As mentioned in a previous posting, the Handbook for Erosion Control is the one document I have in my possession related to Governor Hodges's Hurricane Rehabilitation Committee. Written by Outer Banks historian David Stick and illustrated by his father, artist Frank Stick, the handbook's information is as pertinent now as it was when published back in 1956.
Mr. Stick passed away on 24 May 2009. I interviewed him for my Masters research on 11 June 2008 and he told me the following about how he happened to write this little handbook:
I lived on the ocean front in Kill Devil Hills when I was a boy. I can remember the storm coming up. We had a newspaper report, maybe something on the radio about it hitting someplace else in the Caribbean and what would happen is the Sheriff’s Deputies would come by and tell us to “evacuate immediately.” Then the Coast Guard would come by and tell us “stay right where you are,” and then the Red Cross people would come by and say “evacuate immediately.” It was the most confusing thing you’d ever see in your life.
So that was hurricane planning at that time and that was our civil defense planning. I became actively involved in 1957 [Note, Mr. Stick stated 1957 here, but the storms he mentioned occurred in 1954-1955. My thought here is he is referring to events that took place in 1956] when we had a succession of three serious hurricanes, Connie, Diane, and Hazel that had struck North Carolina but not us. Each time we were afraid they would, and so I had an interesting situation. I had a couple of rental cottages up the beach, and I had a couple in them when those storms came up, I guess it was that series, and I urged them to evacuate to Ahoskie, North Carolina, stay at the Tomahawk Hotel. The hurricane missed us and hit Ahoskie. So they made a reservation for the same week in July for the next year. They showed up and a hurricane came up. Told them they better evacuate. Hurricane missed us, hit Ahoskie. So they were not dumb, they changed their reservation to August for the next year. We didn’t have any July hurricanes that year but we sure had one in August! I told them they should evacuate. They went to Ahoskie and the Tomahawk Hotel, and you know I never heard from those people after that. Haha. So that’s the way things were handled as late as the later 1950s.
At about the same time, one relatively minor hurricane hit us, it might not even been a hurricane, it could have been a severe nor’easter, and several houses fell overboard. Some of us figured they would since they were built right on the brink of the ocean. I never have quite understood why in those days people would knock down a natural ocean front dune so they get a better view of the ocean and get right out there where the dune had been, so their house is the protective dune. Didn’t work very well. So there had been no planning on a state basis, or any, Federal, state, or local really and so all the business people got together down at the Arlington Hotel in Nags Head and it subsequently fell overboard a few years later. The question was this: “we’ve had quite a lot of damage. Should we ask Governor Hodges to declare this a disaster area?” There were those hotly against it, because the word would go that the Outer Banks area was subject to hurricanes and nobody would ever come here again. There were others who felt we better give this serious consideration because we don’t have any money here. It was one municipality and it was a new one, and anyway there were two I guess. So they named a committee. I got hooked as chairman of the committee and we met a number of times and prepared a report, the committee did back to the assemblage. Our recommendation was we should ask the Governor to declare a disaster area and he did, and the President did so we got as much help as you would get back in those days.
But nothing for hurricane planning as I remember and so I wrote a handbook then, a handbook on erosion control.
And the rest they say... is history.