Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Musings: With apologies to anyone named Ike

As you might guess, Ike isn’t a welcome name in east Texas anymore: Piney Woods people have had houses smashed in by trees just as with Rita and Katrina, Houston lost power to 3 million homes and businesses, Galveston won’t start to have power for weeks yet, and points east of Galveston have been wiped off the map. In the heavily wooded Memorial Villages area where I live, every yard was ankle- to waist-deep in branches Most [except for] the coastal regions chose to “hunker down” and “shelter in place” rather than evacuate before Friday. Roads were all but deserted Friday morning as people battened down their hatches but a stream of folks were still buying plywood sheets (limit two) at Home Depot. I had filled my gas tank, withdrawn sufficient cash, and stocked up on cold groceries and bottled water on Wednesday night. However, by Friday [noon] I had been unable to locate a new lantern or flashlight, so I relied on a large candle for light and a battery-powered radio for round-the-clock weather reports. (I had bought more batteries after Gustav.)

Houston began seeing tropical-storm-force winds (60-74 mph) Friday evening about 6-8 pm. My power went out at 1245 am as Houston experienced 80-85 mph winds. I heard loud thumps against my bedroom wall about 4 am and peered through the rain to make out the cracked bole of a topless myrtle tree; the crown was still hanging from some roof cables in the morning while a tall tree across the sidewalk was uprooted and left leaning against the next building. The eye of the storm reached Galveston about 1 am and Houston about 5 am. I must have fallen asleep while the eye passed over since I awoke at 730 am to renewed wind and rains till about noon.

I often josh about how the only things you can do during a power outage are take a shower and flush the toilet. Well, for days after a hurricane you cringe through every unheated shower and you lack the water pressure (i.e., water) to flush! Without power (or a lantern), you can never see well enough to shave. Your cell phone (if it can find coverage) is going to die with no way to charge it -- and you can forget TV or the Internet. All the gas stations are closed for several days but that’s OK since nothing is open and the initial curfew (if your mayor is smart enough to curb looters) runs 6 am to 6 pm. Mercifully, we had only one day of 95-degree temperatures (with further flooding rains) before a cold front swept in to give us 85-degree days and 65-degree nights for the rest of the week. So sweet!

When power returned Monday to the [west suburban] home of a friend who fled town before the storm, I crashed there then spent Tuesday clearing the grounds of debris before returning home by the 9 pm curfew -- just as my power came on! You could hear the cheers of other tenants through the open windows.

[As of now] cable TV is still out. Houston is still restricted to drinking boiled tap or bottled water -- but [during the weekend I was] able to order pizza and go out for a movie and ice cream!

In the morning, I welcome the clatter of chain saws and leaf blowers. Molley has taken the storm and its aftermath fairly well, considering that during Rita she sat in my lap quivering with her nose buried in my armpit all night. Maybe it’s because we stayed here in the home she knows -- the Dachsie Lounge.

Ike, thy name is mud in Houston. You don’t come back now, y’hear?