Today we complete our look at the devastation wrought by Hurricane Dora in 1964.

Gradually, the waters from Hurricane Dora receded, revealing millions of dollars’ worth of damage to homes, businesses and government buildings. Over the next few days and weeks, businessmen and citizens worked together to clean up what they could. Such was the camaraderie and honesty of the locals that many citizens took home and cleaned/washed flooded clothes and goods on their own dime and time, then brought them back to the originating store so that the owner could sell them at a reduced rate.

Suwannee County Schools were out of class for a week due to flooding and damage to school buildings, most notably the High School, whose foundation was permanently damaged by subsurface activity. No one was allowed into the abandoned building except for maintenance crews, who removed what books and equipment they could. When classes finally resumed, a number of alternate locations were used while the School Board decided how to go about building new schools. One of the alternate locations was the old armory (which had been superseded by the current structure a few years prior to Dora); the upstairs portion that had been a basketball court was partitioned into classrooms while the lower floor was converted into further class space, a library and an office. The Educational Building of the First Baptist Church, the barracks of the Nettie Baisden School, and the old band building were other temporary classroom locations. Practically every Suwannee Democrat newspaper for the next few months had some mention of Hurricane Dora and its aftereffects. For many weeks, pumps were operating continually in order to move water from flooded areas.

It was after Hurricane Dora that a dramatic change occurred to the center of Live Oak as many old buildings were torn down to make way for newer ones. Many of the historic homes that had stood since the turn of the century were demolished, and such old landmarks as the Parshley Building, the Suwannee Hotel and Governor Cary Hardee’s home (once thought of as “way out of town”) were replaced by modern businesses as the city expanded its boundaries and modernized its look. Some of these demolished buildings had been badly flooded during Hurricane Dora, but others were simply deemed too old and unfit for repair. School locations outside of downtown Live Oak were discussed, approved and bonds funded, leading to several new schools on the south part of town over the next decade.

Because of the devastation caused by Dora, the name was retired from the hurricane list and replaced by “Dolly,” which remains today. Until 2012’s Tropical Storm Debby, Hurricane Dora was also the most expensive natural disaster in Suwannee County’s history.

More history next week.

Eric Musgrove can be reached at ericm@suwgov.org or 386-362-0564.

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