As the needle bends

A world view thru my hobbit hole door

I Don’t Like Ike

I know that this post is a week late – but, before Ike rolled into southeast Texas, I didn’t have time to write a post, and afterwards – well… we didn’t have electricity for a week. So you will have to bear with me, as I re-visit some days of recent past history – or not – the choice is your’s. September 11, I was at the Mother Ship, as we affectionately refer to the Major Trauma Center where I ply my current trade, as a paramedic making ambulance arrangements for patients requiring transportation – to another hospital, to a nursing or rehabilitation center, or home. I find out what the needs of the individual patient are, and what time constraints may apply to their arrival at destination, and do my dead-level best to make sure those needs and constraints are met. Anyway, I digress (I find that I’ve been doing that a lot recently!)… When I left for work that morning, with "Ike" looming in the Gulf, growing ever larger, and more powerful, I took with me what I thought I would need to stay at the hospital through the storm. I answered someone who asked if I was scared because of the storm, that I didn’t know, because in all my years of living in the Greater Houston Area, I have prepared for several hurricanes but they’ve always gone "someplace else"… and I’ve never actually been through a hurricane. (I can no longer say that – thanks to Ike!) I watched and listened to reports of traffic delays, as mandatory evacuation notices were issued for areas right along the mid-to-upper Texas Coast. I later heard the mayor of Galveston, which was to get hit pretty hard, say "Thank you to all of the residents of the slightly more inland areas for staying home, so the coastal residents could get out to safety." I listened to news reports of traffic jams along the major evacuation route from Galveston northward, I-45, which happens to be my daily commute route. I commiserated with staff members at the hospital. I ate a greasy hamburger. I paced the floors – a lot.

About 9pm, I heard a report that Ike had grown to be larger than the entire state of Texas. I heard reports that the computer models were all starting to solidify – and it seemed almost certain that Ike was going to ’go to ground’ between Freeport and Galveston. By this time, all the other people who office in the same area as me had left. They were to return the following morning, then leave by noon on Friday, September 12, when the hospital was "going on lock down – nobody in, nobody out." I was given an "essential personnel sticker" for my name badge, so that I would be able to get back in. I also heard a report that the evacuation traffic was beginning to thin out – much more orderly, and timely than in 2005, with Hurricane Rita.

I clicked over to the "real-time traffic" report on the internet. I saw my chance to get home before the storm – called my boss, and my DH and told them I was coming home. Something was telling me, deep inside "I CANNOT STAY HERE!" I’ve learned over the years that, if I hear that still small voice – and ignore it – I generally regret it. So I got in my truck and headed north, away from the Mother Ship, 50 miles further inland. Traffic was really not too much worse than a bad commute – 45 minutes for the first 35 miles…. then 1hour 15 minutes for the next 10… 5 minutes for the last 5 miles. I was home. When I called home, I was told to call when I got to the driveway, and someone would come guide me in. This is what I saw: Our Little House in the Big Woods

Well, that’s what I would have seen, had it NOT been midnight when I got home – although that picture is one that was taken when the house was boarded up for Hurricane Rita, in September, 2005. As it was, all I saw was dark. That was OK – it was midnight. I was tired. I slept.

