Tag Archives: Hold Back The Waters

As Hurricane Harvey barrels down on TX, FL remembers past history

Hurricane Harvey on Friday, August 25, 2017 off the coast of Texas

Residents all along the coast of Texas are bracing for Hurricane Harvey expected to come ashore either late tonight or early Saturday morning. At 7:30 p.m. forecasters with the National Hurricane Center reported winds are sustained at 130 mph making Hurricane Harvey a category 4 storm.  Catastrophic flooding is expected due to heavy rainfall and storm surge.  The hurricane is moving to the northwest at 10 mph.

Hurricane Harvey 539 8 25 2017Because current weather patterns moving across the country will block the storm from moving north, weather specialists predict rainfall amounts could total as much as 35+ inches in areas closest to landfall and 15 to 20 inches in a widespread area of southern Texas. The system could also stick around until early next week and move along the Louisiana coast dumping more rain.  Mandatory evacuations are already in place and highways are packed with motorists fleeing inland ahead of the hurricane.

 

Boats washed ashore from Hurricane Hermine (photo credit AP)
Boats washed ashore from Hurricane Hermine (photo credit AP)

Floridians watching the reports about Hurricane Harvey headed toward Texas remember all too well the damage caused by last year’s Labor Day Hurricane Hermine  followed by Hurricane Matthew that skirted across a major section of the state’s east coast.

 

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Many beach communities are still recuperating from the beach erosion and damage caused by the storms to highways, roads, piers, homes and other infrastructure.

Twelve years ago Hurricane Wilma took a hard right-hand turn from the Yucatan and made a beeline for South Florida as a Category 3 storm with winds at 120 mph before it made landfall near Cape Romano, FL on October 24th, 2005.  Just a year before Wilma, 2004 became one for the history books as Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Jeanne and Ivan wreaked their havoc on the Sunshine State.

It was also 12 years ago on August 29th when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast near Buras, Louisiana and took its toll on New Orleans and the Mississippi coastline, becoming one of the most costly storms in U.S. history.  According to NOAA, the damage estimates from Katrina reached $108 billion dollars.  The official death toll from Katrina is 1,200 making it the 3rd deadliest storm in history behind the 1900 hurricane which hit Galveston, TX leaving 8,000 dead.  The 2nd deadliest storm was the Lake Okeechobee storm in Florida in 1928  killing approximately 3,000 people.

 

galveston
Scene from the aftermath of the 1900 hurricane that struck Galveston, TX

 

For Floridians who lived in South Florida during Hurricane Andrew, the thought of any tropical system brings back painful memories.

 

Hurricane Andrew, August 1992
Hurricane Andrew, August 1992

 

 

It was on August 24th, 1992 when the catastrophic storm struck Homestead and South Florida with winds of 150 miles an hour with gusts up to 175 miles an hour.  Andrew is listed as the 4th worst hurricane to hit the United States with a damage total of more than 25-billion dollars.  Nearly four dozen people were killed.

 

In 2011 Homestead resident (and former mayor) Steve Bateman, talked with Donna Green-Townsend about living through Hurricane Andrew and how Homestead has worked toward economic recovery.  At the time of the interview, Hurricane Irene was churning in the Atlantic. (from Donna’s audio archives).

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truck carrying victims of 1928 hurricaneFlorida has experienced many devastating hurricanes through the years.  Some of the worst storms didn’t even have names.  The 1928 Category 4 storm that pushed Lake Okeechobee over its banks offically killed 3,000 people, but is believed by many to have drowned 4,000 souls.  Many were migrant workers who ended up in mass graves following the storm….some marked and some unmarked.  There are many accounts from people recalling the storm describing how they were tied to trees by their families so they wouldn’t be swept away.

The late singer songwriter Will McLean wrote his most famous song about that tragedy.  “Hold Back The Waters” has become somewhat of a Florida anthem in folk circles.  McLean was the first folk artist inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame. See a video of the late singer-songwriter singing his famous song below:

 

 

The 1928 storm was before television and the weather channel so there was no real advance knowledge about the hurricane. It’s been written that the Seminoles living in Florida may have warned the storm was coming but people didn’t pay attention.  This storm is the reason there is now a dike all around Lake Okeechobee in South Florida. As the category 4 hurricane moved inland, the strong winds piled the water up at the south end of the lake.  Ultimately the weaker earthen levee gave way flooding an area 6 miles wide and 75 miles long.

