Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

What Came After

So, Hurricane Irene is headed our way. Virginia Beach appears to be in her direct path and we are preparing accordingly. As I have prepped these past few days, I have had another hurricane in my thoughts. More than the storm itself, it is the days and weeks that followed that have been in mind.


Please indulge me a bit as I ramble below the fold.

Hurricane Hugo hit Charleston in September of 1989. I had an apartment in the West Ashely part of town and had paid little heed to the incoming storm. It was not until the local newscaster practically screamed “Get Out Of Your Homes” at the camera that I took notice. It was far too late for me to make any preparations on my own, so I drove out to my folk’s house on the island (one of the sea islands off of Charleston). I won’t bother talkin’ on the storm itself…it was a horrifying experience and we were lucky to come thru it fairly unscathed (uninjured, minimal damage to the house, one car destroyed by one of the 20 plus trees that were felled on their property). What I want to touch on briefly is what it was like AFTER the storm.

Hugo struck in the wee hours…and daylight brought to view an alien landscape. Nothing looked the same…and it never would again. The storm’s winds snapped pine trees like toothpicks. Entire swaths of forest were mown down as though they were but sawgrass. The pines were hardly the only trees to succumb to the winds…stately oaks with a hundred plus years in their rings were brought down as well. Neighbor’s homes were missing roofs…cars were smashed in driveways. Debris was strewn as far as the eye could see in every direction. It was eerily quiet that morning…it was the last time for weeks that it would be quiet during daylight hours. After that first morning, daylight was accompanied by the sounds of chainsaws, woodchippers, hammering, demolition, and clean-up. Gas powered generators could be heard day and night. There were dogs barking. Dogs actually were a bit of problem those first weeks…especially for bleeding hearts like those in my family. We fed 6-8 strays outdoors until they were ‘found’ or picked up by animal control. All roads on the island were blocked (or still underwater) was impossible to get anywhere other than on foot. That first day…all that could be done was to pull on work gloves, grab the chainsaws, and join the neighbors to begin clearing the roads.

The next night a tornado blew thru in the wake of the hurricane. In its way, it was more frightening that the Hurricane itself. It struck in the dark with no warning, catching everyone unawares. Some homes received more damage from the tornado than from Hugo. The skies were weird…the weather was weird…everything just felt ‘off’.

I don’t remember now how many days it took before access to Charleston was possible. In my mind it was WEEKS…in reality it was but a few days. We had no power, no water, no phone service (and this was before cell phones were a common possession). Even once the water was running again, it could only be used for showering. You could not drink it or cook with it because there were so many pine trees down in the reservoirs. It looked and smelled like turpentine. We had to stand on line daily for water…for ice. It was summer in the Lowcountry, hot as hell and thick with humidity, and the lines were long. At first, before the Government got there in full force, people were SELLING the water and ice at crazy prices. Same with generators…truckloads showed up early…300 dollar generators were being sold for 2-3 thousand or auctioned to the highest bidder. At that point in time there were no laws against price gouging. Because of Hugo, there now are (at least in SC). Immediately after the storm the looting was not so bad on the island but North Charleston was hit rather hard. People sat on their porches with guns on their laps guarding their property…guarding their neighborhoods. The National Guard rolled in. Curfew was set. It was like living in another country.

I was 20 years old and had a habit that one does not feed in the light of day. The curfew was dawn to dusk and armed soldiers patrolled the streets. I became a ‘stealth biker’…ducking and dodging local law and the National Guard…always alert for armed folks guarding that what was theirs. It still amazes me that it was easier to feed my habits than it was to get water/ice or ‘freedom’. I guess I would liken it to how so many inmates become addicts IN prison even if they did not enter as one…that sort of thing always finds a way in.

Another thing that was exceedingly evident within the first few days…a lot of critters died. It reeked of death. There was no escaping it. The birds, snakes, squirrels, racoons, unfortunate outdoor pets, possums, you name it…critters died and then set to rot. To add to it were the fish and other water debris that got left behind when the storm surge retreated. It smelled of death for weeks. Inside. Outside. Did not matter where you just sorta got used to it. Bees, wasps, hornets, yellowjackets were EVERYWHERE…all their nests had been disturbed and they were PISSED. Snakes were in places they usually weren’t…and on the island ‘snake’ can mean something innocuous like a garter snake or rat snake…or it can mean rattlesnake, copperhead, or cottonmouth. Lots of cottonmouths.

