Carolina. Wind gusts up to 150 miles an hour were reported in some parts of North Carolina and 100 mile an hour gusts followed in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and New York. The storm left over 600 people dead and damages were said to have exceeded $350 million in U.S. dollars at that time.

After the storm finished its fury in Norfolk and continued on its path of destruction, Taylor School buddy Robert Lankford and I went around the neighborhood to look at multiple downed trees. Most of the trees were huge. Thetoppled trees crushed numerous cars and downed power lines and smashed houses throughout the city. It was a sight we would never forget.

In the summer of 1960, Hurricane Donna made a landfall at Topsail Island, North Carolina. Donna’s top (ocean) wind gusts were reported to be between 175 and 200 miles per hour. Once again Norfolk was torn up as the storm continued its destruction moving into New England. Her 13-foot storm surge left 50 people dead along her path.

There have been several other hurricanes I have witnessed striking Norfolk including Isabel, which I saw ravage West Ghent and all of Norfolk in September of 2003. Trees were down, live wires were ashing and many homes were heavily damaged.

So, we are dodging storms in another hurricane season. This year I hope we are the winners.

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