Archival videos of the Father of Florida Folk Will McLean

Will McLean performing
Will McLean performing

The Father of Florida Folk, the late Will McLean, loved to entertain and share songs, poems and stories of the lore and legends of Florida.  Unfortunately, most of those performances were not captured on video or audio tape.  When those performances were recorded, it was special indeed.

Here are five such videos.

The first is the January 24, 1990 memorial service for Will at the Thomas Center in Gainesville. On that day in 1990 hundreds of people filled the Thomas Center in Gainesville, FL to capacity. They were all there to pay tribute to the Father of Florida Folk, Will McLean, who had just passed away from cancer a few days before. This archival video features many of his friends sharing not only their own precious stories about Will and how he touched their lives, but also sharing their versions of Will’s original songs. Some of those friends in attendance included Gamble Rogers, Don Grooms, Dale Crider, Jeanie Fitchen, Doug Gaus, Frank and Ann Thomas, Wayne Martin, Dennis Devine, Mary Ann DiNella, Barbara Sheen Todd, Margaret Longhill, Donna Green-Townsend and Bobby Hicks to name a few. There were not only tears, but laughter as many of the speakers shared personal memories demonstrating Will McLean’s sense of humor. Following the ceremony many friends travelled to McLean’s favorite camping spot, Gore’s Landing in Marion County to disperse his ashes into the Ocklawaha River. Will McLean’s desire to “save Florida through music” continues today through a music festival held in his honor. The festival is usually held the 2nd weekend of March at the Sertoma Youth Ranch, 7 miles west of Dade City and near Brooksville. For more information about the Will McLean Festival and Foundation go online to willmclean.com

 

The next four videos were made possible when his music buddy, the late Don Grooms, brought Will to a studio in Gainesville.  The first video is Will singing his most famous song, “Hold Back The Waters,” about the 1928 hurricane that drowned between  three and four thousand people around Lake Okeechobee. (You will see Will when he starts singing at about :24 seconds in)

 

 

Will McLean served during WWII
Will McLean served during WWII

It’s been said Will McLean wrote his song, “Florida Sand,” after returning home from WWII where he had been taken as a POW in the Philippines. When he landed in Florida he kissed the ground and said he would only write about his beloved Florida Sand. In this video his friend Lais provided dance interpretation of the song.

 

 

Early photo of Will McLean's grandparents
Early photo of Will McLean’s grandparents

Will McLean spent many of his early years with his grandfather who took him to a variety of places in Florida. Those travels influenced Will’s songwriting, poems and stories. Many of those writings bring attention to Will’s concern about Florida’s environment. That concern is very evident in his song, “Lament.” Lais also interprets this song through dance.

 

 

Will McLean, Tim DeMass and Don
Will McLean, Tim DeMass and Don Grooms

Today hundreds of singer songwriters have been inspired to write songs about Florida because of Will McLean’s passion for the state. Will’s dear music buddy, the late Don Grooms, wrote one of his most famous songs, “Vitachuko,” because of Will’s inspiration. It’s about the bloody skirmish between Native American Chief Vitachuko and Spanish Explorer Hernando de Soto. Grooms said when he played it for McLean Will said, “Grooms you have finally justified your existence.” In this recording Will accompanies Grooms by playing harmonica. The late Tim DeMass is playing bass. (You will see a closeup of Will on the harmonica at about two minutes into the video and at the end of the song.)

