SURVIVING THE DEVASTATING ASH WEDNESDAY FLOOD
NOR'EASTER ASH WEDNESDAY FLOOD
ASH WEDNESDAY STORM
I was awaiting the school bus one Wednesday morning on March,11,1962 I lived in the beautiful area of Willoughby spit, located in Norfolk Virginia...
I was 12 years old. .I kept waiting and waiting for a bus that never came.
I saw a big wave crest and hit a 2nd story house across the 900 block of West Ocean View Avenue. I was stunned, watching the waves slamming against the homes, that lined the Chesapeake Bay.
When I realized the bus wasn't coming, I turned around and headed back through the field to our house. I was only a minute from home
Water was now surging through the field behind our house. I was amazed at the height of the water in our back yard.
It was waist high, and it was so cold. I'll never forget the feel of that icy cold water against my skin, as I swam through the swirling water.
I watched as our trash cans floated around in our back yard. I tried to grab one, but it kept on going.
I tried climbing the steps on our back porch. It was more like floating up! Mom swung open the back door, and she grabbed hold of me. Water was now surging in through our house as I made it through the door.
Mom was 9 months pregnant, and my 2 younger brothers and sisters were still in the house. Mike, age 6 and Janet, age 4. My other siblings, Ed and Kathy, were at Aunt Kate's..
Mom told me to get the children on top of the table in the dining room. She gave my younger siblings a box of vanilla wafers to calm them down, as they were scared and frightened.
Mom and I frantically tried to grab some of our possessions. Dad had been stationed in Japan while serving in the army during the 40s. He had a great love for Japan.
We tried to save some of his beloved pictures, jewelry and souvenirs from Japan. We grabbed other household items and placed them on our bunk beds.
The water got higher and higher, and mom and I finally joined the children on our kitchen table!. One of the children had dropped the box of cookies. I watched as the cookies floated through the kitchen and hallway.
We were so scared. We hoped and prayed someone would come to rescue us. We felt so alone sitting on top of that table, huddled together.
Mom said, earlier "my cousin Maureen had called " She lived about 6 miles from us. She was desperately trying to call the local radio stations, to inform them, "that we were in danger". She told them that " mom was getting ready to give birth at any time".
I don't know how much time passed but eventually rescue finally came.. Dad worked at the Naval Base, and he was not able to reach us because of the high flood waters.
We lived on Little Bay Avenue which floated into Big bay, which is really the Chesapeake bay The sea was coming in from both directions, due to the fact that we lived on a spit.
I remember those wonderful soldiers floating up in their Army ducts. The ducts floated right up to our front porch.The men lifted us up in their arms and placed us in the ducts. We rode around, to other houses, watching the men rescue others..
We were so happy to be rescued! They even saved our beloved pet parakeet "Pretty Boy" We couldn't leave him behind. "Pretty Boy" was a beautiful little blue bird. He could even speak and sing his name! We'd had him for 9 years. Sadly he was only to survive a couple of days after our rescue. My aunt, said, "he died of pneumonia"
The army duck kept traveling through our neighborhood, rescuing many other people that day. They evacuated us to Ocean View School which was about 5 miles away in Ocean View. From there we went to my Aunt Kate's house on Cherry Street.
My mom gave birth the next day. My new little brother Patrick Sean, safe and sound came into this world, during that stormy time! We lived at my aunt's house for about a month.
Our house did not float away, but there was a a lot of flood damage. A month later.we moved back into our home. Most of our possessions were damaged and destroyed. Dad lost most of his pictures and souvenirs from Japan but thank God, we were all alive!
It would not be until much later that I would hear the whole story about that terrible flood.
What we didn't know at that time, was that we were in the midst of the infamous Ash Wednesday storm. Weather forecasting was nowhere near as sophisticated as it is today.
The storm hit unexpectedly and with devastating results. The storm hit Virgina during "Springtime" It was during the sun and moon phase which produced a higher than normal tide.
The massive storm was caused by an unusual combination of 3 pressure areas, combined with atmospheric conditions of the spring equinox, which normally cause exceptional high tides. The storm stalled in the Atlantic for 3 days, pounding coastal areas with continuous rain, high tides and storm surges.
The storm moved north off the coast past Va Beach and then reversed its course, moving again to the south and bringing with it higher tides and higher waves which battered the coast for several days.
The storm's center was 500 miles off the the Virgina capes when water reached 9 feet at Norfolk and 7 feet on the coast. Huge waves toppled houses into the ocean and broke through Virgina Beaches concrete boardwalk and sea wall.
Houses on the bay saw extensive tidal flooding and wave damage. The beaches and storefront had severe erosion.The new Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel was dealt a devastating blow.
The locals felt that this was the worst storm in Va. Beach then that of the 1933 Hurricane.The islands of Chincoteague and Assateague were completely underwater.
When the water receded, hundred of thousands of chickens were dead. In the town of Chincoteague on Eastern shore, near the border with Marlyand, six feet of water covered main street.
On Assateague Island, a portion of the wild Chincoteague horses were lost. One famous horse, that starred in the popular movie, "Misty" was saved when its owner brought the horse into his home!
The department of Health indicated it was an extreme health hazard, asking all women, children and the elderly to evacuate.
Winds up to 70 mph built 40 foot waves at sea. Heavy snows fell inland. Big Meadows, in Shenandoah National Park on the Blue Ridge Mountain recorded Virginia's greatest 24 hour snowfall with 33 inches and the greatest single storm fall with 42 inches.
Families who lived on the ocean side were forced to bunk with neighbors whose land side homes were high enough to be safe from flooding. For almost a week, the only transportation in and out of the flooded areas was via "Army ducks"
This was one of 10 worst storms in the US. in the 20th century. It occurred between March 5-March 9. 1962.
It was the Great Atlantic storm or "Five High Storm" It lingered through 5 high tides over a 3 day period, killing 40 people, and injuring over 1000 people.
It caused hundreds of millions of dollars in 6 states. Homes, motels, and resort businesses were destroyed along North Carolina's outer banks from Caper Hatteras, Nags Head and Kill Devils Hill, north to Virgina Beach.
Along the Delmarna Peninsula at Wallops island a million dollars of damage was done to Nasa"s Wallops Flight Facility.
25 foot waves struck Ocean City Maryland. 40 foot waves occurred at Rehoboth Beach .In Delaware, the boardwalk and beach homes were destroyed.
Sand dunes were flattened along all the coastlines. In New Jersey, the storm ripped away part of the steel pier in Atlantic city. In Avalon New Jersey, 6 entire blocks were lost. The Destroyer the US Monssen was washed ashore near Holgate.
In New Jersey, 45,000 homes were destroyed or greatly damaged. In New York, Long Island's Fire Island was destroyed. 100 homes were destroyed.Wave heights reached 40 feet by the shore of New York City.
Extensive damage to trees and structures and beach erosion occurred along the Southern New England coast, particularly the Rhode Island coast, New London and Fairfield counties in Connecticut. There was less severe beach erosion in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.
Because of the recent devastation caused by the Earthquake and Tsunami In Japan, I want to urge people "listen to your intuition". Don't attempt to try to drive through flooded roads. Usually when a tsunami, is coming in, the water will often recede first.
Run as fast as you can to higher ground..some other indications is that often sharks and fish will come to shore, before a tsunami hits. Stay calm and don't panic. Fear can paralyze you. Leave your possessions behind. Save yourself and your family, first, if at all possible!
ASH WEDNESDAY STORM DAMAGE
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