Residents plan to leave ahead of storm
Gilbert and his father, Frank Gibbs, listened to weather forecasters as Celia churned through the Gulf of Mexico, and they were left with the impression that Celia wouldn't be very powerful. So they hunkered down in their woodframe Alister Street home and waited.
Celia surprised them.
The storm unleashed wind gusts of up to 180 mph, rocking the Gibbs' house back and forth on its foundation, like a boat on ocean swells. Celia's storm swell inundated Alister Street with seawater 4 feet deep.
Today, 63-year-old Gilbert Gibbs says he'll make sure he gets out of town before a hurricane hits.
"I'm not going to go through that kind of terror again," he said. "You don't know if you're going to live from one second to the next."
Many Port Aransas residents say they're well aware of the destructive power of hurricanes, especially on barrier islands like Mustang Island. These residents say they won't hesitate to leave when landfall by a monster storm appears imminent.
Robert and Jackie Gaskill have made sure they're ready to leave their Port Aransas home and stay gone for a long time if a hurricane devastates the island. They bought a house in the rural Hill Country community of Hunt. They use it as a vacation home, but hurricanes were the main things on their mind when they bought it.
"It was because of Katrina and knowing we probably wouldn't be able to move into the (Port Aransas) house again for a couple of years" if it is destroyed by a hurricane, Jackie Gaskill said.
The Gaskills call the spare home their "hurricane hole."
Scott Clanton said he'll evacuate Port Aransas, if need be. But Clanton, who owns Scott's Car Care, plans to cut it close on his timing. He knows he'll have a flood of customers just before a hurricane.
"I've got to stay open until the last minute, because when a hurricane is coming, people are trying to get their cars ready to get on the road," he said.
It won't take a lot of persuading to get Leona Leon to evacuate.
"At the first hint of a hurricane watch, I will take my 87-year-old mother and head for Kerrville," Leon said.
"There is no way I can hang around without electricity or water, or the kinds of amenities it takes for two sick, elderly women to get along," Leon said.
Leon, 67, suffers from emphysema and relies on a tank of oxygen to help her breathing. But she's ready for a hurricane. She has a Lincoln Town Car with a gas tank she always keeps at least half full, and she has put together a list of family photos and important papers, so she'll know what to pack when the time comes.
"You have to be prepared to just go," Leon said.
The experience of enduring a hurricane in Jamaica in the late 1980s has served as a reminder to Susan Powell never to go through the same thing in Port Aransas.
Powell, co-owner and general manager of the Back Porch Bar, was visiting Jamaica to check on her sailboard rental business and simply to relax. Then a hurricane began churning toward the island nation.
Powell couldn't evacuate. By the time she learned of the approaching storm, she couldn't make it to the airport in time. It closed.
"I know it's hard to believe, because in (the United States), you have so much advance warning," Powell said. "But there, there wasn't."
Powell stayed in a hotel room while the storm raged outside.
"It was scary," she said. "It was like a freight train going over us."
Powell wasn't hurt. But the ensuing days included few of the comforts that tourists seek when they vacation in the Caribbean.
"There was no power, no A/C, no pina coladas."