 

To go back to the page “Will McLean: The Father of Florida Folk” CLICK HERE:
To go to the official Will McLean website CLICK HERE
Don Grooms and Will McLean
Don Grooms and Will McLean
Will McLean resting beside his guitar
Will McLean resting beside his guitar

 

 

 

Florida cleans up after Hurricane Matthew and experts say remember past history

Update November, 2016: Florida’s East coast experienced serious beach erosion from Hurricane Matthew and many businesses and homes suffered severe damage from the huge tidal wave associated with the hurricane.  In particular, Florida Highway A1A in Flagler County was washed out and many homes along North A1A from Vilano Beach northward have been declared uninhabitable because the sand dunes were washed away underneath the homes. Many streets in St. Augustine are filled with debris piles waiting to be removed.  Several businesses along the waterfront in downtown St. Augustine have not yet reopened as they are still under rennovation from the water that pushed through during high tide during the storm.  Below are pictures of just some of the damage caused by Hurricane Matthew just north of St. Augustine on North A1A as well as on South A1A. See also pictures of the hired road crew working feverishly to fix the highway on Flagler Beach that gave way during the hurricane.  Not only is the highway up and running, but dump trucks and shovels are putting down large rocks alongside the highway to help hold the sand and roadway in place.

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Additional footage and information about the overal impact of Hurricane Matthew can be viewed on this Weather channel link.
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Original story: Friday, October 7th, 2016

214531w5_nl_smAt 5 p.m. the National Hurricane Center reports extremely dangerous Hurricane Matthew is causing devastation on Florida’s northeast coast.  Matthew is located at 30.2 N, 80.7 W.  Winds are 110 (175 km). Jacksonville reports indicated wind gusts up to 82 mph at times.  The storm is 948 mb (28.0).  Hurricane Matthew is expected to turn toward the N/NE and then NE on Saturday.  Matthew should begin to weaken in the the next 48 hours. Meanwhile Matthew is continuing to bring high winds inland and serious storm surge to beaches on Florida’s northeast coastline.

214531The National Hurricane Center reports Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 60 miles (95 km) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward to 185 miles (295 km).  The minimum central pressure recently reported by reconnaissance aircraft was 947mb (27.97 in).  Matthew is expected to remain a hurricane until it begins to move away from the U.S.

huirFloridians and visitors can go to FloridaEvacuates.com or download the Florida-Evacuates app to enter their location and see shelters available in their area.

Damage from Hurricane Hermine (Photo Credit CNN)
Damage from Hurricane Hermine (Photo Credit CNN)

Following the most recent update from the National Hurricane Center on

Hurricane Matthew, Governor Scott has activated an additional 1,000 National Guard members. 3,500 members have now been activated.  This is over half of the available troops that may be activated.  Governor Scott has continued to activate more members to help with important life-saving operations, including evacuations and preparing for search and rescue missions.  Governor Scott is requesting President Obama to send additional federal resources to Florida, including generators and pumps, that the state can preposition to help impacted areas.

The Florida Department of Health will be updating hospital evacuation information at FLHealth.gov

TOLLS

  • Governor Scott directed DOT to suspend all tolls in the affected areas of the state, which includes the entire Florida Turnpike, Alligator Alley, Central Florida Expressway Authority and the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority.

Many beach communities are being evacuated because of expected storm surge.  Governor Scott says people need to have a plan, know where evacuation centers will be located and have food and supplies to last at least 3 days including water, medicine and batteries.  Scott says gather together important documents such as insurance papers.   Make plans for how to deal with your pet in an emergency evacuation.  A complete list of disaster planning suggestions are located on the Florida Division of Emergency Management Website.

Boats washed ashore from Hurricane Hermine (photo credit AP)
Boats washed ashore from Hurricane Hermine (photo credit AP)

Even though Hurricane Hermine hit on Labor Day Weekend this year, it’s been 12 years since Florida experienced a major tropical system. That’s when Hurricane Wilma struck South Florida.  Just a year before Wilma, 2004 became one for the history books as Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Jeanne and Ivan wreaked their havoc on the Sunshine State.

It was 11 years ago on August 29th when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast near Buras, Louisiana and took its toll on New Orleans and the Mississippi coastline, becoming one of the most costly storms in U.S. history.  According to NOAA, the damage estimates from Katrina reached $108 billion dollars.  The official death toll from Katrina is 1,200 making it the 3rd deadliest storm in history behind the 1900 hurricane which hit Galveston, TX leaving 8,000 dead.  The 2nd deadliest storm was the Lake Okeechobee storm in Florida in 1928  killing approximately 3,000 people.

galveston
Scene from the aftermath of the 1900 hurricane that struck Galveston, TX

For Floridians who lived in South Florida during Hurricane Andrew, the thought of any tropical system possibly heading toward the Sunshine State brings back painful memories.

