The first hurricane I experienced was Alicia. August of 1983 was memorable for me because it was my first year of school at Angleton Middle School, the last year of “junior high”. I was on the precipice of entering high school, which was quite terrifying to me, especially since I still didn’t feel that I fit in with all the Jordache jeans and Polo oxfords in the school hallways.
When my family heard there was a hurricane coming, we had no idea what to expect. Today, I would pack up my kids, the pets, and family mementos and hit the road for somewhere inland. But looking back, I know the expense of evacuation likely would have been burdensome on my parents. I’m not sure if it was money or my dad’s rebellious spirit that kept us here, but the Banksons hunkered down.
I remember the day before the storm came, my dad taped all of the windows of our rental house with masking tape: a bit of a surreal sight for me. Storms in Iowa often brought hail and lightning and loss of electricity, but I couldn’t recall ever shoring up our house back home in such a fashion.
That night, as the storm came ashore, I lay on the couch next to two large windows nearly mummified by masking tape, and listened to tree branches slap and scratch the glass. The wind howled. The rain fell. I was terrified, yet also mesmorized. Each lightning bolt sent shivers and goosebumps across my skin.
In the morning, we had no power. The electricity did not come back on for four days, which seemed like a lifetime. Luckily dad had a generator, and its whirring hum kept the refrigerator going. I remember walking with my mother to Mosqueda’s Meat Market, which was one of the first places to get power. I believe she bought hamburger meat, but my memory is tainted by the shocking sight of skinless cow heads in the refrigerated displays, their eyeballs watching my every move as I walked past. Years later, a boyfriend told me that cow head was some amazing eating, but something about the jarring experience kept me from ever wanting to try it.
It seemed like it took weeks for my dad to scrape all of that masking tape off the windows of the house. The sun shellacked them to the glass, and each day when I would come from school I would see him perched on a stepladder, tediously removing the tape with his painter’s scraper. Even after the tape was gone, little shadows of residue streaked across that glass, a constant reminder of Alicia.
Since Alicia, I’ve been through several hurricanes and even a tornado. The oncoming of dangerous weather always stirs me to a state of panic.
I watch the news today as Hurricane Matthew comes ashore in Florida, and I pray that everyone is able to reach safety.