Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ike Update #7

The now "famous" view of our street, the morning after Ike hit. It could have been much, much, worse.

When you live on the Gulf Coast and you know a hurricane is approaching, the first decision you have to make is "Do I stay or do I go?" The last time we had a hurricane heading directly for us was August of 2005, when Hurricane Rita was approaching. Rita was a Category 4 hurricane that some forecasters believed would become a Category 5 (the strongest hurricane rating) before making landfall. My employer very generously gave us several days off before the projected landfall date. Jennifer and I and the kids got out as soon as we could. Leaving a full day before the majority of people in the Houston/Galveston area, we headed for Texarkana, where Jennifer's folks live, taking only an extra couple of hours than usual to get there.

The next day, seemingly 90% of the rest of the residents of the greater Houston area decided to leave. Virtually nobody got anywhere. The city was totally unprepared for such a mass exodus. Every outbound freeway was a parking lot. Most people took 12 hours to travel only 20 or 30 miles. The situation was exacerbated by the great heat and the fact that many people ran out of gas or had to stop to go to the bathroom on the side of the road. Most people ended up turning around and going back home. In the end, as you know, the hurricane turned north at the last minute and hit east Texas instead.

This disaster (which thankfully we were spared) was still on our minds when we made our decision. Moreover, Ike was forecast to be a Category 2 storm (nothing to sneeze at, but nevertheless nothing like a Category 3, 4, or 5) at landfall. Our home (as I mentioned) was not in a mandatory evacuation zone, and the city recommended that people in all such areas stay home. With all that in mind, we decided to stock up on supplies, hunker down, and ride it out.

As you may remember from my last update, we had still not had any rain by 6 PM. The winds, however, had increased to about 30 mph by that time, with gusts of up to about 40 mph. And they continued to increase as the evening progressed. By 10 PM, we decided to hit the sack. We decided that all of us should sleep away from windows, since we had not boarded them up. We tried fitting all six of us in our tiny hall (about 3' by 6'), but it was too crowded, so Audrey and I slept in the living room, with a couple of chairs and a couch (and a window blind) to catch any glass that might break and fly toward us.

All of us except Jennifer fell asleep pretty quickly but were awakened when the power went out at about 12:30 AM. After that, getting back to sleep was pretty much impossible, since the now hurricane-force winds were causing the house to creak, rattle, and groan. We also kept hearing thunder, wind, rain, and an occasional cracking sound. I finally fell back asleep, woke up again, and fell asleep once again. Poor Jennifer was up almost all night. She kept listening to the news on our battery operated radio and gave us continual updates on the location of the eye of the storm. (Turns out it passed just to the east of us).

When we woke up the next morning, the winds had died down a great deal and the rains had ceased. Our power was still out, as was our wireless internet connection and our cell phone service. Incredibly, our land line still worked, at least until it went out at about noon. I went outside to survey the damage and was very pleasantly suprised. The four most important things I discovered (all positive) were:

1. None of us were hurt.
2. Although we lost a few shingles, the roof was still intact, with no leaks.
3. No windows were broken, and no water leaked through them.
4. None of our trees were seriously damaged, although our biggest one got a serious "haircut."

We did have about 25% of our back fence knocked down. No big deal, since our insurance will cover this (I think).

Here are some pictures of what we found.

Our main tree. Before the storm, it was full of leaves and had quite a few more branches. But it still stood strong.

Here's one of the branches that got "pruned."

Here's part of our back fence that was knocked over.

Part of our side fence.

This tree, belonging to one of our neighbors, did not fare so well. It is going to have to be removed, in all likelihood.

In summary, we feel very, very blessed. I'm sure that most, if not all, of you have seen pictures from Galveston and other coastal cities around here, that have been more or less leveled. The few people in Galveston who are left have been ordered to leave, and no one will be allowed to resettle for several more weeks. Galveston and the cities near it on the coast have no power, no running water, no phone service...pretty much "no nothing" (as we say here in Texas). Many people's homes and businesses there no longer even exist.

We, on the other hand, regained our electricity after only about 36 hours. We never lost running water. Our phone service was only out for about 24 hours, and our internet came back today (3 1/2 days after landfall).

We are greatly blessed and are thankful to God that we were spared. At the same time, our hearts are hurting for those in Galveston and other cities whose lives have been permanently changed. Most of Houston got off fairly easily like we did, but there is at least one family in our parish who had a whole tree trunk driven through their home like a missile. They will be working to restore their home for many weeks if not months.

Again, your prayers are requested, both for those who are suffering here, and for those who are working to ease the suffering. May God grant them mercy and peace in spite of their hardship.

1 comment:

megan said...

Hi Father James! Glad that you and your family are alright. Looks like no major damage, either, which is really good. Greg and I left Wednesday night for Dallas then stayed in Waco Friday-Sunday morning. My parents and sister rode out the storm (even though they had a mandatory evacuation) and said it was one of the worst nights they've been through. Clear Lake got hit hard in some areas and my parents are still without power. My apartment, thankfully, has power, water, and internet. Greg and I decided to head back once we found this out on Sunday morning after reading an online blog where someone said my apartment community had power. We returned and both of Greg's cars (work and personal) had been completely flooded, although his first floor apartment was dry! He lives right on the water off of Egret Bay. Now we're all (including my parents) staying at my place waiting for everything to return to normal. Greg posted pictures of the damage on his facebook so if you have a chance go and check it out. I have the rest of the week off so I am going to visit this blog and read some now that I have all this free time and don't know what to do with it! Again, glad you and your family are safe and there was no major damage to your house. Let me know if I can help out in any way (babysit while you run errands) this week because I don't have to go back to work until Monday. Hope to hear from you soon.
- Megan