On Emily's eve, a storm of stories of hurricanes past

September 01, 1993|By Wayne Hardi and Rob Hiaasen | Wayne Hardi and Rob Hiaasen,Staff Writers

A whiff of anxiety in the air. Predictable pictures of defiant ones surfing on hurricane eve. Folks hunkering down in their homes because that's where they want to be, and they'll move to higher ground only when they say so.

Hurricane Emily's presence evokes memories of powerful storms before her. Vivid or dull snapshots of downed power lines or steeples; rip-roaring winds and high tides; lightning hitting home; or maybe dark hours spent with flashlights, toddlers and campfire food. Or maybe the Big One just amounted to some rain and wind.

As Baltimoreans followed Emily's path yesterday, we talked with six people who remember living through Maryland's cast of hurricanes this century.

Jack Bunting 74 Ocean City

Jack Bunting was 14 and living on St. Louis Avenue in Ocean City when the hurricane of 1933 (they weren't named then), struck, cutting the inlet through between the Atlantic Ocean and Assawoman Bay.

"I can remember diving out the living room of my mom's house in the '33 storm," says Capt. Bunting, considered the dean of the mid-Atlantic headboat fishing fleet. "Our house was 6 feet off the ground. The water was at least 4 feet deep. We jumped out of the second floor bedroom window.

"That was our worst storm here. When the sea meets the bay and creates a big hole where a city used to be, that's amazing. Ocean City always had wanted an inlet but never had the money to afford it. Then the Good Lord gave it to them. It's the best thing that ever happened to Ocean City."

In 27 years in the Coast Guard before retiring as a senior warrant officer and going into the fishing business, Capt. Bunting says he was in seven hurricanes at sea and "went through the eye of three or four."

the biggest, the waves were estimated at 100 feet high," he says. "Worst you might have around here is 8, 10, 12, maybe 15-foot waves.

I've seen a lot of hurricanes. You don't really take them seriously unless the eye comes through where you're located.

"Ocean City is lucky most of the time. We haven't have a bad hurricane in a long time. We're due one."

Eulalia Harbaugh, 67 Catonsville

It's got to be a joke, she thought. All this talk of a hurricane, when it's just another rainy night in 1954. Eulalia Harbaugh, then 28 and then living on St. Paul Street in Baltimore, was taking the train to see a friend in Philadelphia.

"I can remember sitting on the tracks and watching the river coming up and thinking this was bad news," Ms. Harbaugh says.

She made it out on the last elevated train that night. In the rain, that dim night, she found her friend's house in Philadelphia. Days after, she read about Hurricane Hazel and what a big to-do it was, she recalls. She had no idea it was a hurricane -- and no idea yet that someone had named the thing.

"I just thought it was stupid of me to be roaming around in it," she says.

Ms. Harbaugh also remembers living in Miami in the 1970s during a hurricane, whose name she doesn't recall now. Her Florida friends were frantically preparing for the storm and clinging to the news.

Ms. Harbaugh, the storm veteran, slept through it.

Muriel Caulfield, 89 Catonsville

As the joke went, a seasick passenger was leaning over a ship's railing when a deck hand asked if there was anything the passenger needed. An island, the man said.

"I was looking for an island, too," Muriel Caulfield said. When she was 29, Ms. Caulfield and a friend hopped a merchant ship in Maryland to sail to Florida. In the middle of the night, she awoke and rushed to the porthole to see the ocean flooding the deck. "Good Lord, we must be in a terrible storm," she thought. The "storm" was the Great Hurricane of 1933.

The ship was anchored at the end of Chesapeake Bay and would not attempt to reach the Atlantic, the captain said. Not in this storm. Ms. Caulfield was sick as the proverbial dog and wanted to jump ship in Norfolk. But the captain told her the next stop was Savannah.

"I'll be dead by then," Ms. Caulfield thought. But the hurricane passed, the boat stopped rocking, and Ms. Caulfield's stomach steadied. The young woman called home the first chance she got. She didn't find any sympathy there, either.

"My mother was terribly unconcerned," Ms. Caulfield says. "She didn't think it was anything.

jTC

Dan Trimper, 82 Ocean City

Dan Trimper III has memories of many Ocean City storms. He was born in the resort city and still lives there.

"I've seen all of the storms since before they started naming them," says Mr. Trimper, whose family has owned an amusement park in lower Ocean City since 1902. "From 1918, I've been in at least 20 northeast storms or hurricanes.

The 1933 hurricane was the most dangerous, he says, and the town got no warning. But, still there were no deaths.

"Two blocks owned by my family were taken away when the inlet cut through," he says. "One big building in the park had just been converted into a skating rink with maple hardwood flooring. We salvaged as much of the floor as we could. Later, I used it in my house."

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