Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ike chronicles, part I

Left the neighborhood late this morning (11-ish) to grab lunch out. What can you do without power? And going a bit stir-crazy, too. Ran into 3 friends from church at the Chili’s and we exchanged war stories. A few restaurants were back on the grid (God, I hate that phrase – sick of hearing about power grids). When I drove back into my neighborhood, the neighbor’s young son was yelling, “We have power, we have power!” Whew - I have never been so happy to have the electricity come back on! Small things that we take for granted... lights, television, a/c, internet and e-mail. Folks calling me from around the country and telling me what they had seen on tv - and my neighbors and myself are living through it and cannot see what has been on national tv, let alone local tv. Grrr...

Well, what was it like? Scary, just damned scary. This would have been hard to go through with Greg, and more difficult than I can say, all alone. Ike was, of course, very noisy, very windy and the force behind the rain? Unbelievable. I actually got to sleep before anything started - I think that was after midnight. The power went out in my area at 11:38 (I have an atomic clock), I had just hung up with a Minnesota friend, less than a minute before that. I was awakened around 3:45 or so - power came back on, so I jumped out of bed with enough time to turn off the light in the family room and the tv, too. Power dropped before I could get back to the bedroom. I think the big blast in my area was around that time. The windows were rattling, shaking fiercely, and of course too dark to see what was happening outside. A hurricane at night – your worst nightmare.

I was out of bed before 5 am. I could hear water running somewhere. Where, WHERE? and using the flashlight to survey the second and first floors. Couldn't see a damned leak anywhere, and still could hear the water running, running... When it finally got a little settled down (daylight, still lots of wind and lessened rainfall), I went outside and found a water spigot had snapped off. Water was gushing out of there like it was a fire hydrant. (Gonna have a BIG water bill this month, uh huh) I drafted the neighbor's brother in turning off the water to the house.

More damage – several sections of fencing in the backyard fell down. Fence posts just plumb fell over, a combination of the saturated ground and 12 years of wood rot from Houston weather. So I introduced myself to the husband/homeowner (of the over-the-fence property) and was talking about the water spigot problem. He gestured to the young man with him, saying, “He’s a contractor. Have him take a look at it.” This guy is his son-in-law, and so he walked over the downed fence section and came around to the spot with the broken spigot. He got the spigot back on with plumbers putty, but it was still spewing water. His suggestion: attach a hose with a handheld sprayer to the faucet. That did the trick, until Home Depot was completely open and I could get a replacement faucet/spigot combo.

Final damage – one of the two big oak trees in the front split and a fork of that oak came down – about a third of the tree. Best news: did NOT fall on my house, my car (was in the garage), or anyone else’s property.

House seems to have come through it great! All damage was external. Worse news: my homeowners policy has nearly a $4,000 deductible, which I will most likely NOT exceed, so it’s on my dime. But hey – I did this, survived it and met lots and lots of the neighbors, who offered lots of help.

One home had the worst damage in my immediate block-sized area. Shingles ripped off, saturated insulation and a caved-in ceiling. And they were still willing to offer aid to others.

After all of this, the biggest problem was power. Without power: no gas stations were able to pump. And without gas, no generators could continue running (if you were fortunate enough to have or find one), no cars could go very far. People were running out of gas, waiting in line for the very few open stations. No refrigeration, no a/c. And for anyone who has not experienced the summer weather here, just think sauna. Hot and steamy. So we are not whining about a/c – it is a necessity, just like heat is for surviving northern winters.

No stores – gotta have electricity to log those purchases. No restaurants – gotta have the juice, Bruce. All the things you take for granted.

I tried without success to find an open Home Depot on Sunday. I saw a line at the entrance to the lumber area and was told that they were only issuing fencing and other building stuff – no store admittance at all. The only grocery store open that day, had a single entrance open, minimum lights and only admitting a few at a time. Folks were standing in the rain (yes, more rain on Sunday), awaiting entrance. To see what had happened, what others were seeing, I had to buy a Sunday newspaper. I felt very isolated from all the news coverage. I could listen to tv coverage on my batter-operated radio, but could not see what they were showing.

BUT - the greatest thing out of all of this – meeting and helping each other up and down this street. I cannot tell you how heartwarming this has been, sharing and caring for each other. Gives you faith in your fellow man/woman.

Phone calls from caring folks: thank you all for thinking and caring and praying for me. I feel like Sally Fields during her Oscar acceptance speech: “You like me, you really like me!”

This may bore you - but I will probably continue this saga tomorrow. Work has been cancelled for another day. Might be back to work on Thursday...

1 comment:

Mary said...

The gals at Widows Quest have been thinking of you and have been concerned about how you weathered the hurricane. Sounds like you did, but also sounds like it was a very frightening experience. So glad that you and your neighbors rallied together. I have a feeling that Greg was there with you, too.