It was back in the 1940s. There was a hurricane in the gulf and it was heading for Galveston. I can’t give the name of the storm because this was before the weather service started giving names to hurricanes.
After listening to the latest advisory my dad suggested we drive to Galveston and see what the gulf looked like when there was a storm coming. The forecast had said it wasn’t expected to make landfall until sometime during the coming night. Since it was then mid-morning we should have ample time to go there and get back out well before conditions started getting bad.
As we passed through La Marque, the last town on the mainland before the highway crossed the flats and then Galveston Bay via the causeway, the sky suddenly began to look ominous. My dad pulled over to the shoulder and stopped. Looking at the gray clouds he said he didn’t feel comfortable continuing on into Galveston.
My sister, several years older than me and always highly adventuresome, wanted to go on. I, on the other hand, felt afraid and said so. My sister glared at me and mumbled something about me being a scaredy-cat.
My mother pointed out that there didn’t seem to be any wind and it wasn’t raining. She thought the overcast sky didn’t look all that bad, especially since we were so near the coast.
My dad decided we would continue on to Galveston but if the weather started showing any signs of worsening we would turn around and leave immediately.
We drove across the causeway and as we turned onto 61st street and crossed Offats Bayou my dad mentioned the wind must have picked up since the water looked somewhat choppy. We continued on and soon arrived at the gulf. He turned left onto Seawall Blvd. and after driving only a short distance he pulled into a parking space.
The surf was rough and the same color as the gray sky. My sister wanted to get out and go look over the seawall to see how close the waves were to the base. My mother said OK since the wind seemed to have died completely.
My sister asked me to come with her but I just shook my head. She gave me another disgusted look and got out of the car. She was almost to the edge of the seawall when the wind hit. At that particular location there was a railing that she was able to grab. Had it not been there she would have been blown off the seawall into the rocks and surf below.
She turned around and tried to come back to the car but the wind was blowing so hard it kept pushing her back against the railing. Finally, she got down on her hands and knees and was able to slowly crawl back to the car.
As soon as she was safe inside my dad said we needed to get away from there and started the engine. Just after we drove onto the causeway torrents of wind-driven rain started lashing the car. Because we were already on the bridge we couldn’t turn around or stop. Although he had the windshield wipers on full speed they were doing nothing to clear the glass. My mother pointed out the reason why. The wind was so strong it was actually lifting the wipers up and they weren’t even touching the windshield.
My dad discovered another worrisome thing that was happening. The bay was extremely rough and as the water crashed against the bridge pylons the wind was blowing the spray up through the expansion joints. He feared the water coming up from below might cause the engine to drown out. Fortunately the car kept running and we finally got across the causeway.
After fighting high wind gusts as we drove across the flats we suddenly reached the edge of the storm and found ourselves in fairly calm weather with only light rain falling. My dad drove about another mile and pulled off the road to try and settle his nerves. He had been gripping the steering wheel so hard his fingers were cramped and he had trouble straightening them.
While we were sitting there my mother turned on the radio just as the announcer said the hurricane was hitting Galveston at that very moment. My dad said, “No Kidding!”
The rain and wind started picking up so we headed for Houston. We arrived home and had enough time to get in the house and have some lunch before the storm arrived there and the power went off. Lucky us, we got to experience the hurricane twice.
And that was my introduction to the power of Mother Nature. It was a lesson I’ve never forgotten.