Hurricane Frances brings flashbacks of Hurricane Opal

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 20, 2004

Nancy Petrey

Hurricane Frances affected many families in Petrey, but fortunately they were not directly affected by the storms wrath.

Don and Peggy Hermeling's son Stephen chose to stay at his home in West Palm Beach, but he sent his two sons, Joshua and Brendan, his fianc/ Melissa, and her mother, Mrs. Kelly, to Petrey to stay with his parents. Melissa said it took them 13 hours to get from West Palm Beach to Tallahassee, creeping at only 15 miles per hour.

The family worried even more when they saw the damage from Charlie as they drove up the west coast, going to Petrey. After four days they returned to West Palm Beach.

Besides Stephen, the Hermelings have other relatives in Florida that suffered power outages, long lines at the gas pumps and no traffic lights. Peggy Hermeling's nephew and family from Tallahassee are planning to come to Petrey if "Ivan the Terrible" forces them to flee.

Peggy and Don have been generous in offering their house as a refuge from the storm.

Valeta Spradley was in St. Petersburg with her daughter, Carole Hinshaw, attending the wedding of her grandson, Darren Hinshaw, to Maria Kotsaftis, when Hurricane Frances did vicious things in Orlando, from where Valeta and Carole had just come. Before the wedding Mrs. Spradley kept reassuring the nervous bride and groom that everything would be fine, that the Lord would surely see them through, even if they had to have the wedding in the hotel lobby. She was telling them right, because the sun shone bright and the wedding took place as planned.

Afterward, the storm moved in, but Mrs. Spradley and Carole only had to stay one more night in the hotel and fortunately the bride and groom had already booked the bridal suite. Upon Valeta and Carole's return to Orlando they found Carole's house and yard intact with only a few flowerpots overturned.

This storm story had a happy ending.

We can praise the Lord our prayers were answered for both the families of the Hermelings and Mrs. Spradley.




Petrey has had a "stormy relationship" with hurricanes. Residents were relieved when Hurricane Frances ignored them, but such was not the case on Oct. 4, 1995 when Hurricane Opal paid a visit. She blew into town and tossed trees all around.

Beaver Pond Road (road to Troy) was completely impassable.

Lawrence Petrey said it was a miracle that not many houses were hit. He was the mayor at the time, and his house became the meeting place for the whole community that night. People brought food, and they grilled outside, due to the power outage.

Many stopped everyday for coffee. His and Margaret's trees were stripped.

Lawrence got a call from Danny Rolling asking him to check on his parents, Maynard and Valera, after the storm ended.

The Rollings probably had the most damage. That night a tree fell on their home and damaged the roof and bedroom below. They had seven large trees downed.

Valeta Spradley was at Lake Junaluska, N.C. at the time. She returned home the next day and helped the Red Cross serve food at the Community Center.

Plates of food were sent out to those who could not come.

Lawrence Petrey said that FEMA sent money to get the road cleared.

Opal's destructive visit did not triumph over the town of Petrey.

It only gave an opportunity for the community to come together and help each other.




Valeta Spradley remembered when she came to Petrey in 1938 that people were still talking about the devastation of a tornado that touched down on March 27, 1917, in which several people died. She said that after that horrible tragedy, the people of Petrey installed storm pits and every time a storm threatened, they hurried to take shelter.

Many residences were completely destroyed. The Petrey school building and Masonic lodge, the Methodist church, the depot building, saw mill and barn of G. G. Morris and cotton warehouse were partially destroyed and many small buildings.

Emma Lee Petrey Sellers, 96, of Ramer (my husband's aunt) recalled that she was a fourth grader in Petrey at the time, and Bessie Dendy was her teacher. Emma Lee remembers holding her mother's hand as they hurried to the brick store (now W.L. Petrey Wholesale Co.) for safety.

Heaven forbid anything like that ever happens again!

At the time of this writing, a third hurricane, Ivan, is threatening. Please keep the prayers going that this storm won't cause a lot of damage to our area or to Florida and other areas. Prayer really does make a difference. God is merciful and powerful.




Tommy Petrey hosted the monthly meeting of the Northeast Crenshaw Volunteer Fire Department at his camp house in the Camp Ground community last Thursday night. Seventeen people attended.

Tommy and Kathy served camp stew to the volunteers after the meeting. Our fire chief has a real gift of hospitality. He has been known to cook for hundreds at his camp house.




W.L. Petrey Wholesale Company had a training session for truck drivers at the Community Center on September 11.

The truckers must meet twice a year to train for safety as required by the Department of Transportation, said Donnie Holland, General Manager.

Over 50 drivers were present for the refresher course out of a total of 70 drivers for the Petrey company.

On the grounds were five trucks, each with 10 "tricks" (things needing to be fixed).

Each driver had to check out one truck and make a list of the "tricks" he found.

This is the type inspection that the drivers must routinely make to insure safety before every trip.

What a great sight to see so many vehicles parked all around the Community Center.

Who says Petrey is not an exciting place to live?

The car tags showed that the drivers came from far and wide even Atlanta.

Petrey is not always a sleepy little town!