A hurricane and farewell to Winston Groom

September 17, 2020


Winston Groom and Leslie Anne Tarabella - Fairhope Alabama
Winston Groom talking with me at an event a few years ago.

We just received word today that one of our local favorite authors in Fairhope, Winston Groom has passed away. I don’t know any details, but he will be missed. He always took time to talk with me when we saw each other, although I always felt like I needed to remind him who I was. The last time I saw him I said hello and added, “I’m Leslie Anne Tarabella. I write for AL.com newspapers.” He laughed and kidded me, “We still have newspapers around here?” He thought it was so funny, he repeated it to someone standing next to us. — What a story teller he was. Not just Forrest Gump, but his entire collection of historic novels. He was an amazing talent.

Hurricane Sally Fairhope Alabama - Leslie Anne Tarabella
Hurricane Sally’s work in my backyard.

And if you don’t live in South Alabama, here’s what we’ve been doing for the past few days.. Hurricane Sally, predicted to be only a Tropical Storm, blew in Tuesday night as a Category 2 (although I think it looks more like a CAT 3) storm. Huge trees are down all over town and every one of the large trees in my yard is gone. Power has been out for several days.

my backyard

I hope this 10 second video works for you. It is a view of my backyard, but it’s like this all over town. You can see one giant tree fell in my swimming pool. No telling what kind of damage that will leave when it’s pulled out tomorrow.

Awake since 3am, soaking wet in the rain but celebrating the very happiest of happy hours.

I’m only able to post this message because my genius husband figured out a way to connect an extension cord to his Jeep and run the refrigerator and high speed internet every now and then. We still don’t have air-conditioning, but I can cook on a gas stove so we’re good. We’ll be able to watch a movie on the iPad tonight. – LUXURIOUS! I’ve actually been cooking up a storm so food doesn’t go to waste.

Hurricane Sally Fairhope Alabama 2020 - Leslie Anne Tarabella
Do you remember the song, “Deep and Wide?” These roots were wide, but not very deep. There was wisdom in that Sunday school song!

Hurricanes are part of life when you live along the Gulf Coast, but honestly, I’ve never seen one sneak up on us like this one. I partially blame the local meteorologists for crying wolf for years and scaring everyone to death over small tropical storms, then turning around and saying this would also be a tropical storm. No one adequately prepared for this because we knew the media makes a big stinking deal over nothing. No one bought ice, or gas for their chain saws, no one boarded up their windows. Now there are lines forming all over town for all the essentials. Ice is gold.

Everything’s a mess, my house is a wreck with mud being tracked in by our dog Doug – who ran straight to the bed with the white bedspread. All of our towels were used to soak up rain being pushed in the North facing windows, so I’m looking forward to having electricity for a washing machine. Everything is hot and muggy, but guess what . . . we’re safe, healthy and completely blessed. What more could you want in life? (trees).

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  • Philip Helton says:

    What a wonderful story. I have lived on the gulf coast for 30 years and left for all except Danny. Will never stay here again. Thought I was going to blow away. I sold Winston Gomes has in Magnolia Springs years ago. Supposedly Forrest Gump was written there. Philip Helton.

    • What a great connection to our area. It was so dramatic that Winston died as the hurricane rolled in. A very Gulf-Coast style way to make an exit. Stay safe!

  • I’m in Florida and love a good storm. It’s the after invasion of yard cleaning scammers and loud generators constantly grinding that push me into craziness. It’s the newcomers who don’t know how to prepare that spend 1,000s on a machine to keep 140 dollars of food from spoiling. Hang in there and good to see you are ok.

    • I also love a good storm, although this one bordered on – YIKES! I’m thinking of writing a post about how to prepare your freezer to keep everything frozen longer when the power goes out. We lasted 4 days with no generator and everything is still fresh – except for a chicken pot pie and some smoked tuna dip I forgot about. EEWWW!!! We did get a boost from the JEEP invention, but it wasn’t a full time power source. It’s a trying time and I’m glad it’s coming to an end for us, for now.

  • We are very fortunate here in Houston to be able to rely on spacecityweather.com for hype free forecasting everyday, and especially during hurricane season. Even for those of you elsewhere along the gulf coast, it might be worth reading when ever there is a tropical system out there because while giving us the expected effects on the Houston area, they also speak to the effects of wherever a storm may be aiming. Fabulous weather resource.

    Thankful the damage for y’all wasn’t any worse. (ie, no flooding) but hate that you are without power. Your positive attitude is admirable!

    I told my girls today that we shouldn’t be at all surprised that 2020 has brought us such an active hurricane season that we are now two names into the Greek alphabet for identification! And now, I’m off to keep an eye on tropical storm Beta.

    • Thanks for the tip Leigh. I looked at https://spacecityweather.com and it is a great site — as long as you have internet connection! Once that’s gone . . . it’s too late! Reliable information is getting harder and harder to get, for politics, social issues and now the weather. You’d think the weather would be something they could all agree on! Be careful and keep an eye on this Beta.

  • Arlene Cocke says:

    Ms. Leslie, we made it, yes we did. We rolled up our sleeves, grilled all we could not to waste, prayed, and prayed some more! A friend asked when will this be over?, The rain and the howling wind? I answered, when HE decides!

    So grateful, so blessed. I will miss Mr. Groom

    • Glad you are okay. Even with moving all these limbs and doing yard work, I think I’ve gained weight from trying to “save” everything in the refrigerator. It has been the most delicious disaster ever! God is in control of the stormy and sunny days, so you were right to put it all in His hands.

