Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2017 Issue

Weathering the Storm

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Hurricane Harvey approaches Corpus Christi Friday evening August 25.

I woke up on the morning of Thursday, August 24, made breakfast, and turned on the Weather Channel for the 8:00 update on Tropical Storm Harvey. I live in Corpus Christi, Texas, a flat, low lying community on the Texas Gulf Coast. For the previous couple of days, the National Weather Service had been predicting Harvey would become a tropical storm, maybe even a minimal Category 1 hurricane with 75 mph winds, when it made landfall near Corpus Christi.

 

Minimal strength hurricanes worry no one along the coast, but this one looked like it could bring unusually heavy rains. High pressure to the east, high pressure to the west, and a cold front to the north meant it would be trapped from moving away quickly. There could be rain for days. I live close to a river that drains, but very slowly, the flat land. Add to that an expected storm surge that could reach eight feet in the bay to which it drains and flow might not be able to keep up with heavy rains. My house is only 16 feet above sea level. A flooded house is a disaster, even more so in Corpus Christi's extremely humid environment. Mold spores just wait for the opportunity to move into even the best of homes.

 

The 8:00 a.m. forecast was unchanged – minimal category 1. I debated whether it was necessary to go through the time-consuming, unpleasant chore of boarding up the windows. Probably not. They can handle 75 mph winds no sweat. I waited for the next update, which came at 11:00 a.m. It was different. Suddenly, the forecast was upped to a category 3 hurricane (111-129 mph), maybe even a cat. 4, a 12-foot storm surge, and torrential rains. Houses here are built to survive a borderline category 3. They are not built to withstand an upper category 3. Corpus Christi was the storm's direct target, with arrival time expected late Friday or early Saturday morning. Plans immediately changed.

 

My wife and I set about putting up the boards, several hours of work, as quickly as we could. After that, we moved valuables at floor level to higher ground, to save them from water in the house. Finally, we packed up several days worth of clothes, a few valuables, and left. As much as I wanted to stay to protect the house, this could be life-threatening. We needed to get out, and hoped to beat the crowds that would turn I-37 west to San Antonio into a parking lot. Traffic was slow, but moving. We got out by 5:00, which is just when people who left for work that morning, confident that this storm was no big deal, were returning home, to discover what lay ahead.

 

We checked with neighbors. Some were leaving, some undecided, one chose to ride it out. We would keep in touch.

 

We arrived in Dallas, 400 miles away, at 2:00 a.m. Friday morning. We have family there. They left the door unlocked.

 

All Friday we remained glued to the TV, watching the progress from afar as the storm grew in intensity and inched closer to land, Corpus Christi still in its sights. It was a day of frayed nerves, alternating hopes and fears. Lives were safe, but the fate of home and possessions was unknown. They could all be gone. It's an uneasy sensation. Finally, late that evening, the storm track shifted slightly to the north. After nightfall, it struck, crossing the shore by Rockport and Aransas Pass, Texas. Those communities are on the north side of Corpus Christi Bay, 15-20 miles from Corpus Christi on the south side.

 

Come morning, we began searching for information. We did not know whether our house had been damaged, or even still existed. Fortunately for us, Corpus Christi had been mostly spared. We heard from neighbors who stayed or had friends that stayed. Some even took pictures. Our house appeared to be intact. The river did not overflow, the house did not flood.

 

Harvey had since taken up residence in the area north of Corpus Christi, blocking routes home from Dallas. However, by Sunday, we were able to skirt the worst of it taking a more westerly route home. We still weren't sure what we would find, perhaps damaging leaks from the roof. We had boarded up the doors, but the garage door opener provided access. Electricity had already been restored to our house, though much of the city was still dark. What we found was pure relief. It looked exactly as it did when we left. There was no damage at all. Morning revealed the only casualty to be the fences around the yard, mostly broken and blown over. Add a loose gutter and broken porch screen door and that was it.

