Thoughts from During And After Hurricane Ike

Thursday, September 18, 2008

First let me start off by saying how grateful I am. You’ll note I say that a lot. It’s because I just can’t get over how fortunate we were/are in this area. Of course it won’t stop me from ranting/whining about a few things (that wouldn’t be me then, would it? :D), but on the whole, I’m really really grateful.

We were glued to the tube all day Friday, watching the weather monster come ever closer. Still a Cat 2, but predicted to strengthen by landfall. At 11pm, when I switched over to PBS for McLaughlin Group (can’t miss that, Ike or no Ike!) it was a little breezy, but that was it. The radar showed the first outer bands just about to hit us (the infrared showed total coverage), but then did the usual & split up just before it got to our area, then joined up again just past us. This happens 90% of the time here & I (half) jokingly say there’s a force field over the area to keep us from getting severe weather (or even just rain). Maybe because of the bomb factory down the road?

Water was starting to flood Galveston Island & the Bolivar Peninsula/High Island in the afternoon, without a drop of rain & Ike still 200 miles out. The scariest part for me was when the bayous started running backwards because of all the water being pushed in. Bad bad stuff.

When the winds started getting to TS strength, THAT’S when the bozos decided they wanted to leave & called to be rescued. While I’m truly sorry for any injury or loss of life, I’m really irritated by these people who put the National Guardsmen at risk because they had to fly their helicoptors in TS strength winds to rescue these people who had ample time to evacuate. The roads weren’t clogged (a la Rita) & there were hundreds of buses to take people to shelter. Very selfish of these people. Aside from those relatively few, it was a good evacuation from the Coast & the people who didn’t need to leave stayed put. The local efforts made me very proud, & everything went smoothly. It was when the Feds came in everything broke down. More on that later.

ANYway, not much happening here until around 3am when the power kept going off & on in spurts. I decided to turn off the PC (which I just got that day) in case of power surges (disconnected it from everything, too) & went to bed. I was thinking what a good thing we have that force field over us, it will divert the hurricane. WRONG-O.  Shortly after I got in bed the wind started in earnest, getting stronger & sustained. No idea what the speeds were, but definitely high. I honestly thought the roof was going to come off. Stuff was hitting the window & I momentarily (and groggily) considered going into the hallway which is the center of the house & away from windows. Decided against it, figuring if the roof flew off it wouldn’t matter where I was & at least I was comfortable in bed. I was still awake when the power went off at around 4.

Awoke Sat. morning to find it still puffy-breezy with a bit of drizzle here & there. The roof still attached & no windows blown out (or in). Went out front & found massive amounts of branches everywhere. But, no major damage & even the neighbor’s mailbox stayed put (it went flying during Rita). Then went out back & found more large branches (actually small trees, I think) & one fence halfway down. The large institutional fence behind us (put up when the “better” subdivision was built, so they wouldn’t have to have contact with the great unwashed over here) is 3/4 down. I gave a mental raspberry to the developer.

We have a 5″ battery powered tv & so watched the local channels a good chunk of the day. No one up to their necks in water like N.O. after Katrina, but pretty horrific just the same. A good chunk of Galveston was flattened, & the same for inland locations. Downtown Houston is still closed & will be for a while, because of all the busted windows in those glass & steel skyscrapers. Boats & refrigerators on I-45 between Houston & the island. One humorous sight was a cute little cottage with a front porch sitting on the feeder road of the freeway, completely intact – even the screen door still in place. Probably not too humorous to the home owner.

The reports were that 98% of Houston & Metro (approx. 5.1 million people) were without electricity & it would be from 2-10 weeks before power would be restored. Yesterday Centerpoint (who does the grunt work for Reliant Energy) said from the beginning to middle of October. The first 2 days here in 90+ heat with high humidity & no breeze were just awful. Yes,

I’m a big baby about the heat. Cold I can handle. Reporters weren’t allowed on the West End of Galveston Island or on parts of the Bolivar (even from the air) until yesterday. Most everything in those places is gone & they didn’t want pictures of “floaters” going out. As it is, officials are expecting to find a lot of bodies out in the bay. The Bolivar is only 10 ft. above sea level & the surge was estimated at 18-20ft. Nothing is left at Crystal Beach (town) & about 150 people were known to have stayed during the storm.

