Posts tagged: Galveston Texas

The Power of the Ocean

Galveston, Texas

I find it hard to believe that 15,000 to 20,000 people stayed on Galveston Island after being told it was “certain death” to remain in the path of Hurricane Ike, a category 2 storm that was headed directly at them. What were they thinking? It has only been 3 years since Katrina. That was the last time a “certain death” warning was issued by the National Weather Service. That has to be a pretty vivid memory for anybody in the U.S. living near a coast in the path of a hurricane. The barrier island is 27 miles long, 1.5 to 3 miles wide and 6 to 20 feet above sea level. Galveston was only inches above sea level until after the hurricane of September 8, 1900 when recovery efforts that lasted 10 years, raised the height of the city. Some said Ike could be a category 3 storm when it reached land.The NWS was predicting a surge of water 22 feet high. That would put just about everything on the island under at least 2 feet of water. Authorities are saying that it will take weeks just to get the electricity back up and running. Who knows when the toilets will work again. How are you supposed to live like that?

Long Beach Island, New Jersey

My grandparents owned a summer house in Beach Haven, on Long Beach Island, New Jersey for many years. LBI is a barrier island like Galveston, 18 miles long, 1/2 mile wide  and 9.8 feet above sea level. The island was hit by the Ash Wednesday Storm on March 6-8 in 1962. This was not a hurricane, “only” a nor’easter. The storm lingered for 36 hours and caused incredible destruction on the island and the east coast of the United States. You can see photos of the LBI damage here. My grandparents were not in the house during the storm. This is the storm that everyone on LBI compares to recent storms. In 1962 the island was just beginning to be built up. Now, I think every square foot of space possible has a house or business on it.  Over the years, Beach Haven was threatened by several dangerous storms. My grandmother, who lived alone from the late 1970’s on, always refused to leave. My family would drive to her house and try to convince her to leave, but it never worked. We did, on occasion, move valuables to the second floor for her. My grandmother and the house always managed to survive undamaged.

The house was sold in the mid 1990’s and the new owners put it up on stilts. My grandmother\'s house in Beach Haven, NJ. The new owners put it on stilts.

The Power of the Ocean

I have a lot of respect for the ocean. I remember when I was in my early twenties, swimming at Beach Haven. I was with a young woman and we swam out too far.  I had not been paying attention. There was a lifeguard on the beach, but I don’t recall if he saw us or not. I could feel the ocean pulling us out to sea and I started to panic. I wanted to get back to the beach and the ocean was pulling me the opposite way. For a second, I thought of only myself. I was scared. I was going to have to let my companion fend for herself. It only lasted a second or two and it was a horrible feeling. Instantly, I overcame my fear and knew that I could not swim to shore and leave her. I got behind her and started pushing her back toward the beach. I was totally focused on each push and unafraid. It took a while but, somehow, that was enough and we made it to shore. I don’t remember what happened after that, but I have never forgotten that particular moment.

The Quarry

Years after the incident in Beach Haven, I was swimming in a quarry near Hillsdale, New York. I was in my forties, a smoker and not in the best of shape. There was a swimming section in the quarry that was roped off and a platform about 100 feet out towards the far edge of the swimming area. There were a lot of people on the platform and there was a lifeguard on the shore. I swam out to the platform and rested. It was a lot farther than it seemed and I was tired. When I tried to swim back, I tired really fast. I was half way back to shore and I was struggling to keep going.  I didn’t want to drown and all I had to do was yell or wave to the lifeguard, but I was too embarrassed. My embarrassment trumped my fear. I didn’t want to make a scene. It took me a few minutes that seemed much longer, but I stumbled onto the shore exhausted and very relieved.

I respect the power of the ocean.

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