 

You have probably seen the pictures of Rockport and Aransas Pass. Large parts of those communities were flattened, houses nothing but a pile of rubble, others just a foundation, remnants of the house sitting across the street. Some places will be uninhabitable for months, and complete restoration will take years. Even as the storm's winds died down, the torrential rains continued. It stalled around Victoria and dumped rain amounts measured in feet rather than inches. That resulted in the incredible record-breaking floods in Houston. Those are pictures you have undoubtedly seen, people being rescued by boat from upper floor windows and roofs in the nation's fourth largest city. Already the victim of numerous terrible floods, this was the worst of all. It now appears likely that damages will be greater from Hurricane Harvey than from any other storm in American history.

 

Meanwhile, Corpus Christi became something of a footnote. Dominating the forecasts before the storm landed, it was practically forgotten in the aftermath. The Weather Channel personalities headed north to Houston (the President did pay us a visit a few days later). That was all well by us. Winds and rain are far worse on the north side of a Western Gulf hurricane, where counterclockwise spinning pulls in wind and rain from the ocean, rather than gentler, dryer flows off the land to the south. Meanwhile, the storm surge to the north sucks water from the south. There was no surge in the bay to slow the draining streams' flow. Twenty miles away, sustained winds reached 130 mph. For us it was the 80s. Rain was like an ordinary storm, not a once in a lifetime event.

 

A little more than a dozen miles made all the difference. It's hard to know what to think. There is relief, but tempered with great sorrow for those not far away who suffered so much. It was supposed to be us, but it wasn't. A last minute jog delivered that terrible fate to others. There is no reason, and it isn't fair. It just happened that way. We will rebuild our fences while others will have to rebuild their lives.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann, wallpaper sample book, circa 1919. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Archive from a late office of the Breuer & Smith architectural team, New York, 1960-70s. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> William Morris, <i>The Story of the Glittering Plain or the Land of Living Men,</i> illustrated by Walter Crane, Kelmscott Press, Hammersmith, 1894. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustave Doré, <i>La Sainte Bible selon la Vulgate,</i> Tours, 1866. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustav Klimt & Max Eisler, <i>Eine Nachlese,</i> complete set, Vienna, 1931. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>Eric Allatini & Gerda Wegener, <i>Sur Talons Rouges,</i> with original watercolor by Wegener, Paris, 1929. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>C.P. Cavafy, <i>Fourteen Poems,</i> illustrated & signed by David Hockney, London, 1966. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jean Midolle, <i>Spécimen des Écritures Modernes...</i>, Strasbourg, 1834-35. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>E.A. Seguy, <i>Floréal: Dessins & Coloris Nouveaux,</i> Paris, 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.
  • <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. SOLD for $131,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. SOLD for $516,500
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. SOLD for $106,250
    <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. SOLD for $16,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. SOLD for $275,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. SOLD for $118,750
  • <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> E.H. SHEPARD, Original drawing for A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner.<br>$40,000-60,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> BERNARD RATZER, Plan of the City of New York in North America, surveyed in the years 1766 & 1767. $80,000-100,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> THOMAS JEFFERSON, Autograph letter signed comparing Logan, Tecumseh, and Little Turtle to the Spartans. Monticello: 15 February 1821. $14,000-18,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN C. FREMONT, Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, in the Year 1842.. Abridged edition, the only one containing the folding map From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $3,000-5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ZANE GREY, Album containing 94 large format photographs of Grey and party at Catalina Island, Arizona, and fishing in the Pacific. From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $5,000-$8,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> WILLIAM COMBE, A History of Madeira ... illustrative of the Costumes, Manners, and Occupations of the Inhabitants. produced by Ackermann in 1821; From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ERIC TAVERNER, Salmon Fishing... One of 275 copies signed by Taverner, published in 1931,From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN WHITEHEAD, Exploration of Mount Kina Balu, North Borneo. Whitehead reached the high point of Kinabalu in 1888. Part of a major group of travel books from the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN LONG, Voyages and Travels of an Indian Interpreter and Trader, describing the Manners and Customs of the North American Indians... The first edition of 1791. $3,000-$5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> SAMUEL BECKETT, Stirrings Still. This, Beckett’s last work of fiction with original lithographs by Le Brocquy, limited to 200 copies signed by the author and the artist. From the Estate of Howard Kaminsky.. $1,500-$2,500

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