Flashback~Forget About it-Friday

San Diego has been rocked by quite a few medium-sized earthquakes recently. My friends on the East Coast have responded with appreciated concern each time I mention (via Twitter or Facebook) that another temblor has hit. Not having experienced an earthquake, many of them imagine something akin to the 1974 disaster movie–you know the one staring Charlton Heston and Ava Gardner. And while Hollywood’s version of the this natural disaster is dramatic, I have found that even when the quake registers more than 5.0 on the Richter scale, there’s not much too it. The floor shakes for a few seconds and then it’s over. Now, if buildings were falling, or highway overpasses crumbling, I am sure I would feel differently, but as of this moment, based on what I have experienced, I’ll take an earthquake over a hurricane any day.

Flashback~ (no way I can) Forget About it – Hurricane Opal.

It is the first week of October, 1995. I am living in this (see below) very cute home in Atlanta, Georgia. I live there with my husband and my then two-year-old daughter, our dog Sid and cat Mr. Kitty (yes, that was his name and he answered to it, thank you). I was newly pregnant with my son. The type of newly pregnant where you feel like crap. Oh, and my husband was out-of-town on business.


Notice anything special about this house? Why look! It is surrounded by trees…very tall trees.

I don’t remember much about the days preceding the hurricane. I know it was being reported on the news, but I was busy being mom and dad to my daughter, and was sick–nauseous, tired, cranky. So, forgive me, but I am not sure when forecasters first started mentioning Atlanta and Opal in the same breath. What I do remember hearing (this was maybe eight hours before Opal made landfall) was that Atlanta could sustain winds of up to 80 miles an hour. *Huh*?! It was suggested that any bed that was close to a window be moved. Apparently, all of this was going to go down at night–when it was dark, and we were sleeping. Windows, we were warned, could definitely break in that type of wind. *Uh…daughter’s crib is right next to window*. *And my bed is right next to window*. *And husband is out-of-town*. *And I feel like crap*.

No way I was letting a window blow in on her.

As soon as I heard about the wind, I called my husband. Remember him? He was out-of-town. Several states away. My end of the conversation went something like this: “Hurricane’s coming–you aren’t here!” “The windows are going to blow in–you aren’t here!” “I have to move the crib across the room, up against the door!” “I can’t move our bed!!” “What happens if I am asleep and the windows blow in on me??!!!” “And you aren’t here?!!!” I have no idea what his end of the conversation sounded like, I doubt I was listening.

Turns out, I shouldn’t have worried about sleeping through the windows breaking. At what I later learned was the exact moment Opal (her winds anyway) hit Atlanta, I was awakened. I have never heard a noise like the noise those winds made. You know how everyone says an approaching tornado sounds like a freight train? Hurricanes do too. At least Opal did. I jumped out of bed as soon as I heard the first whooshing sounds. My heart jumped in my throat five seconds later. I ran to my daughter’s room to make sure she was okay. Amazingly, she was still asleep, safely in her crib away from all windows, so I ran back to my room. Not sure why I was running places, house was really small, must have been the adrenaline. I think the power went out shortly thereafter.

To be continued…

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7 responses

  1. Ah, Opal. I was 29 and living in Columbus, GA, at the time. I remember that my Significant Other and I joked about the preparations our mothers had made when we were kids, and how they had us ready to race to the basement if necessary. That day, we decided to make an adventure out of Opal’s arrival. Our places of work closed early that afternoon so parents could look after their kids. I went out and bought ponchos, new flashlights, and candles.

    It had been storming already for quite some time. Around 11:00 pm or so, the power long since gone, R and I threw on the ponchos and headed outdoors. We lived in an older (circa 1920s) neighborhood a few blocks away from a park (Weracoba or Lakebottom Park, depending on whom you ask). The neighborhood and park were full of big old elms and oaks whose roots and branches had been thoroughly soaked from what seemed like (and might have been) days of rain. (I’d guess the neighborhood was about the same age as yours, which looks awfully Morningside-y (specifically, Pelham-y or Cumberland-y) based on the picture.)

    We trudged down the street toward the park, occasionally beaten up and nearly knocked down by 50++ mph winds. Once we got to the park and saw some live power lines on the ground, it finally occurred to me that our adventure was a very bad idea and our mothers knew what they were doing. With the noise and wind, it would be impossible to know where a falling branch or tree or power line was coming from until it was too late. We saw huge trees succumb. Our faces burned from the bullet-like raindrops as we leaned into the wind. Every once in a while, we thought we heard the emergency sirens wail, but mostly the wind drowned them out.

    We arrived at a friend’s house on the park, some 10-12 blocks from home, and sat out the rest of the worst from there. But we were out and in it at its very worst. Our power was out for about three days, I think, and we were among the lucky ones.

    Ah, good times. Don’t try this at home, kids.

    • Wow! And to think at 29 the frontal lobe of your brain was fully formed and you still did that! 😉 What a great story. Probably topped my part two! Thanks for the comment NCT. Oh, and you clearly know Atlanta! That house is indeed in Morningside–East Rock Springs, right across the street from the elementary school. Loved living there.

    • NCT : Lake Bottom! (once lived in St. Elmo) and I agree with your Morningside assessment.

      Knowing both of the neighborhoods the two of you were in, one things come to mind, raised utility lines.

      Opal was a beast. The gnat line (fall line) did little to weaken it.

      Glad both of your survived! 😉

      • We lived on 18th Ave at the time, b/t the park and St Elmo the house, ‘long about 25th St (God bless an actual city grid – something ATL lacks). We later moved to the Spanish house on 17th Ave @ 19th St, which most folks recognize. Loved the neighborhood, and if I could afford it, I’d be in Morningside now.

      • We lived in Virginia-Highland, Morningside, N. Decatur Rd. (guess that’s Emory) and Brookwood Hills (Buckhead). Out of all of those neighborhoods, Morningside was by far my favorite (even though we were on busy street). Think husband would say the same. I love Atlanta and while I am fairly certain I won’t live there again, I will probably always consider it home. *sniff* *sniff* 😉

  2. hahahaha!! I’m not laughing at your blog…I’m laughing at the fact that Jim Cantore still had hair back in 1995!

    I remember Opal well, too. I was living in Decatur not far from Church St. & N. Decatur Rd. I don’t specifically remember if the storm woke me, but I remember driving to work and overwhelming aroma of pine oil in the air from all of the snapped trees. It was astounding, how much damage could be done so far inland from a Hurricane.

    At that time, my siblings and I still owned a house down on St. George Island, which was just a few miles west of where Opal’s eye made landfall. Neither my sister nor I could take off work to go check on the house. My brother managed to get leave from the Navy to do the inspection. It turned out that the only damage sustained was an overturned trashcan and some minor flooding to the yard (no different than when we’d get 2 or 3 days of rain). My sister’s house in Cumming, GA however, had a tree tear into their roof! Irony, defined, lol!

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