For weeks, neighborhood streets were lined on both sides by a wall of debris 6ft tall (more in places). It was sorta like driving thru tunnels with openings for individual drive-ways. Even after power, phones, and water were restored…after roads were cleared and stores beginning to run normal hours again…it looked like a war zone. The clean-up took weeks..months. I did not stick around to see it through. I left the Lowcountry. Abandoned my apt still furnished (with a refrigerator full of rot). Just grabbed my personal items….some clothes….and left. It was the beginning of a very long rough stretch of my life…though, at the time, it was a relief. But, that, my friends…is a whole ‘nother story.

So, I’ve spent the past couple days preppin’ for Irene. Using lessons learned from Hugo to guide my actions. While Virginia Beach is smack in her path, I do not believe we will have near the disaster that Hugo wrought. Our home is on the Pungo Ridge…flooding is unlikely. We long ago had the pine trees that could have struck house or drive-way cleared from our property (I don’t trust pine trees). We already own a small generator. I begin filling 2-liters with water at the beginning of every Hurricane season (using them to water plants/dogs at the end of the season) so, we already have plenty of drinking water stockpiled. Our cupboards are well stocked. All laundry is clean. All propane and unleaded gas tanks filled. Yard and exterior of house cleared of anything that might be picked up and launched by winds. Grass mowed extra short. All meds (for two-leggers AND four leggers) in supply. Fresh batteries in everything. Candles and flashlights in every room. Bucket in each bathroom to use pool water to flush (in case we lose water). The only habit I need to feed now requires a pair of running shoes (or blades)…so I am set there too. And, even though it has only been 20 years or so since Hugo struck, we are a more connected society. ‘Help’ will arrive more quickly…access via cell phones mean that everyone will be up to date/in the know…and the lessons learned from Hugo (and Andrew and Katrina) should benefit us.

Dunno why I am writing this. Is probably just as an outlet for stress relief. As I watch the news, read the blogs, and follow the Hurricane tracking charts…one thing has become quite clear to me.

The Hurricane itself does not scare me.

What can come after does.


  1. Kysen

    I am expecting that we will be sans power come Saturday night. Depending on the damage/debris, we could be off anywhere from a few hours to a week or more.

    I hope that all Moose along the Northeast Coast have prepared wisely. I hope all remain safe.

    We have a couple of friends coming over to stay it out with us. Friends who are near and dear enough that if we are holed up for a week it will not drive us insane.  😉

    When my wife gets home from work tonight…we are going out to dinner…then to Home Depot for one last look thru (think I might buy a couple more tarps just in case). Our friends arrive tomorrow am…and then it is just wait and see.

    On the political front, I hope Obama does this right. I hope that he proves himself a better leader than Bush when faced with a ‘historic’ storm. I’m glad he cut his vacation short, it is a good first sign that he will handle himself well as this natural disaster unfolds.

    Prepare well and be safe, Moose.

  2. spacemanspiff

    … stay safe bro.

    You will be in my prayers.

    Big hug and a lot of good vibes (and love) being sent your way. :~)

    – Alejandro

  3. …the most evocative description of the post hurricane havoc I’ve ever read , not to mention the hints of an amazing personal narrative underneath.

    I had to flee Hurricane Floyd ten years ago while on vacation on Hilton Head ten years ago. Amazing scenes of both lanes of the freeway travelling the same direction – west – with cars loaded up with everything, critters, furniture. The solidarity of people during a crisis. The humour. The panic. The selfishness. The selflessness.

    Can’t imagine a safer place to be though, than with you and your SO, during such a storm

  4. Rashaverak

    I don’t trust pine trees

    I don’t trust them, either.  My neighbors have huge ones, on both sides of my very long driveway.  The pines are infected with pine-bark beetles.  Many are dying.  They snap like toothpicks in strong winds.  If it were up to me, I would clear-cut all of them.  I’m tired of having to deal with them with the chain saw when they come down… especially during snow storms that bring heavy, wet snow.

    So far, here in northern Maryland, we have had some rain, but no real winds yet.

  5. Kysen

    we just got power back…we are tired, hot, sticky, and praising the pure genius of Mr. Willis Haviland Carrier.

    We lost power at the very tail end of the storm’s stay here in VA…probably because we too early bragged on NOT having lost power.  😉

    Lots and lots and lots of rain…our backyard was a lake, the sheet of water stretched from one fenceline to the other (including straight over the pool). We lost one Leyland Cypress (tipped right over, root ball torn right up from the ground) and LOTS of limbs/branches from the rest of the trees on the property.

