Frederic nearly destroys Bellingrath Gardens and Home

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Tracking the Tropics Special

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THEODORE, Ala. (WKRG)

Bellingrath Gardens…. A treasure in Mobile. 

A jewel that Hurricane Frederic Almost stole from our community. 

Tom McGehee, Museum Home Director: “It was a terrible hit for the gardens. The gardens prepared as best they could, but they weren’t ready for what happened. I don’t think mobile was ready for what happened.”

Category 4 Hurricane Frederic made landfall on the evening of September 12th, with winds of over 130 mph.  As the sun rose the next morning. It became evident that the Bellingrath was no match for Fredric’s fury.

Dr. Bill Barrick, Executive Director: “It completely changed the character of the gardens.”

Tom McGehee, Museum Home Director: “thousands of trees fell and splintered. Pine trees, oak trees, and then they landed on all of our azaleas and camellias. The flowers beds were covered with all of this debris. The tree canopy was gone.”   

The devastation was felt far and wide. Trees were destroyed. flowers demolished. The gardens. unrecognizable. But just as all along the Gulf coast, those at Bellingrath banded began sifting through debris.

Dr. Bill Barrick, Executive Director: “you had the whole issue you had to get all of that debris out of here and then the replanting process started.”

A process that was only made possible by the generosity of Mobilians, determined to see the Garden bloom again.

Tom McGehee, Museum Home Director: “I think when Mobilians saw the pictures of the disaster that was out of here in 79′, 80′ the really came to the forefront and said you know I have big Azaleas in my garden, you are welcome to them, they are in good shape. They went into town and dug them up and brought them out here. Camellias and all these plants that we think of when we think of Bellingrath Gardens People had them and were happy to donate them.”

Dr. Bill Barrick, Executive Director:  ” A lot of donations of plants from individuals throughout the community. We have a tremendous nursery industry in Mobile and Baldwin Counties, so there were large donations of Azaleas given to the gardens from many of those established nurseries.”

As for now,

Dr. Bill Barrick, Executive Director: “since 1979, Theres an amazing amount of regrowth. Hundreds of thousands of azaleas were replanted in the garden, thousands of trees were planted in the garden, then you also had natural regeneration, mother nature regenerates things.” 

Dr. Bill Barrick, Executive Director: ” I think that the visitor that comes to the Garden now would have no idea that Hurricane Frederic virtually destroyed this garden. “

While this has been a new era for the gardens, they are just as beautiful now as they ever were.

Tom McGehee, Museum Home Director: “The gardens have survived ever since. We worked at bringing it all back and its buck up and running and beautiful. I think its as beautiful now as it was back then before the hurricane.”

Meteorologist Taylor Sarallo WKRG News 5

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