09/13/04 — OPINION -- Premature obituary

View Archive

OPINION -- Premature obituary

By Gene Price
Published in News on September 13, 2004 1:56 PM

As this is written we all are sweating out Hurricane Ivan. It is a monster. And Florida already has had more than its share of misery this season. Part of our own state could be in the projected path.

Each hurricane season for the past half-century I have thought of hurricanes Hazel and Ione.

I was completing a tour as News-Argus city editor in 1954 when Hazel came calling. Wife Gloria had gone to Elizabeth City where I was going to become northeastern North Carolina bureau chief for the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot.

As Hazel bore down on the coast, I called Gloria and suggested that she come back to Goldsboro -- away from the coast -- where she would be safer.

She chose to stay in Elizabeth City.

And Hurricane Hazel chose to make a bee line for Wayne County, its eye passing right over Goldsboro!

The next year, I was covering the waterfront for the Virginia-Pilot in Norfolk. As Hurricane Ione moved toward the lower North Carolina coast, the editors assigned me to the "hurricane desk." Meaning that I had to write the latest hurricane story for the "bull dog" (first) edition and update it for each of the two subsequent editions each evening.

The hurricane wallowed off the southern coast for days. I began struggling for descriptive verbs as I wrote three new "leads" per night. I had Ione "lurking" off the coast, "menacing" the Tar Heel Coastal counties, and "howling" just off shore. Once, mentally exhausted, I used "skulking" off the coast. That one didn't make it past the managing editor.

Finally the hurricane began moving rapidly and within hours appeared to be beating itself into thunderstorms across Virginia's eastern shore.

Rejoicing, I gleefully wrote her obituary:

"Hurricane Ione, gasping her last, stumbled across the Virginia Capes tonight to die."

As The Virginian-Pilot's final edition was going to press, I went home to enjoy the sleep of an exhausted man who felt he had performed well in putting a stubborn hurricane to rest.

But when I returned to work the next afternoon, I was floored by the big headlines of our competitor, the afternoon Ledger-Dispatch.

Ione had "risen from the dead," recharged itself at sea and was hammering the northern coast with death and destruction.

The obit I had written had been premature, indeed.