Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: WEATHER (07/19/18)
TITLE: Evacuate! Evacuate!
By Mariane Holbrook
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We heard the police megaphone before we saw it, protruding from the patrol car window as it moved from street to street on our small island off the Atlantic coast. Over and over, the same warning was repeated while groups huddled, then scattered to their homes to gather the bundles and suitcases they had prepared.
"I'm not going," Mike said quietly. "You can leave now and in three hours you'll be at Jack's house in Durham. I need to be here to assess the damage and salvage what we can. Henry Taylor insists he's too old and too frail to evacuate and has no place to go. I wanted to bring him here with us but he wants to stay at home because he's ridden out many hurricanes there.
"You know I won't leave without you," I answered, listening to the rain and wind which had begun to intensify.
The only escape from our island was over the old wooden bridge which connects us to the mainland. The bridge closes when winds reach 45 mph for obvious safety reasons. If we didn't evacuate in the next few minutes, we'd be unable to leave or return.
Mike drove two blocks to the island's fishing pier to learn who else was determined to "stick it out." He returned shortly, convinced that enough of his friends were staying to make it a viable option.
Mike had finished shuttering all 27 windows of our house, stockpiled food, water and everything else on the "Hurricane Preparation" list. He stored the outside deck furniture in the garage.
Our son and daughter called several times urging us to evacuate but finally gave up and asked us to phone them as often as possible during the next 24 hours.
In previous hurricanes, looting had been a major concern so police decreed that a curfew would be imposed until further notice and anyone caught on the streets would be arrested and fined heavily.
With several battery-powered lanterns positioned inside our house, we hunkered down and asked God for His protection not only for us but for Henry and everyone else who chose to remain in their homes for whatever reasons.
Hurricane Fran made landfall that evening on September 5, 1996 with sustained winds of 115 mph at the mouth of the Brunswick River, only a few miles from our house.
The roar of the winds became so deafening that I felt sure a freight train was barreling through the center of our home. It was frightening beyond description. We heard pieces of loose siding slapping against our outside walls and assorted missiles hitting the shuttered windows as though determined to gain entrance. The wind and rain beat endlessly against the doors, threatening to break through.
By morning, the roaring winds subsided and we felt the worst was over. Mike stepped out on the upstairs deck to survey the damage. Wet clumps of pampas grass were plastered against the sides of houses. A pick-up truck was upended next to a porch. Centuries-old live oaks lay on the ground, their root systems exposed, and under them, severed utility lines. Palm fronds were scattered everywhere. Many older beach houses lay in ruins with no means to rebuild.
It was reported that thirteen inches of rain had fallen during the storm. Three feet of sand covered the roads near the pier but after the streets were plowed, the curfew was lifted and we immediately set out for Henry Taylor's house near the pier.
Henry was a beloved and familiar fixture on the community fishing pier, but he was best known for his Christian witness. He'd spot a fisherman standing alone against the pier railing, engage him in conversation about his fishing habits and segue into talk about the Fisher of Men, Jesus Christ. The trusted scribes of heaven had for many years faithfully recorded the names of all those Henry had brought to faith on the pier.
But now the fishing pier was gone. Only a few pilings, snapped off by the sea, stubbornly remained upright.
As we neared Henry's modest home, we stopped abruptly. It lay in splintered pieces, scattered with other homes across several lots.
Before we could utter a gasp, Henry walked up behind us, embraced us, smiled and said:
”This I declare, that he alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I am trusting him. "
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