“Cecilia, you’re breaking my heart…”
The song played over and over and over, and we waited, all August 2, 1970 and into the next day. Hurricane Celia was headed directly to Corpus Christi. We lined up to fill our gas tanks and hurried home to fill bathtubs and sinks, as instructed on every radio and TV station in south Texas.
I’m thinking about Texas now, reading about Harvey.
First came sea breezes, I remember. Then gusts, then a freight-train roar that didn’t drown out the squeal of the nails. I lived upstairs in a wooden garage and thought it would be exciting to experience a hurricane. The garage rocked so hard that all the water splashed out of the tub. I lurched to the bathroom to find a Dramamine before I threw up. Then, silence.
“Cathy, Cathy, hurry!” My landlord and his son yelled outside. I side-stepped down steps that were nearly separated from the garage and we ran across the street to their two-story brick house, which looked untouched. We were in the old, rich section of the city where houses were solid, but their street was a disaster. I guessed that one out of three houses was destroyed. (Those turned out to be the actual statistics for the entire city, Wikipedia says.) I called my parents to alert them that they’d hear what a disaster Corpus was, but I was ok.
The phones went down and didn’t come back on for days. That was the least of the problems in what was the most expensive “tropical cyclone” in Texas history, at least for the next several years. It could have been much worse — the rain didn’t linger, so while houses lost their roofs, not everything inside was destroyed. Harvey is scary as hell.
Recovering from a disaster is about as bad as you imagine.
Days of gratitude followed the storm. Even people I knew who had lost much were amazed they hadn’t lost everything and that they’d survived. Twenty-eight people didn’t.
What I didn’t imagine, though, was how annoying it would be to hear all of the helicopters with VIPs flying overhead to sympathize about our condition. “C’mon down,” we snapped.
I didn’t imagine how boring it is without electricity to read or listen. How hot it is with no a/c; how loud the bugs are. How bad beer tastes when it is hot, but how happy you are to have something to drink, even though you’re damn cranky. How boring (again) it is to have a full tank of gas but no where to drive to help because shattered glass stood a foot or two deep on uptown streets.
After several such days, I felt super-grateful. I had enough gas to drive to San Antonio and fly home to Worland, Wyoming for my 10th class reunion.
Cold beer and hot showers. The best.
By the time I returned to Corpus, the lights were back on.