Where were you when David hit? People recall living through hurricane in Savannah 40 years ago

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — “I don’t care much for hurricanes, and as I get older, I care even less for them.”

WSAV’s Director of Production, Jerry Perlman, lived through Hurricane David’s hit on Savannah 40 years ago this month. 

He not only lived through it — but he and his friends partied as they rode out the Category 1 storm. 

“I was in my 20s back then, and other than buying up a bunch of food, a generator and making provisions like boarding up a few windows, the biggest concern was, ‘Do we have enough beer and liquor to get through it?’”

The hurricane lashed the area on Sept. 4, 1979 — the same day that Category 2 Hurricane Dorian impacted the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry this year.

Both storms were the fourth named tropical cyclone in their respective Atlantic hurricane seasons.

Before 2016’s Hurricane Matthew, David was the last hurricane to hit Savannah.

Elaine Robertson Snider shared her experience living through David with News 3 via Facebook.

David started out near Cape Verde off Africa’s coast in late August, and would eventually go on to strengthen into a Category 5 hurricane that decimated the Dominican Republic but not before hitting the tiny island of Dominica. 

More than 1,500 people were killed.

By the time it made its way to Savannah on a Tuesday afternoon, it was a much weaker storm. However, it still wreaked havoc on the area in the form of downed century-old trees and destroyed power lines.

“No one could’ve ever predicted the aftermath of such a weak hurricane on what life would be like in Savannah and the Coastal Empire following that,” Perlman said. 

He was without electricity for two weeks, along with thousands of others in the area.

“I lived on a three-acre property at the time on the Skidaway River, and we had 10 trees that were at least 100 years old that went down, and it was like this all over the city,” Perlman recalled.

Melissa Allen Heath, who was a college student driving down from Boston to her parents’ home on Isle of Hope right before David hit, described the ride home as “dicey” as she approached the South. 

“I just remember the winds getting really strong, it was, of course, dark,” Heath told News 3.

She got home around 6 a.m. that Tuesday, and as the day progressed, the weather conditions continued to decline. When the storm hit, Heath said, the power immediately went out.

“It was quite dramatic,” she said. “We lost part of the dock, we had a wind gauge at the end of the dock that broke at 100.”

They were without water or power for days.

Following the storm, her family was fine. A large oak tree had fallen on the house next door, she remembered.

“The next day, it was clear, and bright, and breezy, and sunny, and that’s when the tornadoes came through,” Heath said. The tree on the home next to theirs was blown away by a tornado.

In the aftermath, trees were scattered across the Isle of Hope. 

“Every one of those 10 trees missed our house,” Perlman said, although one of them had crushed the car of a guest attending Perlman’s hurricane party.

Savannah was said to have escaped major damage for the most part, and the biggest issue was the lack of electricity and downed trees.

This newspaper clipping from September 1979 recaps David’s wrath on Savannah. (Elephind.com)

“The great impact was no grocery stores, unable to pump gasoline, price gouging on ice,” Perlman said. “I remember paying 10 dollars for a bag of ice that someone had driven from Perry, Georgia, to a fish camp at Isle of Hope, and they sold that whole truck in 15 minutes.”

Perlman, whose home was hit by a large tree during 2016’s Matthew, said he hopes the area can go another few decades without a direct hit. 

“We’re hoping that we can have another 30-year stretch without any kind of real effects from a hurricane,” he said.

People on Facebook also reflected on the hurricane and what they remember about David. See their responses below.

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