Riding it out in Eastover

Henry West, Columbia

July 31, 2009 

At the time Hugo hit I was in middle school and living just out side of Eastover, half way between Columbia and Sumter. The house was an old two-story house farmhouse, from what I remember I think it was about 40 years old. With the hurricane coming the best room my mother and I were able to take shelter in was a downstairs shower stall. It was the most secure room as it was in center of the house and, had two load bearing walls. It was just the two of a flashlight, a radio, and us with a big storm on the way.

Once the storm hit we were in the stall and waited, after a few hours of howling winds and rain we could hear from the exhaust vent things started to calm down. We knew it was way too soon for it to be over and we figured it had to be the eye of the storm as it was very violent and then suddenly calm. We left the confines of the shower stall and opened the front door just to get a brief idea of how the yard looked as we had many trees in our yard. We couldn't see much as Hugo hit us late at night and the power had been out for at least an hour. Once the wind started back up again, as we expected, we went back into the shower stall.

About half hour later there was a very loud crash. We didn't know what it was and we were not going to leave the safety of the shower stall to find out either. We wouldn't find out until the next morning when we discovered that one of the chimneys fell through the roof of the back door foyer. Fortunately that was the only major structural damage that was suffered. But the damage to the yard was very extensive. Before Hugo hit there were 14 pecan trees on our two-acre property, afterwards there were only six left and they didn't just break all of them completely uprooted leaving an average 10-foot hole in the ground.

One pecan tree almost took a big chunk of our house as it fell over and hit a magnolia. The magnolia tree was broken in half, but it diverted the pecan tree enough to just miss the house. What's really surprising is that we believe that a tornado came through our front yard and sliced a path of destruction to the back yard only on one side of the property. There is a wall of pine trees that separates the front yard from the street but on the far end there was a gap in the wall that left two pine trees separated all by themselves. Following the destructive path we believe that the tornado came within 20 feet of the house as the path goes right through the space where the magnolia tree was broken in half. The tornado continued into the farmed field that's around the house and managed to pick up a two-story grain silo and threw it out a few hundred yards out in the field from where it was, but left the other one that was right beside it untouched. Over all we felt very lucky with the little damage that was done to the house, just a few feet of fate would have been the difference of having a home and being with out one. -- Henry West, Columbia

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