Leslie strengthens into 6th hurricane of season (copy) (copy)

The position and tracking map for Hurricane Leslie. The hurricane spun it's way across the Atlantic and hit Lisbon, Portugal. 

We, like everybody else, were inconvenienced and thankfully spared by Hurricane Florence and to a lesser degree inconvenienced by Hurricane Michael. It now appears Charleston will have been spared any major tropical storm activity for the season, but with all the craziness going on in the world of climate change and meteorology, who knows?

With the exception of Hurricane Hazel in 1954, October storms were unheard of until Hurricane Matthew a couple of years ago, as further validated by an old Gullah verse, the last line of which is, “October, all ober,” (the hurricane season, that is.)

I’m not sure what got into us exactly, but we thought Lisbon would surely be a place we could escape to for a few hours of total relaxation and the parallel universe of no concerns whatsoever. As I began writing this (last Saturday) the weather was perfect, sunny, breezy and cool. The view across the Rio Tejo provided a spectacular vista and wild parrots entertained with noisy background chatter.

Everything was delightful — as expected. Until — in the “you can’t make this stuff up” department — we learned that there was a hurricane headed our way with Lisbon being the center of the bullseye.

Word was that Hurricane Leslie was a Category 1 storm — not that big of a deal, unless one expects to board a ship, which was the case with us. As Bette Davis famously said in “All About Eve” which was taken under advisement, we fastened our seat belts because it was going to be a bumpy night.

The itinerary was to sail inland toward Seville, considered an ideal location to ride out the storm.

The southwestern coast of Portugal on a good day is fairly breezy. And, in fact, nearby Cabo da Roca is the westernmost aspect of the European continent, where the waves are big, is sought after by surfing enthusiasts from miles around. Factoring in the possibility of hurricane-strength winds, the captain, for obvious reasons, thought it prudent to spend an extra night in Lisbon where, despite being docked, the ship got slapped around a bit and unsecured furniture turned into confetti blowing in the wind.

Due to forward speed of about 26 mph, the storm was literally come and gone in a matter of hours. But the seas were particularly riled up and waiting for us at the time of castoff the next morning.

Under a clear sky and blustery winds, the captain informed passengers that it would take about 45 minutes or so to reach the ocean, where people were advised to move around the ship with caution. There was going to be a lot of pitching and yawing.

“The prevailing winds are 20-30 knots,” he said. “And the seas will be ... (now pausing because he appeared to be reluctant to tell those who would be prone to seasickness) ... about four to seven meters. This will last ...” Speaking with a Scandinavian accent, he was suddenly at a loss for words. He finished his thought by only uttering, “Yeah.”

Quickly recovering, the captain concluded his remarks by reminding us all that “It’s safety first on your home away from home.”

Answer to I-26 mystery

A few weeks back I asked if anyone might happen to have information about something that has puzzled me ever since I-26 opened in the early 1960s: Why it mysteriously widens and envelopes a large chunk of land just northwest of Hwy. 301? It’s an attractive feature but I figured there had to be more to the design than mere aesthetics.

Well, for those who might be similarly intrigued by the most benign and trivial of matters, my friend Joseph (Peter) McGee has the answer. Having served in the state Legislature years ago, Peter made a couple of calls to friends who had a hand in the design of the highway and it turns out that an old and abandoned cemetery is what prompted that particular feature of the interstate.

Edward M. Gilbreth is a Charleston physician. Reach him at edwardgilbreth@comcast.net.