National Geographic : 1980 Sep
In harm's way: With gentle surf at their doorsteps, condominium owners at the Beach House (right) in Gulf Shores, Ala bama, enjoyed ideal beachfront living when this photographwas taken in 1978. Waves raged over their doorsteps on the nightof HurricaneFrederic,when a storm tide as high as 15 feet covered the low, sandy peninsula. Of this complex, only afew gutted units survived (below). One house formerly alongsidethe condominium is here visible behind it, shoved across a washed-out road.Others have disappeared. Fortunately,no one attempted to ride out the storm in these buildings. Large scale evacuation of vulnerable areas in 376 Florida,Alabama, and Mississippi was officially announced the morning before Fredericcame ashore.In this case public response kept casualties to a minimum. Hundreds of thousands of coastal resi dents streamed inland, jamming hotels and sheltersover much ofthe South.Many left even earlier, perhaps mindful of the killing fury visited on Mississippi'scoast when HurricaneCamille struck in 1969. "People seemed to realize, This is it,'" says Norman Davis, Mobile Civil Defense director."And as long as memories of this one remain, I don't think we'll have any trouble convincing people to evacuate. Folks just didn't believe wind could get that strong."