Hurricane Andrew, August 1992
Hurricane Andrew, August 1992

It was on August 24th, 1992 when the catastrophic storm struck Homestead and South Florida with winds of 150 miles an hour with gusts up to 175 miles an hour.  Andrew is listed as the 4th worst hurricane to hit the United States with a damage total of more than 25-billion dollars.  Nearly four dozen people were killed.

In 2011 Homestead resident (and former mayor) Steve Bateman, talked with Donna Green-Townsend about living through Hurricane Andrew and how Homestead has worked toward economic recovery.  At the time of the interview, Hurricane Irene was churning in the Atlantic. (from Donna’s audio archives).

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truck carrying victims of 1928 hurricaneFlorida has experienced many devastating hurricanes through the years.  Some of the worst storms didn’t even have names.  The 1928 Category 4 storm that pushed Lake Okeechobee over its banks offically killed 3,000 people, but is believed by many to have drowned 4,000 souls.  Many were migrant workers who ended up in mass graves following the storm….some marked and some unmarked.  There are many accounts from people recalling the storm describing how they were tied to trees by their families so they wouldn’t be swept away.

The late singer songwriter Will McLean wrote his most famous song about that tragedy.  “Hold Back The Waters” has become somewhat of a Florida anthem in folk circles.  McLean was the first folk artist inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame. See a video of the late singer-songwriter singing his famous song below:

The 1928 storm was before television and the weather channel so there was no real advance knowledge about the hurricane. It’s been written that the Seminoles living in Florida may have warned the storm was coming but people didn’t pay attention.  This storm is the reason there is now a dike all around Lake Okeechobee in South Florida. As the category 4 hurricane moved inland, the strong winds piled the water up at the south end of the lake.  Ultimately the weaker earthen levee gave way flooding an area 6 miles wide and 75 miles long.

 

2004_frances_satillitenearhispanilacat4_noaa
Hurricane Frances as a Category 4 storm off the coast of Hispaniola. Source: NOAA

Closer to North Central Florida residents who are watching the current track for Tropical Storm Hermine can’t help but remember the chaos wreaked on the area from Tropical Storm Frances and Jeanne in 2004.  Many residents and businesses lost power for days causing grocery stores to lose fresh and frozen food products.  ATMs were down.  Traffic lights were out.  Trees fell across many streets and homes and houses were flooded in low lying areas.

 

 

From her audio archives here’s a snippet of what the community was experiencing just after Frances moved through North Central Florida in September of 2004.

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An early report on flooding in Northwest  Gainesville after the rain from Tropical Storm Frances in 2004.

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A few weeks before Tropical Storms Frances and Jeanne came through North Central Florida, Hurricane Charley wreaked havoc on Southwest, FL, especially Charlotte County.   Many firefighters, law enforcement officers and medical personnel travelled to the area to give relief and assistance.  Here’s another audio archive story from 2004.

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Will McLean Archival Audio Interviews from 1985 and 1987 (never before published)

Will McLean waiting to perform
The Black Hat Troubadour Will McLean

(Raw Interviews from 1985 and 1987 featured below)

(all photos courtesy of Margaret Longhill and the Will McLean Foundation)

In November of 1985 Will McLean showed up at my office at WUFT-FM on the University of Florida campus.    McLean, known to many as the “Black Hat Troubadour”  penned hundreds of songs, stories and poems about what he called his “beloved Florida sand.” McLean, who died in 1990, was the first folk artist inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.

As I documented in earlier posts, McLean wanted to hang up some fliers about his November 17th, 1985 concert at the historic Thomas Center in Gainesville.  I had only lived in Florida about a year and a half at that point.  Though I had never met him and didn’t know a lot about him I did know one of his songs very well.  “Hold Back The Waters.” It was about the 1928 Hurricane that killed between 3,000 to 4,000 people.  The song had become very popular in folk music circles.  That fact alone enticed me to ask Will to sit down for an interview in 1985.  A couple of years later, after I’d gotten to know him better, I asked Will to come in for a second interview.  The two interviews have been in my personal audio archives for nearly 30 years.  I thought it was about time I shared them on my website.

