We hadn’t paid attention to the news. It was too late to leave. So we were ill-prepared when Hurricane Celia slammed into Corpus Christi.
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Michael Pendergrass. Public domain)
I was only 3 years old on August 3, 1970, but my memories are vivid. We sat in the hallway in the middle of the house, closed all the doors, and I ate animal crackers while my stepdad played the guitar.
All the while, I heard what sounded like freight trains encircling outside our house.
Living through a Hurricane
After the storm, the neighborhood looked like a war zone. Amazingly, our house was one of the only ones untouched, although 80% of the city’s buildings got damaged.
- Roofs were ripped off.
- My swing set was lodged up in the trees.
- Every wooden fence fell flat.
- The National Guard came in to Corpus Christi to prevent looting and to enforce a curfew.
Here’s a video of the hurricane and its aftermath (best turn your sound off).
No Fences, No Barriers
Because every fence in our neighborhood lay flat, all the neighbors had one large yard—with no separation. Until the electricity came back on, each evening different neighbors would open their deep freezes and everybody ate barbecue!
I ran across this quote from a fellow survivor:
We all remember the backyard barbecues as neighborhoods gathered to cook the freezer supplies that would otherwise spoil in the heat. Every Celia survivor remembers . . . the sense of shared endurance and the readiness to lend a hand. The definition of neighbor was extended to anyone who had survived the storm. —Nick Jimenez
My stepdad spent hours with our neighbor as they helped each other clean the yards and rebuild the fences.
Normally, they didn’t take the time to engage in conversation, but the disaster forced the neighborhood to be neighborly. As they finished building the fence between them, they shook hands and my stepdad said:
Well, I’ll see you next hurricane.
(Photo: Three men help to rebuild after Hurricane Celia, August 23, 1970. From Caller.com)
What Living through a Hurricane Taught Me
The aftermath of Hurricane Celia brought these lessons and observations to mind.
Sometimes I wonder if we could avert more disaster if we lived this way all the time.