Riding out Hurricane Carla: 74-year-old Bay City resident recounts devastation
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BAY CITY - Gerald Ludwig had one thing in mind in September 1961 - to have the joyride of his life in one of the Texas coast's largest and most costly hurricanes.
At 24 years old, Ludwig was looking for some thrills, so he and a friend packed themselves into a classic Chevrolet pickup with a 16 mm camera in tow.
"We wanted to see what was going on," Ludwig said. "Now that I think about it, that wasn't a really smart thing to do."
Once the winds exceeded 100 mph, he knew he was dealing with something else.
From the crashing waves in Matagorda to the storm's surge sweeping over the main road into Palacios, Ludwig witnessed the destruction.
In Palacios, he said he and his friend were the last to see the Palacios Pavilion stand.
The storm punched Matagorda County.
Rainfall in Bay City reached 17.5 inches and the storm surge hit 22 feet, according to hurricane records.
Smoking a cigarette in his truck from all the nerves Carla had poured into him, he realized it was time to leave the area.
Though he fueled up the pickup before he left Bay City, by the time Ludwig was nearing the city, the gas needle was hitting empty.
"I don't think we're going to make it," Ludwig said to his friend.
The strong winds forced the small pickup to consume more gas. Also, the storm forced him to drive slower than than 10 mph.
"I have seen many hurricanes in my time," he said, "but none of them compared to Carla."