Author’s note:  My voice sounds very young in these old interviews.  Also, the interviews below are from cassette dubs from the original reel to reel tapes.  Some of the 1985 cassette dubs have gotten a little scratchy over time.  I am anxious to see how the original reel to reels will sound if I can get my hands on a reel to reel machine.  The 1987 dubs from the cassette below sound much better.  I’m including both years for the sake of archival history).

I’m posting the interviews in a couple of different ways.  You can either listen to the interviews in their entirety or listen to them in separated segments (see below).

scan0004Will McLean Interview in 1985

1985 Full Interview

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Early photo of Will McLean's grandparents
Early photo of Will McLean’s grandparents

Segment 1:  Will shares stories about his grandfather and mother

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Segment 2:  Will talks about the public radio Prairie Home Companion host Garrison Keillor

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Will McLean 8-28-58
Florida’s Black Hat Troubadour, the late Will McLean

Segment 3:  Will shares the story of his song “Hold Back The Waters”

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Will McLean0174
(l to r) Dale Crider, Will McLean and Gamble Rogers

Here’s the song Hold Back The Waters:

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Segment 4:  Will shares the story of performing at Carnegie Hall in NYC with Pete Seeger

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Will McLean0024Segment 5:  Will talks about giving his music away and his song Macclenny Farewell

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Here’s the song Macclenny Farewell:

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Will McLean 1981Segment 6:  Will shares the story of his wife Alice’s cancer battle and finding new love

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Segment 7:  Will talks about environmental concerns

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(left to right) Paul Champion, Gamble Rogers and Will McLean
(l to r) Paul Champion, Gamble Rogers and Will McLean

Segment 8:  Will talks about his friends Gamble Rogers, Paul Champion and Cousin Thelma Boltin

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Cousin Thelma Boltin, Gamble Rogers and Will McLean 1988 50th Anniv of The Yearling in Cross Creek (photo by Iris Greenfield)
Cousin Thelma Boltin, Gamble Rogers and Will McLean 1988 50th Anniv of The Yearling in Cross Creek (photo by Iris Greenfield)

Segment 9:  Will talks about the Florida songs he’s written that he’s most proud of

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Lottie and Will McLean as children from Chipley, Florida
Lottie and Will McLean as children from Chipley, Florida

 

 

Here is Will’s song Florida Sand:

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Here’s Away O’ee:

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Segment 10:  Will shares more about his Carnegie Hall performance in NYC

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Will McLean0048Will McLean Interview in 1987

Full interview with Will McLean in 1987 Part One

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Part Two of the full interview in 1987 Will addresses whether he’d ever go back to Rosewood to try and gather material for a song

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Shorter separated segments:

Will McLean0206Segment 1:  Will shares the story behind his song The Ballad of Scotty

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Here’s the song Ballad of Scotty

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Will McLean (14)Segment 2:  Will talks about the inspiration for his song Wild Hog

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Here’s the song Wild Hog:

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Will McLean (12)Segment 3:  Will shares the story of Cush Holston

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Here’s Will’s song Cush Holston:

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Will McLean (20)Segment 4:  Will gives the background on Tate’s Hell

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Here’s Will’s song Tate’s Hell:

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 Segment 5:  Will talks about his grandfather

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Will McLean performing on a set with audience on stage
Will McLean performing on a set with audience on stage

Segment 6:  Will talks about “who” he is and why

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Segment 7:  Will shares the story of being run out of Rosewood (he refers to it as Rosehill)

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Will McLean (3)Segment 8:  Will talks about the 1928 hurricane and his song Hold Back The Waters and his relationship with the Seminoles

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Here are Will’s songs Seminole and Osceola’s Last Words:

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Lais doing dance interpretation while Will McLean performed at the Florida Folk Festival
Lais doing dance interpretation while Will McLean performed at the Florida Folk Festival

Segment 9:  Will talks about his dream for a ballet featuring his songs of Florida

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Will McLean (53)
The late Cousin Thelma Boltin with Will McLean circa 1988 in Cross Creek

Segment 10:  Will talks about what he’s been writing lately

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Segment 11:  Will talking about whether he would go back to Rosewood to try and gather song material

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Segment 12:  Will talks about environmental concerns for Florida

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