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Thread: Recollections of Disasters

  1. #1
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
    Feb 2004
    on my 15 minute break

    Recollections of Disasters

    Quote Originally posted by Bear Up North View post
    Last week was the 30th anniversary of the "Blizzard of 1978".
    Thanks for the reminder, Bear.

    The Blizzard of 1967 was no slouch either, but 1978 will always be the benchmark by which blizzards in Michigan are measured. The morning it hit I recall being woken up by my mother who informed me that school was cancelled that day (and ended up being cancelled for over a week!) and I asked "so why are you waking me up?" and she answered tersely providing no more explanation than "after you've eaten breakfast you need to grab a snow shovel". My father happened to be working in Warsaw, IN when the blizzard hit and was stranded there at a manufacturing plant (he eventually made his way to an employees house in the area who had a snowmobile). I remember me and my brother opening the garage door with great difficulty. A large snow drift had formed along the length of the front of our house and only about two inches of daylight was visible near the top of the garage door. We gave up on shoveling that day after realizing that there was 1) nowhere to put the snow; 2) there was no street to drive on even if we did manage to clear the driveway; 3) it was clear that it was going to just keep snowing and snowing and anything we would have shoveled would have been buried under several more feet of snow during the next 3 days.

    The Good: During this crisis the community came together as it never had before or since. At our house we lost power for only a day and a half but managed to keep our (gas) heat, but folks with heating oil furnaces were screwed when/if they ran out that week. A family of five down the street ran out during this time and we put them up for a night. Groceries were another big problem – even the big stores were unable to open their doors for business for several days and once they were able to open only had the barest skeleton crews. I heard eight people who happened to live within walking distance were running the local Meijers (which normally has scores of staff on the floor and cash registers). Many folks who owned snowmobiles volunteered to help out their neighbors and would buy items at the grocery store.

    The Bad: The blizzard of 78 claimed over 50 lives and a couple of them were local. Most of the fatalities were the elderly who lost heat/power and stranded motorists.

    The Ugly: Some of the folks who were able to make it to the grocery stores once they were able to open started hoarding items and since no restocking was possible things like milk and eggs quickly became memories. It also turned out that not everyone who owned a snowmobile had a good heart – several area businesses got looted during this time using snowmobiles to make their haul/getaway.

    What are your recollections of natural (or other) disasters?
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  2. #2
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
    Mar 2007
    Lowering the PCI in the Hills
    Counting back nine months from my birthday, its very possible that one could blame the Blizzard of '78 for my presence here on this earth.

    As I was finishing up a deployment with the 26th MEU through the Mediterranean (with about 3 months spent in Kosovo) we had arrived in Spain to prepare for our trans-Atlantic journey home. A couple days later a massive earthquake struck in Izmit, Turkey and we were turned around and sent out to respond. We spent most of the time setting up tents and providing shelter and food for those who were displaced and it was really a heartbreaking experience to have the actual smell of death in the air at all times and to see the look on the faces of those who had lost literally everything they had ever owned or ever known.

    It seemed like it was constantly a bazillion degrees out there so we would commonly be doing a lot of our work without our camouflage blouses on. The kids who were hanging around loved the tattoos that many of us had on our forearms so somebody got the idea of getting a couple Magic Markers out and giving the kids tattoos of their own. The children absolutely loved them, we enjoyed the break from the rest of the work and giving the tattoos (some of the Marines were actually pretty darned good at it, even with a Magic Marker), and then there were the Turkish adults - who were horrified. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted!

    About a month after all of that, I was back home at Camp Lejeune, NC when Hurricane Floyd came through in September of 1999. The base allowed everybody to leave for a few days but unfortunately, I worked at the II MEF Command Center and we had to be staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And since I had no family there in town with me, I was one of the two lower level Marines who were voluntold that they would take alternating 12 hour shifts for what turned out to be about 8 days straight. Power went out pretty quickly on the base but our office was built like a fortress, had multiple generators, and never lost power. I recall hooking up a play station to one of the massive television screens used for video conferencing and playing hour upon hour of Madden football with the other Lance Corporal and a Major and Master Sergeant who were also stuck on duty over the same extended period.

