Chapter Eight (1966): Post 56 – The Hurricane (Part 1)

The storm starts to move through Tafuna.

The storm starts to move through Tafuna.

Chrissie blew cautiously on the spoonful of creamy, yellow soup and then slurped it into her mouth, followed by a gulp of ice cold orange Fanta  pop. The combination of salty and sweet exploded on her tongue and she closed her eyes in gratitude for the opportunity to try new and exotic foods. Her mother never served Campbell’s Cream of Chicken soup.

The children of Tafuna spent a great deal of their free time living at friend’s houses. Groggy parents had grown used to listening to a strange kid complain about powdered milk while wearing their actual child’s pajamas. The Broquet girls never tired of abandoning their home and familiar lives to assume the position in someone else’s family.

Chrissie was on day one of a three day home-swap, and this one had started off with a fabulous lunch. Her friend Nancy’s dad was a manager at the Coca-Cola bottling plant and that meant an unlimited supply of Coke and Fanta soda. The weather was windy and rainy and the two girls were considering a Monopoly marathon when they were interrupted by a pounding on the door. Chrissie was disconcerted to see her father standing there, and even more upset when she realized that he was there for her. As much as she pleaded and pouted, she could not convince him to let her stay. He kept saying something about a hurricane but all she could think of was that so far she had had only one orange Fanta.

January 29, 1966
“We are sitting around waiting for the tropical storm to hit! We are all ready and will be terribly disappointed if nothing happens after all that racing around taking down things from the walls and storing them in the hot locker. Larry is in the bathroom trying to figure out how to work the Coleman lantern just in case the power goes off. Since the power goes off all the time for no good reason, we figure at least with a hurricane we can anticipate it will happen.

My God, the wind is blowing. Two ham radio antennas attached to houses have snapped. They are about 75 to 100 feet high and went down with one of the first gusts. Don’t worry, we are not all tied to the piano waiting for the tidal wave. If things start flying around in the house, we will all end up in the bathroom as it is all enclosed and protected. Kathy and Lynn are reading and Chris is playing “Moon River” on the piano – tying her down hasn’t hurt her playing at all. Karen is trying to console the cat who is pregnant and very upset and meowing like mad. The force of the wind is hitting the end of the house which is made of cement blocks. It is blowing the dust pussies down from the high beam ceiling. Meant to get at those one of these days.”

Jean

The wind picked up as the day wore on, and there was an air of nervous excitement around the house. Larry kept tuning in to the Coast Guard radio reports to track the storm and with each broadcast, the predicted wind velocity seemed to go higher and higher. It was a given that things were going to get wet – the canvas shades were no match for horizontal rain – but no one was particularly worried because the gusts of wind just blew through the screened house. It was almost entertaining as they watched debris sail past the windows, the girls laughing as they sang songs from the “The Wizard of Oz”.

That stopped abrubtly as an earsplitting shriek filled the air, the sound of steel being ripped apart by the forces of nature. The corrugated roof of the nearby public works warehouse started to peel apart, and 4’ x 8’ sheets of galvanized metal began sailing through the air like shrapnel-filled kites. The family watched in horror as one piece smashed through the front windshield of a parked car and another one sailed past their astonished faces and barely missed the house. Larry quickly grabbed Karen and shoved the other girls toward the enclosed bathroom.

The children huddled together in the bathtub, Karen in Kathy’s lap and for once completely silent. Her thumb-sucking habit had returned with a vengance as soon as she had witnessed the razor-sharp guillotines flying through the air like winged monkeys armed with shivs. Their parents were pulling mattresses off the beds and leaning them against the screens in hopes of at least slowing down any projectiles that might come in at the exact angle needed to fit between the concrete pillars that held the screens. No one felt like singing anymore.

Note: See The Word of the Day for why this post is incorrectly labeled The Hurricane.

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2 Comments to “Chapter Eight (1966): Post 56 – The Hurricane (Part 1)”

  1. a video from Aunu’u on the day after the storm:

    and my account, from Aunu’u:
    http://ghastings.blogspot.com/2008/09/o-le-afa-o-tausaga-1966-1966-typhoon-in.html

    Like

  2. I interviewed for the Samoa job shortly after the hurricane. Vernon Bronson’s waiting room was scattered with Samoan newspapers headlining the storm, of which I knew nothing–stateside newscasts hadn’t reported it. Given all the other uncertainties of moving to Samoa, this gave even further cause for pause. “Nothing to worry about,” Vernon said. “Hardly any damage.” Hmmm… –dg

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