Monday, September 15, 2008

Hurricane Ike: Before, During, & After (Part I)

We have emerged from the other side of Hurricane Ike in Sugar Land, Texas. As I begin to write this on Sunday morning, I am a bit sleepless and somewhat emotionally and physically tired. The force and destructive capability of Mother Nature is tremendous, and should make any individual human being feel very small. Yet the human spirit has endurance, and an ongoing ability to look on the bright side. Despite the preparation, prolonged storm experience, and aftermath…we look immediately around us now and say, “It could have been worse,” and “thank goodness no one was hurt.” However, we now know that the same is not true for Galveston and other southeastern coastal areas. Day by day, it went something like this…

Thursday, 9/11

Those of us in southeast Texas didn’t have our minds on the infamous 9/11. We were checking hurricane supplies, buying last minute groceries, and topping off our gas tanks. Grocery stores were an absolute zoo with “mile long” checkout lines, and gas stations were backed up 5-6 cars deep at every pump. There was a general frenzy developing, as the storm had taken a more northern track than originally anticipated.

School was still in session so I made my way to my classroom, but my husband stayed home from work to start boarding up the windows. We have 20 windows, but it doesn’t seem like that many until you move and carry 20 heavy boards around the house, climb the ladder for many of them, and screw in 60 screws or more.

We worked until dark, finishing as much boarding up as possible, and bringing in lawn furniture, potted plants, bird feeders, and other miscellaneous yard items so they would not later turn in to flying missiles.

Friday, 9/12 & Saturday, 9/13

The alarm went off as usual around 5:00 A.M. We knew there was work to finish outside, so we were thankful to find that the winds and rain had not yet started. A quick check with the local television station confirmed we were still directly in the path of Hurricane Ike. It was still only a category 2 storm, but the winds had increased to 110 mph, and it was so broad that it filled the Gulf of Mexico in size. Some who are uninformed about hurricanes wanted to minimize its intensity. But by comparison, would you ride on the roof of a car going 110 mph? I don’t think so!

Around 6:30 P.M., the wind started to get a bit gusty, and we decided to bring our outside cat into her “apartment” for the night. She was very well behaved, and only let out a mournful meow every once in awhile. It also occurred to me that I might want photos of all my household possessions...just in case. So I went around and snapped some hurried photos of various rooms.

We lost electrical power at 9:00 P.M., and decided to try and get some rest for a few hours, anticipating that the night might be a little long and sleepless. Around 10:00 P.M. the wind was roaring so loudly that it was impossible to sleep. Within a few hours, the roaring wind was joined by loud thrashing sounds up against the house (later, we discovered it was probably fence boards that had turned into projectiles), and cracks, moans, and thuds (which were probably the trees twisting in half and falling on rooftops). We had setup camp in the closet and spent about 3 hrs. in there, in the pitch dark, just hoping we weren’t going to do a Dorothy and Oz kind of adventure.

The eye of Ike had crossed Galveston Island around 2:00 A.M. We were on the “clean” side of the storm which means we did not have the worst wind and rain that this storm had to offer, and we did not have a storm surge since we are about 50 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico. It was still bad enough for me.

Around 6:00 A.M., the whole thing began to let up a bit, and we called parents to let them know we were still alive – fortunately, cell phones worked! Eight hours is a long time to sit through all that, especially at night, when all you have is a flashlight and transistor radio.

At first light around 7:00 A.M. the view outdoors was amazing. The back door, which was the only glass not boarded up, had about 500 maple leaves stuck to it like plaster. The patio was covered with shredded, green leaves. My manicured flowerbed was mangled. I looked up at the roof…the shingles were still there…my neighbor’s house was still there, and our focus shifted to the anticipation of the clean-up.

Saturday afternoon and the days to come in my next post…

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