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Shelter From The Storm

By the time Hurricane Allen swept into the Gulf of Mexico in 1980, it was a scary storm, a Category 5, one of the strongest storms in recorded history. It had devastated Haiti, killing several hundred, and now it was in the Gulf.

I was managing editor of the Brazosport Facts, a daily newspaper serving Clute, Lake Jackson and Freeport, Texas, and we had long since pulled out the hurricane coverage plan. Most of our readers had already fled inland, and our storm team volunteers camped in the newsroom ... working, watching and waiting.

But in 1980, hurricane forecasting was still a game of chance. Some residents lingered ... until we ran on our front page a satellite photo showing the vast mass of Hurricane Allen filling the Gulf from Florida to Texas, from Louisiana to Mexico. That sent everyone scrambling. The shrimp fleet was already jammed into Freeport Harbor, hoping the new guillotine gate would keep the sea at bay. Temperatures were balmy, skies were blue, but a monster lurked in the towering clouds to the east.

We spent a few anxious days, but dodged disaster as the storm stayed just offshore, weakening as it moved down the coast, making landfall near the Texas-Mexico border.

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