Saturday night a HUGE storm came through, dumping 4-12 inches of rain over the area – ironic, considering there was (relatively, for a hurricane) very little rain from the hurricane 24 hours before – that caused major flooding. It was the last of the feeder bands, plus just ahead of a cool front that arrived that evening. OH JOY!!! And I mean that without sarcasm. Lows in the upper 50s/lower 60s & highs in the low 80s with no humidity. It was like God decided to smile on everyone after the storm. I can’t imagine what the situation here would be if this had happened in the middle of July. With the suddenly beautiful weather & a wonderful North wind, anything would be bearable.

My only worry then was all the food I had just bought last week to last us for two weeks. I really hate throwing out food, but I’d rather waste the $150.00 than have a much larger hospital bill from eating spoiled food. As it happened, I had to throw away some yogurt, mayonaisse, salad dressing & thawed out frozen vegetables that were kinda slimy looking. The meats & cheeses we had in the ice chest were still quite cold when the power came back, some of the ice was still solid. There was an unexpected worry after the power came on when the refrigerator didn’t kick in. Uh-oh. The light came on in the fridge part, but no motor. It finally started after about 10 minutes, so I guess the motor had to warm up first. Whew! We have a Coleman stove to cook on (and boil water for coffee, a major necessity in this house), but we can eat just so much at one time!

Power came back on about 6:30pm Monday (for which I am very grateful), but the phones were knocked out early that morning. We were told there was a “massive outage” in our area & it could be anywhere from Monday to next week. Lucky for us, it came back yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon. Because of so many phone outages, plus some towers knocked down & others damaged, cell phone service is unreliable. Plus, no phone means no DSL, so no Internet! EEEEK! Seriously, we are sooooooo lucky in this area. We never lost water, either.

Now to the aftermath. Most people are still without power & phone, some have no water or a boil order is in effect. And, there’s almost no gas to be found. Before the storm, FEMA said there were trailers of food & ice at the ready, as well as gas trucks that would be positioned along the major roads for cars that ran out. In fact, he said, we have a surplus of fuel. Uhhhhh, don’t think so. Even where there are fuel trucks, the stations have no electricity to pump the gas. The FEMA trucks took 2 days to show up & then they went to Relaint Stadium as a pad location – everything would be sent to distribution points from there. But, no “POD”s were in place yet. The setting up of the “Points Of Distribution” (PODs) was for some unfathomable reason turned over to the Feds, instead of the locals taking care of it (you know, the people who so beautifully coordinated the evacuation – again, no sarcasm).

People lined up for 5 miles (literally) waiting to get their 2 bags of ice (which didn’t show up until Monday), 2 gallons of water & 2 MREs per household. When several cars had multiple families, to conserve fuel, they were told too bad. One family per vehicle. Unbelievable. At one location, people were in line at 9am waiting for the trucks to arrive (as they had been told) & at noon the trucks still weren’t there.

A bright spot was in Katy, Tx., just West of the city. People who hadn’t lost power bagged up their ice & brought canned foods to a parking lot where they put everything out for people to take what they need. There are similar stories around the area, of “neighbors helping neighbors”, & I’m just so proud of the way everyone is behaving. We’re all in this together & coping as best we can. If I can get gas for my car, I want to get out there & do what I can to help.

There’s so much more, but I’ve been verbose enough for the day. To sum up, the City Of Houston is basically shut down until futher notice, with only a few of the surrounding areas up & running. Galveston will be many months in “coming back” (if it ever really does), the Bolivar Peninsula is now Bolivar Island with most of the communities there washed out to sea. Again, I am so grateful that we were fortunate enough to suffer only some inconvenience here, when so many others are now homeless & still without the basic necessities. I thank God also that the evacuation was so successful, eliminating many of the horror stories of storms past.

09-18-08 Edited to correct days & add the following:

I live off a freeway & about a mile South of here on the freeway a Motel 6 lost its roof. As one person put it, it looked like a sardine can. The ironic part is that the motel was full up with Coastal evacuees. This could have so easily happened to our house (and I’m really surprised it didn’t).

A friend of my niece also lost his roof, but it didn’t go very far. It landed on his neighbor’s driveway. This was esp. unfortunate because the neighbor was the “shelter” for several friends & relatives & there were 8 cars parked where the roof landed.

Yes, I’m really grateful.

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About pegsiskatzencats

Middle aged cat lady, flaming liberal, gardener extrordinaire, I live for the Cubs, & HATE hot weather. Chicagoland native, I WILL RETURN!
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