Thursday, September 8, 2011

Hurricanes, Tropical Storms and Such

Rain, rain, rain and more rain. We've had enough rain for the past few days to last quite a while, thank you, very much.
I've watched videos on the news about roads in the Carolinas being washed away, more from Irene than from Lee. I can picture in my mind one such incident that happened to the Pilot Mountain community in the unnamed hurricane of 1940. Losing a vital connection to the rest of the world is a devastation to the community, no matter which natural disaster hits. It is not a recent phenomena either, although the invention of more available roadways into remote areas offers a hurricane additional opportunity for widespread destruction. The road through this valley is a good example.

The new US highway 64 through the valley had just been completed and opened to great ballyhoo two weeks before the 1940 hurricane struck. Up to this time, the road was a state road, route #181, that wound from one end of the county to the other connecting both mountain chains through the valley between them and connecting the towns of Morganton and Rutherfordton.

Here's how one man fondly remembered the old road that it replaced. Little wonder that the new version was a welcome relief.
  • The old road wandered all around creation, especially up there around my house. It went in front of my shop and on up past my garden and back to where highway #64 is at now. Climbed up the top of the next hill and circled back and went back down to Brindle Creek and crossed the creek and went up to the top of the hill and come back again. Goes as a matter of convenience from one property to the next. That’s how crooked it was. You don’t think nothing about the road until you get to looking at where it used to be. (Student, 1942-48)
The new road cut the distance between the towns from thirty-five to twenty-seven miles. A car (or horse and buggy) no longer had to ford the winding creeks sixteen different times because this new highway had bridges and culverts. Two weeks it was open and then it was gone, wiped out, death by water.
The engineers arrived again. They started from scratch and built an even better, even stronger highway that was part of a main artery between North Carolina and Arizona. Its importance to the ebb and flow of the nation diminished when Interstate 40 opened in the early sixties, but it remains as a vital lifeline to the locals.  I live within walking distance of highway #64. My daughter in New Mexico works within walking distance of the same highway and lives within two miles. Some day I want to drive that ribbon of highway between our two homes and see for myself what the backroads reveal.
As long as the hurricanes leave them alone.
Catch of the day,

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