JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Fifty years ago on Sept. 10, Hurricane Dora made landfall, tearing up the beaches. Waves swallowed the Jacksonville Pier and the Atlantic Beach Hotel. Winds damaged homes and knocked trees over. The storm changed the lives of many people who lived through it.
Two women shared their memories of the storm with News4Jax. One recalled a fond memory of coming together and making the best out of an unfortunate situation. The other shared a tale of survival.
When Dora arrived along the shore 50 years ago, it wasn't an easy introduction. But two days before, it was a surfer's dream as giant waves rolled in on the east coast.
"I don't know what possessed me, but I was the only female that day with four males, and we went down two days before the hurricane hit and decided to paddle out," said Jackie Stewart.
FULL COVERAGE: 50th anniversary of Hurricane Dora
Stewart, a sophomore at the time, said it took about 45 minutes to get past the breaking waves. Shortly after, a helicopter showed up and someone inside started yelling down at the surfers from a loud speaker.
"'You need to get out of the water!'" Stewart recalled hearing. "Tears were streaming down my face at that time, because I didn't know how I was going to get out of the water alive. The waves were just too big."
Stewart finally wrapped her legs and arms around her surfboard and rolled in with the waves, ending up on the shore.
"Alive," Stewart said. "Alive enough to go see the Beatles."
The Fab Four showed up in Jacksonville the night after Dora hit.
"Tickets were $5," Stewart recalled. "I remember the ground being very wet. I was on the front row, and I remember Ringo's symbols just blowing everywhere. The drum kit, they had to secure that. It was a great concert. I'll never forget that."
Stewart said she never told her parents of her near-death experience in the ocean.
Judy Johnson also remembers the day Dora came ashore. She listened to her transistor radio as Dora made her way through. She said, although it was scary, afterward her neighborhood came together and bonded over the lack of power and flooded streets.
"We had no power. My father had a little two-burner camp stove," Johnson said. "We used to go fishing and camping. He did water all morning on one burner for all the neighbors to have coffee, and the other burner he cooked food, because we had a freezer full of meat that we were afraid would go bad. We met people and made the best of it."