Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Great Storm

Hurricane Ike has been affecting not only the Gulf coast, but also western Arkansas. Yesterday morning the price of gas was 3.52. During the day a rumor that there would be no more gas shipments to Mena caused a panic that saw most of the stations in town run out of gas. The price jumped to 3.89. When I went to Wal-Mart yesterday evening, there were long lines at the gas station, and the police were there. Inside Wal-Mart there were large crowds, even more that normal for a Friday evening. By the time I was finished and went to my car, the gas station had run out of gas.

We are supposed to have heavy rains this evening, and Ike is supposed to hit with full force sometime during the night. 40 to 60 mph winds are forecast.

I watched the weather channel last night as Ike approached Galveston. I was reminded of the terrible hurricane that hit Galveston in 1900. Several years ago I read the book "Isaac's Storm", that told about the hurricane by telling the story of Isaac Cline. Isaac was the chief meteorologist at the Galveston, Texas office of the US Weather Bureau from 1889-1901. Some friends of mine from church, Dave and Fay Wiebe, heard me refer to the "Great Storm" of 1900 in a sermon. They brought me a hand typed account by a relative of theirs who survived the storm. The account was dictated and signed by Carrie M. Hughes, and copied by Irby B. Hughes August 9,1957 in Palestine, Texas.

The story tells tells of how 19 people took refuge in the house. As the water rose, they went to the uppermost room in the house. This is what Carrie Hughes wrote about what happened next. "The tremendous wall of broken houses and debris had struck our house, like a battering ram and crushed the underpart, letting the upper part into the water. As it settled down I felt the ceiling touching the back of my head with the water just under my chin. Instantly the roof of the house seemed to blow over from the south throwing little Mattie and me into a corner of it. The next thing I knew I felt ourselves slipping out. I clutched at the ceiling or walls but could catch hold of nothing. As we slipped into the water my hand was grabbed by Eliza Williams, a colored woman whom I knew well. She drew me partly onto the raft upon which she and her daughter Hattie Banks were floating."

Five members of this family made it through the ordeal and 2 did not. As I read the story, waves of emotion swept over me. I have read many survivor stories before, but this one seemed different, as it was a remembrance recorded so that family members would know what happened that night. Because of my friendship with the Wiebe's it seemed real, like I knew the person telling the story.

This is the way that Carrie finished telling her story. "How gladly would we have lost every dollar we possessed could we have kept dear Mattie and Stuart with us, but we do not morn them as one without hope, knowing we shall meet them again. It is such a comforting thought that they were Christians. We do not know where their beloved remains are resting. It may be in one of the numberless unknown graves that dot the whole face of beloved Galveston. It may be they are resting in the depths of the bay or gulf, or their ashes may have mixed with the earth from which they sprung. Whatever may have become of them we know they are safe in the arms of Jesus."

My prayers today are for all of those who have faced the fury of Hurricane Ike.

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