The snow falling outside my window here in Virginia is unusual for March, but not unprecedented. One of the most memorable March storms happened 51 years ago today: the great Ash Wednesday storm of 1962, one of the most damaging storms ever to hit the Mid-Atlantic states.
My older sister Karen (today’s her birthday!) and I were teenagers, home alone with our three-year old sister, Jackie. Mom and Dad had gone out to dinner. Karen and I were watching TV when breaking news cut in: the storm roaring up the coast was forcing the evacuation of Chincoteague Island, where our grandparents lived (and where I’ve set my novel, “Seeds of Evidence”). Parts of Main Street were under six feet of water and the causeway to the mainland was closed. The news footage was horrifying.
Alarmed, Karen did the responsible thing: She called the Virginia State Police to see if we could find out where our grandparents were and if they were safe.
Whoever she talked to assured her that Chincoteague was NOT in Virginia.
But of course it was! Undaunted, Karen called the Red Cross. Eventually, we found out that Memaw and Pepaw had been evacuated to Wallops Island and were fine.
In fact, my grandparents’ house on South Main Street was one of only a handful of island homes that wasn’t flooded, as my grandfather proudly pointed out many times over the next years. It was on “the ridge” which, if I remember right, is about 17″ above the rest of the island! The house is still there; you can see a picture of it on my website (lindajwhite.com)
Sitting here in my warm house today, snow falling like crazy outside, I’m thinking about my sis and my mom and Chincoteague. Fifty years ago, the little island took a devastating hit from an awful storm, but it came back, and it’s still a lovely place.
Happy birthday, Karen!