As Hurricane Matthew makes its worrisome way up the east coast, I’m reminded of the one storm that hit my home town of Charlotte, North Carolina. It was 1989 and Hurricane Hugo was shaping up to be a nasty one. I remember lying on the floor watching the news with my parents as the newscasters did their duty of informing us of the danger to come while making sound as terrifying as possible.
Since I was a kid who stayed awake at night worrying about extinction-level event meteor strikes and the sun exploding, this storm was alarming to say the least. My folks assured me that we would be fine – and we should’ve been. Charlotte is set deep in the Piedmont and doesn’t really suffer any extremes. The terrain isn’t conducive to tornadoes, there aren’t any unstable fault lines, it’s never too dry for forest fires and rarely floods. This meant snow days were virtually non-existent, too. I distinctly remember looking at the weather radar map one winter and thinking it looked like a golf green: sweeping sheets of green-coded storm clouds, and a perfectly clear circle around Charlotte.
All logic and history aside, I had the clairvoyance of a worried seven-year-old and knew – just knew – that Hugo was going to hit us. And for once I was right. Hugo stomped on some island, went back into the ocean to catch its breath, and then body-checked North Carolina as a Category 4. My dad drove through the wind and rain to get to the radio station where he did a morning show. He was there as people woke up to no power, telling them where to find water and shelter. I woke up to my street covered in trees and debris. One tree had obliterated the fence in back yard. One had fallen into our neighbor’s driveway, right where his vintage sports car would’ve been – had he not taken it into the shop the day before. A third had fallen into the street. Had it dropped in the opposite direction, it would’ve crushed my baby brother’s room. All-in-all, we got off light.
We coped in our own, unique Flynn way. I wrote and illustrated a story in which local NBA mascot Hugo the Hornet fought Hurricane Hugo with a lightning rod. (The teacher put on a polite, bewildered smile and let me do my thing) Dad put together a catchy little diddy to make people smile again.
If you’re in the path of Matthew, or if you’ve already endured it, take care and keep safe.