Sep 17 2009

The day He arrived

An image from the Moores' personal collection.

An image from the Moores' personal collection.

By Dylan Sharek

As Jamie and Dorothy “Dot” Moore lead me into their multi-story home off Jasper Boulevard on Sullivan’s Island, Mr. Moore motions to a commemorative plaque on the right-hand side of the stairwell that leads to the main floor.

“This is the first mention of Hugo [in our home]. The line below it is the water line,” he tells me. Considering that I’ve taken a step up into the foyer of their raised house, the line is at eye-level, if not higher. Their house is a mile off the beach, making the line even more telling.

We ascend the winding stairwell and head out onto a patio. Mr. Moore points to the roof that was ripped off during the storm. He tells me of the extensive damage that rain and mildew caused to the top floor of their home, and of the refrigerators so ingrained with the stench of rotten food that they had to be junked.

Both former (now retired) Citadel professors, the Moores were leery of hurricanes when they finally decided to build their home in 1985, a decade and a half after they purchased the small lot in 1970. According to Mr. Moore, they “overbuilt in terms of protecting against hurricanes”. Just four years later, those provisions would be put to the ultimate test.

In late September of 1989, Charleston proper was warned of a hurricane approaching from Puerto Rico and moving northward. Dot Moore remembers being “extremely frightened” by the news. A focused and intelligent woman, Mrs. Moore hurriedly organized her family’s evacuation from Sullivan’s Island.

“I went to every liquor and grocery store in the area and filled the car with boxes,” she says with a remembered urgency. When she got home, she packed everything. Meanwhile, Jamie aggressively campaigned the Citadel’s powers-that-be to release the cadets and allow their evacuation. That night they went to Jamie’s parent’s house in Mount Pleasant and helped them to pack. They arrived back on Sullivan’s Island at two o’clock in the morning on September 22.

When they woke, Mrs. Moore remembers a “low murmur over the whole island”, a grumbling caused by far-off bands of rain, lightning and thunder.

“We have waited too late to get out of here!” she remembers thinking as they arrived at Jamie’s parent’s house again, only to find that the older couple was practically immobilized by stress and hadn’t finished packing. By nine o’clock that morning, however, the Moore family caravan left Sullivan’s Island and Mount Pleasant behind.

As that murmur followed their cars to Columbia, no one knew what to expect when they returned.

Mrs. Moore remembers her shock when a gentleman gleefully exclaimed at breakfast on September 23, 1989, “Everything’s been wiped out on the Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s, but all’s well in Hilton Head!”

As news reports slowly rolled in from the isolated island towns, the Moores learned their house, unlike so many others, had withstood the barrage.

“Our son had seen a flyover on the news and saw the house,” Dot said. Extended family in Arkansas was able to confirm the development: despite extensive flood damage and a tattered roof, the house was still definitely standing.

Like many of those affected by catastrophic events, the Moores’ lives can be categorized as pre- and post-Hurricane Hugo. Dot says they are now “probably over-concerned” by hurricane season and its prospective devastation. As a result, the couple takes extensive measures to insure their wellbeing in the event of another disaster. They keep an up-to-date inventory and perceived value for everything. Considering the enormous amount of knickknacks loitering in their large home, it’s a daunting task.

When they leave for an extended period of time, the Moores almost always clean out the refrigerator and give excess food to friends. Their computers are constantly backed up, the hard-drives duplicated so their scholarly work is protected. Each and every time they leave the house for more than a few days, the Moores bring their financial records with them.

Jamie and Dot Moore have become local experts on Hurricane Hugo and disaster-preparedness. After Hurricane Hugo, they were commissioned by the Citadel in 1990 to conduct a series of studies on insurance, stress, and the effect of town authorities during times of devastation. Shortly thereafter, they published their findings, along with interviews from prominent Hugo characters, in Island In the Storm: Sullivan’s Island and Hurricane Hugo.

The Moores may not have been as affected by Hurricane Hugo as some, but they certainly learned more than many. And that is something from which we could all learn.

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