    At one point we were watching the Weather Channel on TV and they had a crew reporting live from Topsail Island, NC (just south of Camp Lejeune and north of Wilmington) and they were showing a few houses getting washed right into the Atlantic Ocean... one of the houses that they showed getting washed away belonged to the Major who was on duty with us (his family had safely left town a day or two earlier); I had never seen a grown man fight so hard to hold back tears.

    On a lighter note, before the storm got too strong, a couple of the Marines from one the SCIF in our building (who also had to work through the storm) showed up at our office with a case of Milwaukee's Best and invited us out onto the tiny little pier in front of our building in the New River. We drank that case and stumbled back up the pier, through the waves that were by now washing well over the dilapidated structure, and went back to work. The pier would be completely gone by the time the storm was over... drinking out there probably wasn't the brightest move I had ever made.

    Once the storm had passed and the base was opened back up for normal operations, nobody could get back into town for a few extra days (causing me to be stuck on duty much longer than anticipated) because the Cape Fear, Tar-Pamlico, Neuse, and New Rivers had all flooded and Jacksonville was like a little island in the middle of it all.
    Last edited by WSU MUP Student; 05 Feb 2008 at 10:23 AM.
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Flying Monkeys's avatar
    Sep 2005
    North Florida
    I survived hurricane Andrew. I have been the area of a few hurricanes in my life, but that one was wild. Although our neighborhood was not totaled it took 2 weeks to get the electricity back. That was because the devastated parts were first on the list…then they made there way down to the downed poles and lines. It was HOT the days following the hurricane….like no breeze, it had blown it all out. Every night you would hear people’s generators through the open windows. And people yelling at each other to turn them off. Every other night a generator caused a fire somewhere nearby.

    The community did not come together….neighbors helped neighbors….we cut trees into pieces all over the neighborhood for 2 or 3 days, You could not drive to work anyway…and probably no power. But the community as a whole was disgusting…fights broke out over generators, and people charging super high prices for necessities. And who can forget the mass of people at the ice trucks? Lots of personal stories….good and bad.

    Here is one antidotal aside…my brother was part of a horse rescue voluntary thingy…they went into southwest Dade after the storm via 4-wheel drive…they said the devastation to horses and cows and dogs and others was bad. They put down one horse with a bunch of 2x4 or fence post splinters all stuck in its body. But amazingly a lot of horses did survive.

    Another is the story of a good friend of mine who lived in the Country Walk development…he and his family spent the night in the bathtub with a mattress over them while the roof and one of the walls came off the house. When you talk to him about that night…you can tell that he did not think his family was going to make it….
    What’s in a name? – Your reputation….:)

  4. #4
    All you yoopers and trolls are jumping the gun on this Blizzard of '78 stuff:


    I recall getting about a foot of snow in Central Jersey out of this stormm but not too much else about it.
    Batter up!

  5. #5
    I once outdrove a Tornado

    My Fiance's home in Homestead was completely destroyed in Hurricane Andrew, which worked for me because she moved North and I met her, hee hee!

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Tom R's avatar
    Jul 2002

    Blizzard of '78

    When the Blizzard of '78 hit I was a grad student at Kent State. We had a LOT of wind but not that much snow. I lived in a hippie hovel across from main campus. One of the guys who rented a room across from me had the draft through the walls blow out candles. We had a new renter, a guy who had just come to this country from India. He had a winter coat but that was it. I saw him walking down Main Street with these thin, white cotton pants on with a very bewildered look on his face like "What the f*** have I gotten into." Another roommate and I weathered the storm and walked to Walter's Cafe for beer and pinball.

    In '74 I was living in Warren, OH when Xenia got hit by I think an F-5 tornado. http://www.idreamof.com/disaster/1974_xenia.htm The sky looked very weird and there were tornado warnings posted. So I decided it was time for Tom to leave Ohio. So I jumped into my VW and drove to my parents' place near Pittsburgh and found out there were tornado warnings there too. Bad day.
    Last edited by Tom R; 05 Feb 2008 at 1:17 PM. Reason: Add a link. Correct date

  7. #7
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
    Aug 2005
    in a meeting
    I'd like to hear the outrunning the tornado story myself...