Friday, we were treated to continuing forecasts, and timelines, along with the ever present "Hurrarrah" Rivera, being swept from his feet by waves which were already crashing over the TOP of the 15 foot seawall in Galveston. It was only 7:30am. Mostly, I stayed out of the way. My DH has done this before, and knew what he needed help for – and is NOT bashful about asking. I baked bread. I boiled eggs. I made egg salad. I filled every sports bottle, 2 liter soda bottle, and empty milk jug I could get good and clean, with water, and alternated the large ones in the spot in the freezer, where there was room to stand them up, until they froze, and I could cap them and lay them down. I watched more TV. I saw Geraldo fall down some more.
We walked next door to visit with Mom and Dad. I heard Coast Guardsmen telling people on the Bolivar Peninsula that they needed to leave. I heard them tell those who refused to take a Sharpie and write their names on their left arm, and their social security numbers on their right arms, so that they could be identified "afterward" – if their bodies were ever found. I heard people in Galveston being told to leave, while they still had a chance… "Or face certain death." I already knew that I didn’t like Ike – and I grew to like him less with every hour that passed.
The media did their usual hype. Only this time, it didn’t sound like hype. They were showing pictures of flooding in Galveston, and Ike’s big old eye was still hours off shore. But he was definitely singing that old Glen Campbell song…. "Galveston, Oh Galveston…. I can hear your sea waves crashing….." We heard recommendations to prepare an area in the inner-most part of our abode, in case of tornados… or falling trees. We have LOTS of those. And these are just the ones in the front half of our acre in the Big Woods.
Just SOME of the trees in front of the little house
I packed a bag with what we would absolutely HAVE to have, should the roof depart, or a tree fall through it. We had already removed the plywood from the front door, so that we would have two ways out. And an axe was by the back door, in case we needed to cut our way out. DH took one of the mattresses from the trundle daybed in my "Fabric Dungeon" and made a bed in the hallway. It has no windows, it’s surrounded by walls, and is under the peak of the roof – something that I was assured meant it was the strongest part of the house. And he went to sleep.
I was watching the continuing coverage on tv with one ear, and trading witty reparte with the folks on the blog my DH helps moderate – who were "live blogging"… And, at 1:00am (1 hour 10 minutes before the center of the eye made official "landfall") in the midst of a witty reply, the power went off.
When Rita hit, I am told, the power went off for about 12 hours, maybe less. Memories get a little fuzzy after almost 3 years. I was stuck in Houston, part of "Incident Command" for that one – which also made landfall in the middle of a Friday night. On Monday, I got to go home – and the power had been back on for days. I got home and was in the middle of giving the dog a much needed bath, when we were treated to our first "Rolling Blackout" – necessitated by the need for relief on the power grid for our energy provider, who is THE energy provider for just about everything east and southeast of here, into western Louisiana. But those were only about 3 hours long, then the power would come back on for 3 hours, so fridges could cool back down, and people could, as well. So, I wasn’t too worried. DH got up and we unplugged things that might be damaged by the power spike when the power came back on. The wind was getting up a little, by then. And we found a radio station that was broadcasting the audio of the TV station that I’d been watching, when the power went off. We found a small flashlight that could be turned on, so that we would not be in the total dark, and DH went back to sleep.
I went out on the front porch. It was breezy – but it seemed that the walls were closing in on me inside. So I spent a lot of time on the porch. Probably not the wisest thing I’ve ever done. But somewhere north of us still had power because it wasn’t pitch black dark. I could see the outlines of the trees, as they whipped around and bent to the left, and bent some more…. then poppped back up… only to start this strange tango all over again. And I learned that the rain doesn’t really "FALL" in a hurricane. It envelops. The meteorologist, the next morning, said that they likely would have to depend on doppler radar reports in order to decide how much rain Ike brought – because it’s hard to capture in a rain gauge, when it’s raining sideways. The anemometer at the airport in Galveston had gone offline mid-afternoon, so some wind speeds were a guess, too.
I think I learned the reason that certain reporters are always on national TV during hurricanes. There was an intoxicating, exhilarating, adrenaline-rush kind of power in the storm, as it tangoed with the oaks in front of our porch, bending the tops over to the left, close to parallel to the ground, then going around for another spin, before "dipping" them again. I saw my brother-in-law dash out of Mom and Dad’s house, next door, to run check on his place, and thought he was crazy for "being out in such weather!" Then I would realize that I, too, was not "hunkered down" safely in our bunker. I, too, was crazy because I just could not sit still inside, content to listen to the storm imitate a freight-train rushing through the tops of the trees, and listen to the reports on the radio of ongoing problems in Houston. The seafood restaurant "Brennan’s" burning to the ground, badly injuring 3 people inside. The reports of calls coming in from Crystal Beach, on the Bolivar, from a couple who said they were on the second floor of their home, waist deep in water, and a man who said his house was disintegrating around him. No – I much preferred being on the porch, with my back securely plastered to the front wall, watching the wind tango with the oak trees, feeling the hard-blown mist on my face… I listened to my favorite "retired" meteorologist saying that Ike only needed one MPH more, and it’d be classed as a "major hurricane – category 3" but that Ike was like an ice skater, doing a spin with arms outstretched which kept him from ever getting spinning faster and faster and faster. He was so big it really didn’t matter a whole lot that he wasn’t ever a 3 – he was crushing things in his path like bugs.
