Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Riding the Storm Out

Friday afternoon, about 4 pm, I'm sitting at my desk with a local TV station streaming through my computer the latest updates on Hurricane Ike. The winds are already picking up, even though it's outer bands have only just begun to hit Galveston. Spring Texas, a northern suburb of Houston, is a good 90 minute drive north of Galveston. Thanks to the storm's surge, the flooding of the city's bayous has already begun, even though the rain hasn't. They're asking everybody on the north side to "hunker down" and ride the storm out, so that the people on the south side can evacuate. The freeways had started to back up Thursday afternoon, and really, where would we all go? The storm is 200 miles wide. So, here I sit... and wait.

My clients have cancelled, I've cleaned and put oil in the hurricane lamps, new batteries in the flashlight, moved all potted plants and out door furniture into the garage, and my refrigerate and freezer have been stuffed full of containers filled with drinking water. I did all my cleaning Thursday, the ice chest, bathrooms, kitchen, and laundry, because I'm expecting to be without water for a while. The only things left to do is one last shower, and then fill the bath tubs with water. I'll wait until the last minute to unplug and disassemble my computer, so I can move it to a safer place. The waiting, though, is pure torture.

I'm not waiting for the storm to hit. I know there will be some damage and fallen trees, but I also know I'll be alright. I'm waiting for the aftermath. In '83 when Alicia hit, we were without power and water for 2 weeks. In '05 when Rita hit, the temperatures were in the 100's. No work. No income. Getting ice or fuel was like beating buzzards off a meat truck. An entire city of [about 6 million] people who are hot, miserable, and haven't bathed for days - not my idea of fun.

Fast forward now five days to today, Wednesday. I have power and water! Yea! Unfortunately, I think my neighborhood is the only one in the entire metropolitan area that does. Living alone makes it seem like I haven't talked to anyone for days, so yesterday cabin fever and canned soup got the best of me, and I decided to go for a drive to the grocery store, hoping to find something else to eat. Whoa! I think every street light in this city is out. There were downed trees and debris everywhere. There were lines at the few gas stations still open that were about a quarter of a mile long. They were saying on my car radio that the lines in the grocery stores were just as long, and only imperishable goods were being sold. I was not going to wait in line for more canned soup, so I checked in on a friend and went home. No work for me this week, which will be tough financially. All I can do is daydream about Mexican food and margaritas, and tell my blog about it. Thank God for internet.

Other things I'm grateful for: The cool front that came in - no 100 degree weather, yea! My house is still livable in spite of losing shingles and water damage in my living room - no having to find another place to stay, yea! I've been able to bathe since Monday, yea! I'm definitely one of the lucky ones.

My brother lay in bed wide awake all night, the night of the storm, and waited for a tree branch above his bedroom to fall. It finally fell around 4 am, and the winds blew it so that it went through the roof of his dining room instead. He said after that, he could go to sleep. I heard a story on the radio about a man who, when the rains from the cool front hit, took his shampoo and soap out to his back yard and bathed. I guess if you could talk family members into holding up a shower curtain for you, that might not be such a bad idea. My greatest hardship was trying to avoid stepping on the crawfish while cleaning the shingles and tree branches out of my swampy yard. I thought to myself as I sat on my porch with my propane camping burner, heating up my soup, "if I ever run out of soup, I could always have a crawfish boil."

Unlike my brother, though, I couldn't get but a couple of hours of sleep the night of the storm. I think it was when the eye passed over us, because when I finally nodded off, about 5 am, the winds were still coming out of the northeast, and when I woke at 7 am to the sound of my fence crashing down and shingles being ripped off my roof, the winds were coming out of the southwest. I ran to the window, and I could see my banana trees were kneeling and praying to the northeast. They survived, although their leaves have been shredded by the wind.

It was a long storm. The longest I can remember. The rain started about 11 pm Friday night, and didn't stop until 5 pm Saturday evening. It seems like Alicia in '83, which was a category 3 [Ike was only a 2], lasted only about 5 or 6 hours. Maybe it was longer, but not as long as this one.

The picture above is of a sign someone posted at the only entrance to my neighborhood. In the 12 years that I've lived here, we've never had any looters.