Laura, have you ever lived through a hurricane?
Episode #
Thursday, February 15, 2024

Laura, have you ever lived through a hurricane?

The Storyworth Podcast
Episode Description

Today, we dive into the thrilling and sometimes terrifying experience of growing up in Baton Rouge during hurricane season. Laura Hodge takes us back to the 1960s, when hurricanes provided the perfect excuse to skip school for a week and play cards by candlelight.

When I was a little girl, there were few things more exciting than word that a hurricane was headed our way. Baton Rouge was only 49 miles from the Gulf Coast, and it seemed like there were storms every year, especially during the 1960s. Actually, there were only about three hurricanes I experienced that were direct hits to Baton Rouge. Much of what I remember was preparing for expected hurricanes that veered elsewhere and listening to adults share stories of ones that struck before I was born.

Hurricane Audrey hit Baton Rouge in 1957 as a Category 3 storm, meaning the sustained winds were 125 mph or more. Until then, it was one of the largest hurricanes to hit Louisiana, as well as one of the earliest to form in the season. Reportedly, 500 people died in Hurricane Audrey, primarily from the storm surge. It's likely I heard my parents still talking about it when I was 7 years old and Hurricane Betsy barreled into Baton Rouge.

So you might wonder, what on earth would make someone delighted to hear a huge storm was bearing down on them? I guess the answer depends on whom you ask. So here's what I remember about hurricanes from my childhood.

Most hurricanes develop in the fall, and there's something else that starts in the fall, too. School. Any hurricane worth its salt always knocks out the power for multiple days, preferably Monday through Friday.

Since we were so near the coast, forecasters started watching storms swirling their way across the ocean from as far away as off the coast of Africa. By the time they entered the Gulf, everyone was glued to the television set and had been jabbering about them for days. I remember riding my bicycle on Cleo Street, straining against the wind, hoping each hurricane would hit us directly.

I could even swear the animals were excited when a hurricane approached. Actually, now that I'm older, I've read that's true. They sense a drop in barometric pressure and become very agitated. When Hurricane Betsy struck Baton Rouge, the power went out. Oh joy, school was out for several days.

Mom couldn't make dinner, so we cooked hot dogs outside on a tiny grill where our car was usually parked, the family chihuahua looking on in anticipation. These hot dogs never grew old, even after three or four days. We took our baths by candlelight, thinking about vampires, and watched the power lines outside snap and explode, showering sparks into the darkness...

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