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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.


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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