Two Against Hugo: One Was Disaster Prep Leader, The Other Headed The Red Cross, Both Credit Volunteers With Helping Put County Back Together

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Not much time to wait, worry or wonder In addition to helping with the shelter operations, my office was making sure we had everything ready to go after the fact, John said. We had to make sure generators were functioning and have a plan on who was going to get up and go out in the vehicles. More than 1,000 sticky notes were compiled on tables and walls in the operation center, where fancy phone lines and computer systems were nonexistent, he said. Back in 1989, the county had just moved EMS into the basement of the courthouse, which was the operation center. It wasnt nearly as functional as it should have been at the time. There was one computer on my desk. We only had like two phone lines other than the dispatch center, and we couldnt tie that up, John said. We didnt even have 911 working yet, so we tried to get some extra phone lines in, he said, noting volunteers stepped up to help with that, too. Two men came carrying this whole multi-line phone system with them. Theyre down on the floor running cords and taping them with duct tape. They got it working for us so we had the phones we needed. I found out later that it was E.O. Hudson from Belk-Hudson and his pilot, Carroll Joye, who were in there crawling around on the floor, John said, laughing. Cindy said, I remember the guy who owned E-Mart, Danny Ellis, who used his truck for what seemed like 24 hours a day to get supplies to people. It was 90 and 100 degrees, and these volunteers never stopped. There wasnt much time to wait, worry or wonder because there was so much work that had to be done. John said many others did everything they could to help out, including his and Cindys 14-year-old daughter, Jennifer, who helped answer phones. She was getting resources out, taking numerous requests. She worked her baby heart out, and a few years later she was down helping with Hurricane Andrew to make sure the people had the supplies they needed with that storm. She knew how badly we needed supplies, Cindy said. The couple has other memories of Hugo, including the frustration at not being able to convince some residents to leave their homes. One of the things that I will always remember is what happened the night the storm hit. You were begging people to evacuate. If you didnt think your home could sustain those winds, we were telling people to leave, but there were people that wouldnt leave until the storm hit and they became terrified, Cindy said. She recalled the terror in the voices of those who did not leave. They would call and were screaming and hysterical, begging, Please come get us, but you couldnt put a car on the road. You had to try to encourage them to find the safest place where they were and hunker down, but I will always remember the phone calls with the screaming, hysteria and fear, Cindy said. John added, Nobody believes the storm is really going to happen because we were so far inland. There was the perception that, Well, its going to hit the coast, but it wont make it all the way up here. John recalled fielding a call from a woman requesting help the night of the storm, but conditions had become too treacherous for vehicles to go out. I had to make the call that night as to when we stopped going, and that was one of the parts of my job I didnt like much.
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