Lightning Striking & Hurricane Hugo [storms]

Lightning Strike

On Tuesday night we experienced a fairly intense storm here in Jacksonville. Unfortunately, I was caught in the middle of it on I-95 over the bridge downtown which was nerve-wracking to be driving through, but provided spectacular views of the lightning across the water on both sides. Downtown was almost entirely pitch black; I have never seen anything like it!

By the time I arrived home, the worst of the storm was over but I was able to get a little residual lightning on film. Definitely not the most intense lightning we experience here in Florida, but still pretty nonetheless. This particular type of lightning looks like fireworks to me.

As odd as it may sound, I love a good storm. It is one of my favorite things about living in Florida. One of the few things I missed about the sunshine state when I lived in California were the storms!

Lightning! from charlie warhol on Vimeo.

Florida is the lightning capital of the world and we get some amazing thunderstorms frequently here during the summer months. One can’t talk about terrific storms in Florida and not mention hurricanes; hurricane season starts in the Atlantic on June 1st and ends on November 3oth, so there is plenty of time for hurricane parties!

I have been through a handful of minor earthquakes since moving here to Jacksonville in 1992, but the worst hurricane I have experienced was Hurricane Hugo in September of 1989 while I was living in Florence, South Carolina, which left the state devastated and was the most costly hurricane recorded at that time (until Andrew in 1992). We were out of power for over a week and out of school for several weeks as well. Hugo caused 27 fatalities in South Carolina, left 100,000 homeless, and “caused $7 billion in damage [1989 USD, 13.1 billion 2012 USD].”

I was five years old at the time, and I remember my father having to go out in the middle of the storm to get a friend and his wife and two kids who had been in a car accident on their way back to Charleston. I remember wanting to go with him, wanting to feel brave and “tough,” but most of all, just being immensely excited by the intensity of the storm outside and wanting to experience all the action firsthand!

My parents had put a sleeping bag in their room for me to sleep in so I wouldn’t be scared and because my room had much larger windows than my younger brother’s room and they were worried about a tree going through them or something like that (this actually happened to a classmate of mine; once school resumed we shared hurricane stories). My barely year-old brother slept soundly throughout the entire thing (to everyone’s amazement), but I didn’t sleep a wink all night. My parents even tried sedating me with Benadryl or Tylenol, but to no avail.

In addition to the excitement over the spectacular storm raging outside, I was also stoked that I would have a playmate for the next few days while we were out of school, as the family in the car accident my dad “rescued” had a daughter about my age. At the tender age of five I came to the (correct) conclusion that even a girl would be more fun to play with than my baby brother, who just sat around and couldn’t talk.

The storm made us stir crazy with four adults, two children, a baby, and a dog in the house, so during the eye of the storm our parents let us kids out in the backyard to play on the jungle gym. They told us that even though it seemed calm, to “watch out for tornadoes” because they often occur during the eye of the storm. I was far too busy trying to swing on the monkey bars to watch out for tornadoes, or to watch out for anything for that matter, because I soon fell and smashed my mouth into a metal bar at the bottom of the jungle gym, causing my teeth to go cut through my upper lip, and then lots and lots of blood.

The little girl started screaming at all the blood and my mother came tearing out of the house, hysterical at the sight of me, thinking I had lost all of my teeth or broken my nose and half of my face with it. She scooped me up and once assured that it was only a flesh wound, told the other kids to go back and play because the storm was going to start back up again soon; the eye had almost passed over.


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