Friday, October 03, 2008

Our Ike Experience

I'm late, but I really want to record these memories, so I'm sharing our experience with Hurricane Ike.

I lived in the Houston area when Hurricane Alicia hit back in 1983. I was 16 years old. I remember my mom waking me up to go down the street to a neighbor's house. They had a central room with no windows. We spent the night sitting on their kitchen floor with a transistor radio. We watched debris fly down the street at times, but my biggest memory of it is being bored. Our power came back on the next day and it was pretty much a non-event for this teenager. However, viewing a hurricane as a teenager and as an adult are two very different things!

After Rita completely missed us three years ago, I wasn't really expecting Ike to hit us, either. And, since we live about 70 miles inland, I wasn't particularly worried about if it did hit. We did prepare, though. I bought water. We filled up our cars. I convinced my brother (who still lives in that closer-to-the-coast area) to come stay with us. We watched the news all evening, and we went to bed.

Our power went out at 12:18 AM that Saturday morning. I looked out the windows at that point, but couldn't see much because it was so dark. The wind was certainly howling, though. When we got up that morning, the hurricane was still going through, but it wasn't as strong as during the night. We didn't get out to see the damage until that afternoon.

We were very lucky. We lost our back fence and some bushes. Our next door neighbor had a pine tree that broke in half, but thankfully it broke towards the street rather than their home. Other neighbors were not so lucky. We suspect a tornado went through the neighborhood because certain sections were definitely hit harder than others. I've included some pictures in the slideshow at the end.

We got power back on Sunday for 5 minutes, then we heard transformers blowing everywhere. Parts of the neighborhood kept power, but we didn't. We were out of power for 13 days and 12 hours! Let me tell you, people, that is not something you want to experience.

I don't know that people outside of our area really understand what the lack of power meant. My sister told me she read a blog comment somewhere of some guy in Colorado. His response was, "Big deal! So they don't have power. They're a bunch of whiners." He, my friends, didn't have a clue what was going on. Here's just some of what no power, city wide (93% outage!), meant.

- Airports were closed.
- Gas stations were closed. When they did open, many could only take cash. Lines for gas were absolutely incredible!
- Street lights were out. Not flashing. Out!! This caused many accidents. I, myself, drove through several intersections, not seeing the light. I was lucky to not crash into someone else.
- Grocery stores had no power. When our local grocery store opened after 5 days, they had minimal power. We had to shop with a store employee and a flashlight!

This is just what I can think of off the top of my head. I'm not even talking about the minor inconveniences of no A/C and cooking on a camp stove for two weeks.

This story will give you an idea of what things were like. I was in Target a few days after the storm. An employee was unboxing batteries. A very well dressed lady with her young daughter walked up to him and said, "Do you have C batteries?" He said, "Yes, ma'am". She grabbed her daughter by the shoulder and said, almost giddily, "We're going to be able to listen to the radio!" Folks, when somebody gets so excited about listening to the radio, things are definitely redefined.

I thought I would share what I learned and blessings we had during this time.

Things I Learned

1. Before the storm, buy as many bags of ice as the freezer will hold. I bought none. That was not smart.
2. Make sure the grease container in the freezer is sealed properly and not laying on it's side. Yuk.
3. Bake all refrigerated bread products before the storm.
4. Run the dishwasher one last time before the storm, even if it's not full. You will be thankful for every dish you don't have to wash by hand.
5. Buy your son's birthday present before the storm. Bake the cake, too, even if you're worried it will be a bit stale. Otherwise you will end up sticking a candle in a Ding Dong.

Our Blessings

1. We were all safe, with no damage to our home.
2. We never lost water.
3. We have a gas water heater, so we had hot water.
4. We had a corded phone. Those with only cordless phones did not have phones until their power came on. Cell phone reception was spotty at best.
5. We homeschool, so we don't have to worry about making up 6 (or more!) school days.
6. We have a battery-operated television. Small, black and white, with poor picture quality, but it kept us in touch with the outside world.
7. With fewer outside distractions, we spent much more time together as a family.

There are still many people recovering from Hurricane Ike. It's going to take Galveston months, at the least, to recover. People lost their homes. People lost their lives. After 25 years without a major hurricane, many of us did not take the warning seriously. I don't believe that will happen again.

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