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Local radio station crew recalls Carla coverage

By BY SONNY LONG - SLONG@VICAD.COM
Sept. 8, 2011 at 4:08 a.m.
Updated Sept. 10, 2011 at 4:10 a.m.


ABOUT BOB NANCE

AGE: 78

CURRENTLY: Retired

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Covered virtually every major news event in Victoria in the past five decades, including the drought-breaking rains of the 1950s, Hurricane Carla in 1961, the Armadillo Confabs of the 1970s, Victoria's first bank robbery in 1982 and the record-setting Guadalupe River flood in October 1998.

AGE: 82

CURRENTLY: Retired

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: After seven more years in the radio business after Hurricane Carla, Traber moved into the banking industry, serving and retired as executive vice president of marketing at Victoria Bank & Trust.

AGE: 72

CURRENTLY: Play-by-Play announcer for Indianapolis Colts. This year will be his 24th season with the Colts.

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Served as radio voice of the NBA's Indiana Pacers (1977-84) and from 1989-2000 worked as a turn reporter on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network. Lamey is a member of the Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.

A DOG'S TALE

After Hurricane Carla, veteran broadcaster Bob Nance drove toward the coast. His encounter with a canine along the way is best told in his own words from this 2001 article in the Advocate.

"A little brown dog, his coat matted with mud, was trembling in a half-crouch. He was trying to balance himself on what may have been a piece of a door about a foot wide and maybe 3 feet long. He was floating in water that probably covered a pasture, but only the tops of the fence posts were visible. The pasture was alongside a road leading to the coastal community of Olivia, but the road was impassable. The twisted wreckage of a frame house blocked the road.

The little dog was nearly a half-block away when we first saw him, and drifting away from us. He saw me watching him, pleading with his eyes for help. My canine companion in the back seat, my boxer named Diablo, began to whine softly. Not a challenging whine, but more a plea for me to do something to help the little stranger.

With a lump in my throat, I realized there was absolutely nothing I could do, so I carefully turned the car around and headed back to Victoria to broadcast my tour of the devastation of Hurricane Carla on KVIC-AM."

Bob Nance dodged sheets of flying tin as he checked the rain gauge outside the studio of KVIC radio on Sept. 11, 1961.

Hurricane Carla was at full throat, roaring through the Crossroads area, and for many, Nance was the only voice above the din.

"I don't know why, but I'd go out every once in a while and check the rain gauge," Nance said. "I could have been decapitated by the tin. There was also limbs and lumber flying around, but it was the tin that really scared me."

News director Nance, his dog Diablo, a couple of television reporters from the Dallas area and other members of the radio staff were hunkered down at the station as Carla roared on shore.

The night before it looked as if the hurricane might not hit the Texas coast at all.

"It changed direction and we, along with everyone else, thought that we had dodged the bullet," said Nance, 28 when the hurricane hit. "But it made a 360-degree loop and headed right back for us."

Fred Jones manned the telephones, taking calls not from lonely local listeners, but from across the country and even from overseas.

Another person at the station that day was part-timer Bob Lamey, a college graduate student who was home from school because he had received his draft notice.

"It's a fuzzy memory," admitted Lamey, 22 at the time. "I do remember Bob Nance doing a hell of a job that night. I don't really recollect exactly what my duties were, but I am sure they kept me busy."

Nance did remember, saying Lamey, the rookie, and veteran broadcaster Bill Flemion manned the control board.

Lamey did recollect his parents' home only having shingle damage and concern coming from his in-laws in Pennsylvania.

"Somehow a photograph got out to the East Coast that showed snakes on the Goliad Highway because the river had overflowed," Lamey said. "My in-laws were afraid that we were inundated with snakes in the streets of Victoria."

Fellow staffer Jimmy Traber was feeding the station information from the weather bureau office at Foster Field.

"We wanted to get information directly from the weather bureau to our listeners," Traber said.

Traber, now 82, recalled some of his experiences during the hurricane.

"The buildings had gravel on the roofs and it was flying around like shotgun blasts," he said. "Corrugated tin would tear partially off a building and flap in the wind like a flag."

Part of the roof of the bureau building was torn off by Carla's fury.

"It was a real experience, no question about that," Traber said.

Nance said at one point he lost contact with Traber.

"Right in the middle of one report the line went dead. We didn't know for about three hours if they were alive or dead out there," Nance said. "When it died down a little, a listener who lived near the airport drove by to see if everyone was OK and came to town and told us they were."

Nance's experiences continued after the storm passed when he made a trek, with Diablo alongside, toward the tattered coast.

"I got as far as Highway 35 and wanted to go to Port O'Connor, but couldn't go to the right because there was a shrimp boat in the middle of the highway," said Nance.

So he turned left.

"I'm dodging downed limbs and utility poles and wires and recording a report as I'm driving," he said.

When he came to the new steel and concrete causeway that had been dedicated only the month before, one whole section of it had been lifted up by the storm.

"The old wooden causeway was basically gone," Nance said.

He drove into Point Comfort talking about what he was seeing.

"There were dead cattle and dead horses in trees, freezers and refrigerators in trees," Nance said. "There was devastation as far as I could see."

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