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November 5, 2012

One nasty hurricane more than enough for one lifetime


And yes, I did all these.

I’ll never forget the front page of the Houston Chronicle newspaper the day before Alicia hit. No words at all. Just a full-page color satellite photograph of the hurricane. It completely filled the Gulf. Its white cloud mass covered the panhandle of Florida, Biloxi, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, the Texas gulf coast and the coast of Mexico. Believe me, no words were needed.

Alicia barreled into Houston on the night of Aug. 18. Of course, it came at night. It just added to the fear that soon consumed everyone. The wind howled like a banshee outside our doorstep, and the power went out almost immediately. It was August in Texas, so you can imagine where the thermometer went. Up to 90 degrees inside! 

The rain pelting the roof sounded like God was dropping a bag of tiny nails down upon us. When I stepped out on my patio I saw the fury for myself. It was raining horizontally. The pool below (yes, the one with our patio furniture in it) had whitecaps. Someone’s push lawn mower flew across the driveway about three feet above the ground. I hastily beat feet back inside.

Ultimately, Hurricane Alicia did $2.6 billion dollars in damage and killed 21 people. It ranks as one of the worst hurricanes to ever hit Texas and as the single worst storm ever to make a direct hit on Houston. The damage in the glass canyons of Houston’s futuristic urban center was so severe that foot traffic was banned for three days. More than 5,000 windows were blown out of their sills, raining glittering, deadly shards of thick commercial glass panes down onto the street below. Three thousand structures across the city suffered damage.

In hopes of helping to erase the nightmare of this storm, the name “Hurricane Alicia” was retired to the soggy heap of major disaster names never to be used again.

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