  8. #8
    Well not really that exciting...I spent the day out fishing with a buddy of mine on his dad's boat. Afternoon comes and you can see storms building to the west and we're like, meh, good time to go home anyway we're gonna get rained on. By the time we get back to the dock and out of the lake roadways toward the main 2 lane highway it had started to hail with heavy, heavy rain (about 45 minutes or so). As we come to the intersection to head northeast back to the city (Milwaukee) we look southwest (of course looking for oncoming traffic) and boom, a friggin tornado is riding right up the highway. We had two thoughts, turn around a go back or haul balls and see what happens...there's nothing around at this point, maybe a few farmhouses I don't recall but at 17 years old, you aren't well versed in Tornado avoidance techniques. We turn NE and floored it, obviously no cars around and before ya know it we're going 85 down a 55 MPH road with this damn tornado comeing up behind us (maybe a half-mile or a mile or more back, not saying it was sucking the exhaust out of the car but it's still quite menancing at the point). Brutally long story short, tornado lifts back off the ground we make it home w/o sheightin our pants and thank our lucky stars. Although we did pledge that if shady weather ever came about while we we're out on the lake, we'd wait it out at the house instead of trying to head home....

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Zoning Goddess's avatar
    Sep 1999
    400 miles from Orlando
    I was a college junior in western Mass. for the Blizzard of '78. I think almost every college in New England cancelled classes except for mine. I was living off-campus, and just plain couldn't get there. It was bad. I ran out of cigarettes and then I ran out of Tab and was getting seriously low on dog food for my Mutt when the landlord finally plowed from the carport to the road.

    Hurricane Donna, a bunch of lesser ones, then the '04 season in central FL, with 3 going thru. The tree in my house, trees in houses all over the neighborhood. Power off a total of 2.5 weeks in Aug and Sept. Yikes.

    10 years ago this month, a series of tornades moved thru central FL and killed 42 people. I was just going to bed when the storm started, and my 80-ft pines were swaying like Q-tips. I woke my son up and we sat in the living room with flashlights until 2 a.m. My SIL called me at 6 to see if we were OK and told me about the deaths. A bunch were in my county, just a few miles east of my house.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian craines's avatar
    Dec 2006
    Los Angeles, California
    94 Northridge earthquake. Remember bolting out of the house and seeing the horizon on fire as the local mall was engulf in flames. Hitting the streets people were wondering around like some george romero zombie film. I was rushing to get my wife to the hosipital as she was unconsious and had huge shards of glass stuck in her back. Cars were strewn about overturned and some were literally repturing in flames as we drove by. When we got to the hospital they were on generator power and had to sit in the hallway.
    The elderly dude next to went into convulsions and died right freaking next to me.

    My wife made, our house didn,t.
    Looking for Sanity
    In this Crazy Land Of Ours

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Richmond Jake's avatar
    Aug 2001
    Working in a Vulnerable Location
    At the time, I lived about 5-miles from the epicenter of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Three days without electricity. Minor damage to the house. Although I worked for the city of Saratoga in Santa Clara County, I worked the EOC in Santa Cruz County (where I lived).


    I was on the eastern side of Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Spent the worst hours at my boss's house (now the house we own). Loss of electricity, again, for about 3-days but I spent most of the time at the EOC--or in the field conducting damage assessment.

    Annoyingly insensitive

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Emeritus Bear Up North's avatar
    May 2003
    Northwestern Ohio

    Palm Sunday Tornadoes

    In April, 1965, on Palm Sunday, the midwest was hit with a large number of killer tornadoes. My day.....

    It was a Sunday. My dad was running a restaurant in west Toledo and I was a teenager, working for good ole' pops. I vividly remember the high humidity because I kept leaving my dishwashing post in the restaurant and walking out back to check out the girls who lived in the house behind the restaurant.

    After work and near dusk the strong storms moved in to the Toledo area. We lived just a few blocks south of the Michigan line. We heard one of the tornadoes go over us, dropping huge hail stones in our yard. Typical teens, my brother and I grabbed some and placed them in the freezer.

