Getting Blown Away

“Getting Blown Away,” New Era, Oct. 1990, 24–27

Getting Blown Away

Young South Carolinians help clean up after Hurricane Hugo.

The noise was so loud it woke Christina Foster up—a roaring like a midnight train rumbling through the town. She cowered in her sleeping bag, afraid that the window near her would shatter from the violent vibration.

Christina, 16, of the Monck’s Corner Ward, Charleston South Carolina Stake, was living through the nightmare of Hurricane Hugo. Her family was camping out in the stake center, along with other ward members warned by civil authorities to evacuate their homes.

After a few minutes, Christina got up and joined her parents and sisters as they tried to see what was happening outside. It was the darkest, blackest night she could remember.

“All we could hear were things moving around, and the snap, snap, snap of trees falling,” said Christina. “I was more scared than I should have been. But everyone at the church was calm, so I felt safe.”

Unlike Christina, Natalie Moon, 14, of the Summerville Ward, slept right through the hurricane. But the next morning, she was in for a shock. “When I stepped outside the next morning,” said Natalie, “I couldn’t even walk down my street because there were so many trees down.” She reported later that “we spent a month and half cleaning up our yard.”

Hurricane Hugo swept through Charleston just a little before midnight on September 21, 1989. For several days hurricane alerts had been broadcast, but the young people in Charleston were used to hearing about hurricanes. In the past, alerts always meant a little more rain and wind than usual, but nothing serious.

This time it was serious. Alerts changed to warnings. Hugo was definitely headed their way. The young people spent one hectic day helping their parents fill all available containers with water and securing their homes as best they could. It was time to test their preparedness and see how well they could handle a disaster.

Matt, 16, and Camille Baughman, 18, of the Summerville Ward were told by their parents to get together a change of clothes, their scriptures and journal, and a flashlight, in case they had to leave home quickly. Camille said, “It was hard because Mom said we should get two things we wanted to save. At first I wanted to take all my clothes, but then I decided on my violin.”

After the hurricane Matt pitched in to help his father, who as stake president was coordinating relief efforts. Camille saw a side of her brother she had never seen before. “I was impressed,” she said. “He got up early, worked all day, and went to bed exhausted. I thought, ‘Wow, that’s not the brother I knew.’”

For more than two weeks water and power were cut off to most homes. After a few days the novelty of taking sponge baths and cooking all the food on camp stoves got old. During daylight hours, the dominant sound was the drone of chainsaws as people worked to cut and move fallen trees from roads and around houses.

The young people of South Carolina were more than ready to return to school when it resumed nearly three weeks after the hurricane. Tracy Jones, 18, of the Summerville Ward, said, “Once we finished cleaning up, there was nothing to do. We played a lot of board games. I think I got along best with my brothers and sisters because we had to, we were together so much.”

Although the hurricane was frightening when they were in the middle of it, most of the youth of Charleston learned something unique about themselves. They discovered that material possessions didn’t mean as much as they thought. Christina said, “When my dad went out to see if our house was still there, I thought, ‘It doesn’t matter because I know my whole family is all right.’ We would be glad if the house was okay, but if it wasn’t, we were still okay.”

Some Extra Hands

Cleaning up after a hurricane sounded like it might be fun. That’s what the Boy Scouts of Troop 304 in the Athens Georgia First and Second wards thought when they heard about the hurricane hitting the coast of their neighboring state, South Carolina.

Jacob Keith decided to take on the assistance effort as an Eagle project. At first Jacob was a little hesitant. He said, “I’m not much for calling people I don’t know, but I got used to it after a while. I was surprised how helpful people were. When I called the Scouts, I didn’t think they would want to spend their whole weekend in South Carolina working. But they said yes.”

The group ended up unloading semitrailers into a warehouse. When the boxes were light, they made a game out of it. When the goods were heavy, like the load of doors they had to unload, they just buckled down and got the job done.

The most impressive thing was that the project was planned and carried out completely by the Scouts themselves. Scoutmaster Scott Johnson said, “The relief team thought I was one of the boys. They spoke on the phone to Jacob, so they went to him to make decisions and organize the effort.”

The troop spent two weekends helping distribute relief goods.

Photography by Janet Thomas

The disasters struck less than a month apart. Top:, in California, a major earthquake toppled freeways, ignited fires, and left many fearful and homeless. Bottom, in South Carolina, Hurricane Hugo tore through Charleston, leaving fallen trees and battered houses. The New Era spoke to young Latter-day Saints in both areas who said they learned important lessons in a dramatic fashion.

Trees and homes were no match for the gale force winds of the hurricane that slammed into Charleston, South Carolina. Young people helped clear debris for weeks afterward. From left, Christina Foster; brother and sister, Matt and Camille Baughman; Tracy Jones handles the chain saw; Lacy Moon stacks wood; Natalie Moon.

Scouts in Athens, Georgia, were well out of the path of the hurricane’s destruction but close enough to want to help. They did not want to impose on residents, so they packed their own food, water, and camped on the floor of a church house during two weekends they helped at a relief supply center.