But God heard our prayers – He kept Ike’s arms stretched out. I can’t begin to imagine how much worse it’d have been had the storm gained more power in those last few hours over water. I can’t imagine how much worse it would have been, had he not been guided to the highest end of Galveston Island – placing the worst of the storm surge over the Bolivar. I can’t imagine that there would be anything left at all on the Bolivar Peninsula, had Ike been any bigger, or badder. The pictures that Anderson Cooper placed on this blog show Gilchrest, Texas – both before and after the storm. I remember thinking when we passed that yellow house while we were driving to Grandma’s that the guy was crazy to build up so high in the sky. But that house on 19 foot pilings is the ONLY building still standing in the whole town of Gilchrest. And they say there’s not much left in Crystal Beach. But on the NOAA storm pictures, we found both the house that Grandpa built, way back in the 60’s – roof intact, and still standing, along with the little church where he lead the music. I like to think that they are completely intact, and will happily pretend that it is so. Since the ferry over from Galveston to the Bolivar is going to be out for months, and the bridge on Hwy 87 at Rollover Pass is buckled like a stale cracker, it’s not likely that we will drive passed to see, anytime soon.
It’s now been a week since Ike came to town. And much of it has been very unpleasant. Even though we are about 75 miles, as the crow flies, from the coast, there were many trees down here in Montgomery County, along with billboards – many through the roofs of houses. The nice young men from Tulsa, OK who came to make sure there were no trees on the power lines on Monday said that our transmission line (don’t know how long it is, and can only imagine that it is only one of thousands) was down in about 20 places. The places that had gasoline, didn’t have power. The places that had power had either sold out of gasoline before the storm, or immediately afterwards. We went into Conroe one day to mail some things, and saw a line for gasoline at the only place reported to have both gasoline, and power, that had to have stretched for 2 miles. And here, at the little house in the Big Woods, when we don’t have electricity, we don’t have running water, and we don’t have an operative septic system. After a couple of days it got pretty primitive. I learned how to take a shower on the back porch, with a bucket of cold water, and a cup. I learned that, before the next time I have to live through the aftermath of a hurricane, I don’t want to have waist-length hair.
I learned that God does hear prayers – and He knew that 3 million households without electricity during a normal hot humid week in mid-September would have been another disaster, added on top of the first, so He sent a cool front. I don’t remember it ever being down in the 50’s at night in mid-September, and surely not highs barely breaking 80.
I’ve also seen some of the best come out in people. I’ve seen people, with genuine concern, ask total strangers "How’d ya’ll fare through the storm?" I’ve seen people, who I thought had gotten their driver’s license from Cracker Jacks, go blasting through intersections where the traffic signals weren’t working, and others sit patiently, gesturing for the person to their right to go first. We are a hardy lot, here in Texas, and sooner, rather than later, I imagine that many of the marks that Ike left behind will be left only on film, and in our memories.
I don’t imagine that many people who were in the southeastern part of Texas will ever forget Ike, and I hear he wasn’t any nicer to the northeast of here – all the way to Canada. Nope – I really didn’t like Ike, but I will always remember he was the first, and hopefully, the last hurricane I’ll ever live through. His intoxicating power wasn’t that addicting, and his aftermath was a sure antidote for the addiction.
Please continue to pray for those who are still suffering through the aftermath of Ike. The last I heard, only about 45% of the people who lost power have had it restored. And pray that any hurricanes left in this season’s bag of tricks do their strange and mysterious tango out in the deep waters, far from land. I don’t think I can pray any longer that they go somewhere else. I wouldn’t wish this on any other human. But I guess it’s okay to pray that they stay out at sea. Yes… that’s what I’ll pray for.
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September 21, 2008 - Posted by | Life and Ramblings

1 Comment »

  1. ((((((((((bobbie))))))))))

    reading this doesn’t make it any less harrowing than reading the emails you were able to get out to let us know you were safe ..

    Thank you God for keeping her and hers safe!!!

    hugs
    grace

    Comment by gquilts | September 21, 2008 | Reply


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