    I don't recall hearing tornado warning sirens but I do remember the radio station announcer telling people to seek shelter because a tornado had been spotted. And, yes there were two twisters that hit the area. (A local amateur photoographer sold a pic of "twin twisters" to one of the national pictorial magazines.)

    One tornado hip-hopped through west and north Toledo, ripping roofs off of buildings. The other tornado was first spotted in Bedford Township (just north of this Bear) and roared through the Shoreland and Lost Peninsula areas of north Toledo, along and near the Ottawa River.

    An entire neighborhood, Creekside, was totally flattened. More homes just east of Creekside were destroyed as the twister hopped across the river, tearing apart homes in the Lost Peninsula area (of Toledo's Point Place neighborhood, on Lake Erie).

    On I-75 a bus was flipped, leading to some of the many deaths. The storm in this area took somewhere between 13 and 15 lives. President Johnson flew into the city and toured Creekside. Not much to see.....it looked like Hiroshima.

    All through the midwest the Palm Sunday outbreak killed many people. This storm, and the lack of good warnings, was a key element in the government finally taking storm warning activities serious.

    Occupy Cyburbia!

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Plus
    Jun 2003
    The weather conditions and patterns today/tonight are very similar leading to the Nov 2005 Tornado in SW Indiana (my fair county) that killed 26 people. http://www.crh.noaa.gov/pah/?n=evans...v.6,2005#RADAR

    So people are a bit wary tonight.

    I was in Breckenridge, CO back in 1987 when an avalanche killed 3 people who were skiing outbounds.
    From the 3rd floor of the Main St Fire Station, I was able to look up across the valley at the avalanche field on Peak 7. I was on stand-by.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
    Dec 2003
    Heaven or Las Vegas
    I have some memories of the blizzard of '78. Didn't hit South Jersey very hard. Now the Blizzard of '96, that was something! At the height of it I walked down the middle of a normally busy 4-lane state highway with my husky, perhaps induling some kind of snow-apocalypse imagined world. The area was really shut down for several days. The snow was from Monday thru Tuesday. By Saturday I got bold enough to venture to Philadelphia to visit some friends. Much of the city was still effectively gridlocked because people couldn't move their cars. There were little footpaths running up the middle of streets where cars were abandoned at odd angles when drivers gave up trying to move them. I had to park blocks away and hike to their house.

    In 2004, the remnants of huricane Ivan caused the Delaware river to flood for the first time in nearly 50years. Ended up with about 5' of water in my basement and lots of muck and debris all around the yard. It was a huge mess to clean up. For days afterward, there was a police and fire command post nearby, the Red Cross and Salvation Army would give out meals, news crews are on the prowl for people to interview. For a while at least, you feel like someone cares. The neighborhood took it like "Well, now that we're through that, we wont have to deal with it again for another 50 years." But that was not to be. The following spring, the same thing happened again due to a fast snowmelt and a week of rain. The water came up even higher and took longer to go down again. Power was out longer. I almost got arrested for mouthing of to a sherrif because I didn't like the way she spoke to me for trying to get a look at my house (from beyond the water of course). I returned to find all the fish in my aquarium dead and all the fish from the backyard pool gone. More toil in a damp, dirty basement. Another washer and dryer trashed. But we took solace in the idea that at least the chances of it happening again were even less likely. No such luck. In 2006 the river flooded again! By this time I was no longer living in the house but was renting it out I had to make a trip to do cleanup and repair work. One upside was that I had the heating equipment installed to be easily removed. The installer came out before the flood and took it to their warehouse. It was a quick job to re-install it again afterwards. There was still a lot of work.
    The series of floods seems to have had an effect on the neighborhood that goes beyond property values. Some houses were abaondoned outright, but also marriages failed, tempers were high, resentment and finger pointing abouned all along the river. Some are blaming NYC DEP for keeping their reserviors at 100% capacity which does not alow them to absorb any extra rainfall. Even a hydrology professor has gone on record that this practice is to blame. It was found that they were keeping more water than they need in order to have capacity that they can sell to power companies and other large water users. There is now a lawsuit against them and the Delaware Basin Commission. Once again you have a case where an agency that is supposed to do public good had their mission compromised by being called on to increase their coffers. It will be interesting to see how the case turns out.
    I remember reading that even Voltaire, upon seeing the destruction caused by a tsunami to Lisbon, was forced to reconsider the idea that this may not be "...the best of all possible worlds."
    Adrift in a sea of beige

