Gazette Sea Foam: Veteran remembers Gracie's eye

September 5, 2011 

Thanks to Lloyd Carter of Westlake Village, Calif., for sharing a hurricane story. He writes:

While the news is nothing but Irene, Irene, Irene, besides making me remember the song "Goodnight, Irene" it caused me to remember Hurricane Gracie.

I read local accounts of Hurricane Gracie that you published in May. I found no other articles that referenced Parris Island as being the location where the eye of Gracie passed. So, for what it is worth, here is my account of the hurricane that came ashore in South Carolina on Sept. 29, 1959, almost 52 years ago.

I was a Marine recruit in Platoon 254 at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. We were in our ninth week of training and had progressed to the rifle range. Our barracks were temporarily at the range for this training.

As recruits, we were not interested in the weather but doing what our drill instructors demanded (penalty = more pushups). I remember we were sent out to find everything in the immediate area that was loose. Our job was to secure it to prevent it from blowing away or into something creating damage.

As the wind picked up, I remember leaning into the wind at an angle that was not possible normally. If the wind stopped we would have fallen on our faces. Lighting a cigarette in the wind was a challenge, and we learned how to cup our hands (those of us who smoked) to get the job done. I remember staying out as long as possible to see how much wind we could take until we were ordered to return to the barracks.

As the full storm hit, we were in the barracks, a two-story structure. We watched the trees out on the range and the range officer sheds (not sure if that is what they were called) waiting for them to blow away. The trees were really leaning over to my left.

The wind was forcing water into the barracks around the windows. I don't know what the building was made of, but it was foaming and we retreated from around the windows. Then, a big tree outside fell on our barracks and I remember it came through only the roof and was stopped by the floor above. We evacuated that end of the barracks as the water was pouring down.

All of a sudden everything died down, the wind quit, and the sun came out. I had never experienced a hurricane before so my first thought was, it's over. The DI's said it was the eye that was passing over us. Sure enough, after about 30 minutes, it all started again but in the other direction. All of the trees that had made it through the first blow gave up and crashed. It was like someone just slapped them and they fell down without any resistance.

After it was all over, we were formed into a work party and bused into Beaufort to help clean up the mess that was left.

This is the account of my first hurricane (not my last) as I remember it from almost 52 years ago. For my next one, I was on (a military ship) off Cape Hatteras returning from Puerto Rico, another experience I'll never forget.

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