    No damage to home or vehicles (or, most importantly, to the people ridin’ out the storm here).

    Va Bch got lucky, again. I see it as a blessing and a curse. My reasons for seeing it as a blessing are obvious. My reason for seeing it as a curse is that it feeds the level of complacency/nonchalance (and general lack of respect) for Hurricanes that this area suffers from. Next time a monster storm is blowin’ our way…far too many people will shrug it off with “yeah, yeah, yeah…remember Irene? I’m not gonna worry about it”.

    One of these days this area is gonna get rocked and it ain’t gonna be pretty. It is only a matter of when.

    Hope that everyone is well (Spiff? Happy? Denise? DTO? Who are the other Moose who were in Irene’s path?).

  6. fogiv

    andrew bird has made a lovely song of his Twistable Turnable Man, and it’s been in my head the last few days.  must exorcise on moose:

    He’s the Twistable Turnable Squeezable Pullable

    Stretchable Foldable Man.

    He can crawl in your pocket or fit your locket

    Or screw himself into a twenty-volt socket,

    Or stretch himself up to the steeple or taller,

    Or squeeze himself into a thimble or smaller,

    Yes he can, course he can,

    He’s the Twistable Turnable Squeezable Pullable

    Stretchable Shrinkable Man.

    And he lives a passable life

    With his Squeezable Lovable Kissable Hugable

    Pullable Tugable Wife.

    And they have two twistable kids

    Who bend up the way that they did.

    And they turn and they stretch

    Just as much as they can

    For this Bendable Foldable


    Easily moldable

    Buy-what you’re-soldable

    Washable Mendable

    Highly Dependable

    Buyable Saleable

    Always available

    Bounceable Shakeable

    Almost unbreakable

    Twistable Turnable Man.

  7. fogiv

    if god called on both bachmann and perry to run for POTUS, isn’t the big guy lying to one of them?  god must really dislike mitt romney, eh?

  8. fogiv

    on the way home from work, stopped at an intersection, i noticed a man and young boy waiting for the light to change.  the man was probably late 40s/early 50s, missing a great many teeth, and dirty.  the boy was maybe 5 or 6, but hard to tell — so small and so thin. clothes dirty and ill fitting. he had a sort of blocky choppiness to his hair, as if haircuts were performed by knife, rather than scissors. they were obviously homeless.  the man — haggard, weary, and wary — held carefully onto a leash he had fastened to a doll-sized, dirty backpack the boy wore.

    i only made it about a block before i started to cry.  i am still deeply shaken. i don’t even know why i am writing this down.  sometimes i don’t even know what to think.

  9. Rashaverak

    and got it back at 8:30 A.M. on Tuesday morning.  Our utility, Baltimore Gas & Electric, did a good job, considering the magnitude of the devastation.  At the peak, about 500,000 people in the utility’s service area were without power.  BG&E’s nuclear plant at Calvert Cliffs, Maryland, on the Chesapeake Bay, shut down when a piece of aluminum siding blew off of a house and shorted out a transformer.

    Our land-line telephone (from Verizon) kept a dial tone throughout.

    Cable television and Internet access was another story.  They came back for about an hour on Friday afternoon, and then went out again.  They came back for good on Saturday afternoon.  So, it was a week without the Internets.  It was Comcastic!

    We had a lot of oak leaves and branches come down, and two dead pines snapped in half over near the property line.  They are offspring of pines on the property of one of my neighbors (neighbor A).  Neighbor A lost 25 trees.  His trees, nearly all big pines, have a serious problem with pine-bark beetles.  Two if his came down across my driveway.  Happily, he got to them with his chain saw before I got down there.

    Neighbor A relies on Comcast for cable television, Internet access, and telephone service.  So, his telephone was out for practically an entire week, along with the television and Internet service.

    I did have to take down another neighbor’s (B’s) tree, on the other side of the driveway, that was leaning across, tent-poled onto one of Neighbor A’s pines.  The hickory’s root system could not support the tree, which had been growing at an angle, reaching for the light, after the ground got saturated.

    Neighbor B is elderly, and though fit, the hickory was a bit more than I wanted him to have to deal with.

    This past week, we lost power again, for five hours, due to trees coming down after the ground again got saturated with 12 inches of rain from the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee.

    The stream that runs through our property was carrying an enormous amount of Lee water… even more than during Irene.  The water level is still much higher than it normally is.

    We take modern conveniences like electricity and Internet access for granted, until we don’t have them.

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