  • I am so sorry, Leslie Anne! Thankful you are alive but oh the loss of those huge trees. I know it will be awful until power is restored and you can then actually start to clean up for real. Until then, hang on and be careful. You probably will be surrounded by friends checking on you and I know you will have some good stories to tell us about the whole adventure. Yes, Deep and Wide, how our kids loved to sing that in kids choir when they were little. By the last verse the whole audience was laughing and clapping for them.

    • Good songs stick with you for life, no matter how basic the message may be! Thanks for checking in Dewena. You are right about the friends. We’ve heard from nice folks and nice relatives all over the place making sure we’re okay. Take care
      yourself — 2020 is loaded and not very nice!

  • I love that you’re wearing pearls! Sending prayers and hugs. xo

  • Arlene Grimm says:

    So glad you and your family are well Leslie Anne. This has been some year hasn’t it? Blessings on you as you navigate recovery at your house.

    • Thanks Arlene. Hope you are doing okay, and yes, 2020 won’t soon be forgotten.

  • Savan Wilson says:

    So sorry to hear about Winston Groom. I thought yesterday, I wonder how Leslie Anne’s and Bob is doing? I know her next couple of columns will be on target and was so happy you were even able to write this week! So sorry about your beautiful trees – at least you won’t worry next hurricane. Take care. Sounds like you have it under control.

    • Hi Savan. How did you do during the storm? I know you are originally from Mississippi, so you probably are well versed in the art of the hurricane. We are okay. Hot – not able to open all of the windows due to obnoxiously loud generators right outside, it’s brain-rattling! My parents always turned theirs on for just a few hours at a time and never overnight, so it’s making me crazy. I may have to go sit at my mom’s house to gather my wits — and that’s saying a lot. Take care!

  • What a wonderful picture of you and Winston Groom…with you in your pearls, of course. Sorry to hear of his passing. Leslie Anne, I am so sorry you lost all those beautiful trees, but if y’all came out safely that is all that matters. Those weather people get us so stirred up watching and waiting for the storms, I get physically sick from anxiety. A couple of years ago one was predicted to hit Charleston and I was scared to death for my sister – the storm missed her and hit us. No power for days and me with a broken arm and leg! Sending you cool and quiet thoughts.

    • I can’t even imagine this with broken bones and hot casts! You poor thing! We’ll be okay and have greatly relaxed since we found someone with a giant backhoe to help remove the trees.

  • I am so glad you all are safe. I am so sorry you have lost all the large trees and are without power. Thinking and praying for everyone dealing with the aftermath and clean-up. So sad about Winston Groom. Take care.

    • Thanks Pam. It’s always an adventure in life, isn’t it? I’m just glad I have my Bob to go with me. He’s pretty resourceful.

  • Margaret Neely says:

    So sad about Winston Groom – he was one of my favorites. We have one big tree on our house that didn’t do any harm to the house as far as we can tell – the lower branches kept it from hitting hard. We did have a whole house generator put in when we built our house, so to lessen the guilt we have had neighbors over for lunch and dinner and to take showers. Ready to get back to normal!

    • Now that’s the way to do a generator – and if it’s a whole house generator, it’s probably one of the quiet ones. We have people running another one on the other side of the house and it is half the volume. – Manageable. Glad your tree was cooperating when it fell. You dodged that danger!

  • Ellen Shook says:

    You need a generator! We bought one after Katrina although we have never have actually had to use it. Ray checks it and runs it periodically to make sure it is working. The meteorologists do love to sensationalize these storms, but the weather is so weird now. I am now sure their methods are not much more than a crapshoot. I am so sorry about your trees, but I am so so glad you are all right.

    • Thanks Ellen. I have mixed feelings about generators. Locals and natives know how to deal with hurricanes without them. (coolers, ice, etc) but the newcomers run the generators non-stop LOUDLY so the rest of us can’t sleep (windows open for air flow). It’s so ratting LOUD I couldn’t even work in the yard mid-day today without going crazy. I had to go inside with all the grinding noise. They DON’T HAVE THAT MUCH ICE CREAM!!!!! It’s annoying. I’d rather sleep in the cool of the clear, quiet and tranquil evening – no noise with no traffic, no street lights humming than freezing cold AC. I’m torn.

  • Julia Crow says:

    So glad you are good. Pensacola looks similar to post Ivan, 16 years ago to the day – this is one historic day I rather not relive.
    Take care!

    • Hi Julia, since we haven’t had news here, I didn’t realize the storm had reached over to Pensacola until today. It looks as messy as South Alabama! Hope you are okay. I’ve seen Pensacola bridges closed. Very scary for our entire area. Take care!

  • Jeanie Graves says:

    Glad you are safe. I can’t imagine trying to sleep without air conditioning.
    Hope you get electricity back soon!

    • It’s rather cool at night – which is a surprise. But the neighbor’s generators are monsters that keep us awake and spoil the tranquil “camping” vibe!

  • Glad you are safe. I am never following the NHC again. They haven’t gotten the strength right in two years and missed the mark with this one too. My new mantra is if it gets into the Gulf, then it has the potential for it target me and be a 5. I am not taking my eyes off it until it goes in somewhere.
    Wish I cold help you cut up those trees.

    • Oooo! Good plan for the future! If teachers got things wrong this often, they’d be fired. But somehow with meteorologists, it’s just “Mother Nature!!!” It’s going to take a super-sized saw to cut up these trees. I just wish you could come watch the show with me!

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