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  • Writer's pictureHazel Lee

TRAPPED IN HURRICANE DONNA, 1960, TODAY, WATCHING HURRICANE IDALIA LANDING, SAME LOCATION IN FLORIDA

Updated: Sep 1, 2023

As a a little girl, growing up in the Florida panhandle, scenes of storms like this were common during hurricane season. I was twelve years old at the time. Daddy was driving South on Hwy. 98, to our Labor Day family reunion in South Florida. We didn’t have internet, google, the Weather Channel, or weather sources like we have today. Can you imagine!


Storm watching wasn't a big thing in those days. Today, I can get a forecast up to fourteen days wherever we might be traveling. Somehow, when Hurricane Donna made landfall, we found ourselves driving directly into the middle of it. We had the radio on but warnings were hard to hear due to reception. But daddy drove until he saw a “filling station.” It was a full-service Sinclair "filling station". There would be no service when we arrived. Downed trees were everywhere, making roads impossible to travel. Pitch black, in the early morning hours, it was difficult to see. The owner soon came out, telling daddy to pull the car into the garage. They began helping us get in as quickly as possible. That's why I love my South. Strangers were inviting us into safety, bless their hearts.


The wind was howling. You could hear that old Sinclair sign swinging back and forth as the wind and rain were hammering it down. It's next life would probably be for target practice. I remember there were kerosene lanterns sitting around the room. Finally, mama made a pallet in a safe corner, far away from breaking windows and flying debris. It seemed the storm would never stop. Suddenly, it became quiet. Too quiet. I heard daddy talking to the owner. “It’s the eye of the storm passing over, Hazel Lee.” What was an eye? I soon found out. Soon, the eye had passed over and the wind picked up, it sounded like a squalling baby having a temper tantrum. The sounds! How scary. I was out of harm's way, but Mother Nature and her sounds were reaping havoc on us. I couldn't see outside but I could hear. I covered my head with my blanket.

Talk about fabricating a ghost story! Amazing how sounds affect us. Surely God was hearing my prayers.


Trees were snapping like toothpicks. It was almost daylight. Sweet Jesus, what a sight we saw.


We stayed in that small Sinclair service station til mid morning. Daddy thanked the nice man and his family for housing us during the storm. We exchanged hugs, and prayers for safe travel as we traveled on. Many trees were down on the roads but daddy managed to get around them. We had about an hour of travel before being at my uncle’s house.


Gosh, they had a big family. I was an only child. Aunt Lillian was in the kitchen cooking a huge breakfast. Daddy said a loving prayer, thanking the Lord for safe travel, family and our food. My how times have changed. Every time a hurricane is predicted to hit the western panhandle, I get a little smile thinking about our adventure of Hurricane Donna arriving in 1960.


I wondered about the family that helped us and whatever happened to them. That was many, many hurricanes ago. I remember that experience like yesterday. How times have changed.


I watch the weather channel everyday. Guess that explains my fear of storms, prepare for the worst, and hope for the best.

Funny how seeing this picture took me right back to Hurricane Donna in 1960.


I pray everyone listens to the weather reports, it shows who really is in control, wouldn't you agree? Stay safe everyone,




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