Simply Grand

By Diane DeVaughn Stokes

It was 1989. Hurricane Hugo was approaching the area and it was the first real scare my husband Chuck and I had with hurricanes since moving to the Grand Strand in 1984.

That day we had been shooting a video for a convention in Litchfield. Around noon the hotel reported that an evacuation was occurring east of the waterway, and all activities must come to a halt. We looked outside and everything looked fine, peaceful, a perfect fall day. The folks we were working for were all from Greenville, and the Litchfield Inn’s General Manager suggested they get on the road back home before conditions worsened. We hated it of course, as this was one of the first big jobs with an out of the area company since starting our business, Stages Video Productions. Up until this point, we mostly shot TV commercials and marketing videos in the area.

As we packed up our gear, it was hard to believe the hurricane threat was real, and yet we knew that for a hotel to evacuate all of its guests, this was serious. Both Chuck and I recall, however, a real solemnness in the air as we approached our van, and the sky had a grayness that we have never seen since. But the sun was still shinning.

Back in Myrtle Beach, we learned that everyone was battening down the hatches. I was not only working with my husband in our own business at the time, but was also the talk-show host and producer for Cox Cable’s “Southern Style” (later it became Time Warner), and WBTW’s “Grand Strand Gazette.” Obviously, when I checked in with my media employers, I was informed to the status of the approaching hurricane. It was frightening.

Our parents phoned and begged us to come stay with them in either Florence, where my parents lived, or Sumter, where Chuck’s parents resided. But we assured them that our neighborhood was not under the evacuation.

Back then we lived just west of the waterway in Forestbrook and only those on the east were being evacuated, including all our friends and on-air co-workers. So, one by one, they started to ask if they could hang out at our house till the storm passed so they could cover the situation first thing in the morning.

It’s important to remind you that back then, WBTW was operating out of a small office across from Waccamaw Pottery with the main studio still in Florence. Cox Cable was on Oak Street, and there were no full time network TV stations here yet. And back in 1989, hurricanes were not tracked and reported on weeks in advance like they are now. But needless to say, the police were serious about getting everyone out of Myrtle Beach, and the Cox Cable newsroom was shut down.

Not long afterwards, the evacuation spread west of the waterway, and WBTW’s office was closed down as well. And perhaps we would have gone to our parents’ homes at that point but we had already opened our doors to our friends. Besides, we were young, foolish and invincible.

The female news anchor from WBTW’s Myrtle Beach office, her five-month old baby girl, Cox Cable’s two anchormen and a sales woman all came to spend the night.

Every one of our storm troopers, as we referred to them, arrived at our home with wine, beer and booze. First they all drank, and then we cooked hot dogs and hamburgers. The alcohol kept flowing as the winds pummeled the house, and pine tree limbs snapped like the crackling of a winter fireplace. As for me, I have never been much of a drinker. I remained totally sober. My mistake on this night, as I never slept a wink and was scared out of my wits listening to the howling winds, rattling windows, and nature’s chaos as my intoxicated friends and husband slept like kittens whose bellies were filled with their mother’s milk. I was amazed that they could sleep soundly through this devastation. I cried alone and prayed.

It was the longest night of my life.

When the sun came up I woke the others, and we were all shocked to see trees down everywhere. The neighborhood looked like a war-zone and the Loblolly pines on Loblolly Lane where we lived, had won the war. Gradually though, everyone went to their offices except for me, as I knew the news departments would be scrambling that day, but no one cared about watching a TV talk-show! I stayed home and took care of my friend’s baby and cried some more after receiving the bad news that so much of our beautiful community was gone, with homes and businesses floating in the ocean. I knew we would re-group, but it would be a long time before we would be back to any state of normalcy.

The aftermath was painful for sure, but the strength we gathered as we worked together to rebuild the Myrtle Beach area bonded us in a very meaningful way. Neighbors pitched in to help others they did not know before, and hearts were open to do whatever it took to make the area profitable again and bring back tourism, our main livelihood.

And so, each and every hurricane season, I, like so many others, hold my breath and pray. The storm surge of Hugo and other storms since, live on in our memory. And we must never forget, and indeed rally in the spunk and spirit that kicked in amongst us all when we were down and out at our worst. It’s times like these that we realize what is really important. We must put aside the politics and angst of each individual area town and city, and work as one sole community, with hands and hearts outstretched for each other. That is what has made the Grand Strand so GRAND in the past and will continue to make it simply GRAND in the future!

About this writer

  • Diane DeVaughn Stokes

    Diane DeVaughn Stokes

    Diane DeVaughn Stokes is the President of Stages Video Productions, Host and Producer for TV show “Inside Out” on HTC, and EASY Radio Host weekdays noon to 3pm. Her passions include food, travel and theater. You can reach her at diane@stagesvideo.com

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One Response to “Simply Grand”

  1. Linda O'Connell says:

    Your story was vivid and made me think of the tornadoes and thunder storms we ride out in the Midwest. Nature’s fury.

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