  15. #15
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
    May 2005
    The Fox Valley
    Blog entries
    I recall the Blizzard of 1999, which dumped about 16 inches of snow in my area, and 20 inches or more in the city of Chicago. It was the second largest snowfall ever in Chicagoland. It occurred at the tail end of winter break, right after New Year's. And just about every school in Chicagoland had classes canceled the first Monday back except mine. However, to my surprise, we closed the next day due to extreme cold. That day, Illinois recorded its all-time record low of -36 degrees F.

    I also recall the Chicago Heat Wave of 1995, which killed about 600 people or so, during a 5-day period in July. I remember just sitting inside during that time, watching TV and being really bored since it was too hot to go outside. I remember my family putting blankets on our windows to try and keep the heat out, and only being able to go out in the evening, as temps wouldn't go below 80. I remember watching the news reports of people being carried out in bodybags, and the city running out of ambulances. I'm not sure if my family had central air installed at that time or not, but either way it was HOT. During that time, Chicago's Midway Airport set an all-time record high of 106 degrees F.

    I was around for the Plainfield Tornado of 1990, but can't really remember it that well. However, it's often referenced in the Chicago area, and I think that all the mandatory tornado drills we had to do in school were partially because of this storm.

    I also recall more localized incidents including flooding in my basement, hail damage to my family's roof and patio furniture, and all my neighbors' siding coming off and the power going out during a massive windstorm. Of course, only people in the neighborhood can recall this stuff, as these events weren't attributed to world-famous storms.
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
    -Steven Tyler

  16. #16
    Cyburbian TOFB's avatar
    Jan 2006
    Loma Linda's
    Funnel cloud went over our house when I was about 10. While I was outside, I watched trees get uprooted and an awning snap and break our picture window.

    I have lived in the Midwest my whole life and love watching, even chasing storms. It was the only tornado I have ever seen

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
    Jul 2003
    San Diego, CA
    I was in the 1999 7.1 magnitude Hector Mine quake -- the one that was a big yawn where only one person died. It was the weekend before midterms and there were aftershocks for weeks afterwards. My husband and kids slept through it. It woke me up and turned on the news and was trying to learn what was going on. I asked my husband how on earth he could sleep with a quake going on, and he grumpily replied that he couldn't sleep thanks to SOMEONE having the damn tv on. I had trouble sleeping for weeks.

    My house was three blocks from the evacuation zone in Manhattan, Kansas during The Great Flood of 1993. I had friends who were evacuated. For a week, every time it rained, I put a suitcase and my kids in the car and went somewhere else for an hour or so. My house sat at the low point on the street and I didn't want to wind up trapped and unable to get my car out through the flood waters should the usual daily rise of water in the street decide to not recede this time. I cut my foot on something and went and took advantage of the free vaccines they were giving to try to prevent a local epidemic. Flood water is notoriously nasty stuff, filled with sewage and such. Anyone who had gotten injured was encouraged to get a shot.

    When we drove cross country from Washington state to Georgia one year, we drove between two blizzards that shut down parts of the Midwest. At one point, we were driving on the only open road in the area. At another point, we were driving under white-out conditions and the vehicle in front of us kept fading in and out of sight. It was pretty scary. That night, we stayed in a hotel with a restaurant in it. We went to the hotel's restaurant for both dinner and breakfast to avoid unnecessary driving.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian ruralplanner's avatar
    Jul 2007
    Rural Midwest
    The community I currently live closest to had a category F5 tornado in 1984. It occurred in the middle of the night and there was no warning. Within 15 seconds the entire village was wiped out and the only structure standing was the water tower. Hundreds were injured and nine people died. To put this in perspective, an F5 tornado has winds in excess of 260 miles per hour. Ms. ruralplanner lived through this same storm as a kid with a tornado that destroyed everything but her parent’s house. The only way she could explain the experience was that the sound was deafening and the air around her was sucked away, like being in a vacuum. To this day she is terrified of any whether that looks threatening. After the storm passed, she walked out of the house and everything was gone.

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