Hurricane Ike – Perspective from NW Houston (2-month anniversary edition)

We made it through Ike OK. Especially compared to so many others who have suffered and lost so much.

Sunset, Friday night, Sept. 12, 2008
Sunset, Friday night, Sept. 12, 2008

At 11:36 pm on Friday, Sept. 12 our power went out. Ike still hadn’t made landfall. But the amount of water pouring into Galveston via storm surge was already quite frigtening, even from afar. Mandatory evacution orders had been issued long before. That night the wind blew. It blew hard. We lost a small tree in the backyard and four branches from some of the bigger trees. No water damage.

Before

Before 

By Saturday afternoon my son and I had gotten stir crazy enough that we went outside and tried to pick up some of the smaller debris, even though the rain was still pretty constant. Little did we know 13 more days without electricity lay ahead. Still we were better off than most. We were even able to get gasoline within the first 5 days or so.

After
After

Life without electricity goes something like this. You go to bed when it gets dark out. You wake up when it gets light. You don’t sleep much (or well) because its always hot. It works out OK until you have to deal with the rest of the world that has power. They’re all running on schedule, while you’re still sleeping, eating, and muddling through; in about that order.

Making coffee - Saturday morning

Making coffee - Saturday morning

The weekends are fine, because you go about your normal business and hang out during the day (Fortunately, my family and I all truly enjoy each other’s company!). Weekdays were OK too, once the offices had power back. Except for the inability to focus on much of anything. The only drag was the nights, as already explained. Lay there and sweat.

Stir-crazy cleanup. Saturday morning.
Stir-crazy cleanup. Saturday morning.

Again, however, we didn’t really suffer at all compared to so many others. It helped having great friends, both near and far. Those far away checked in and offered their concern. Those nearby offered help (chainsaws, generators, internet access, etc.). I must say that lots of friends made through my experience in Boy Scouts of America figured prominently in the latter. I’m sure others have other social avenues through which similar experiences were had. That just happened to be the one that stood up tallest in my immediate vicinity.

Hangin n cookin, 8 days later
Hangin n cookin, 8 days later

Mayor Bill White and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett also did admirable jobs. I’m very happy the latter survived the subsequent rout of the GOP and kept their jobs (White wasn’t up). They were proactive without resorting to hyperbole in the run-up. They also stayed the course in the aftermath and helped make sure relief was occurring expediently despite having to deal with a local media that brayed nearly constantly about how badly things were going wrong, and who, what, or why was to blame. (Caught them via battery-powered TV).

During the run-up to the storm, I was amazed by the people on Galveston who were just going to ‘ride it out.’ All ages, shapes, and sizes. The most troubling among them were those with infant children. You couldn’t help but feel something terrible was about to happen. I mean, ‘you there, grown up, do whatever you want with yo fool self. Just don’t drag the kid into it. They don’t know they’re about to die.’

There were also those who infuriatingly tried to the play the ‘well, once again, they didn’t let us know in time, so we’ve just gotta stay here card.’ Puh-leeze. Everybody had plenty of time to get out of anywhere they needed to leave, even before mandatory evacuations were declared.

I’m pretty sure it was guys like this that the Galveston sheriff was talking to a little bit before he and his men were going into shelter-in-place mode: “This is a very serious storm. If you choose to stay you are putting yourself in harms way. I would ask only that you do me and my men this favor: take a dark marker, and somewhere on your body write your name and social security number.” (In the aftermath at least on interviewed vet had followed this advice by donning his dog tags before Ike made landfall.)

It wasn’t 30 minutes after the ‘you’re-on-your-own deadline’ when the 911 calls from those who were going to ‘ride it out,’ who had willfully ignored mandatory evacuation orders and were now going to risk the lives of others to save them, started coming in fast and furious.

I’m happy for those who made this decision and survived. Sad for those (and their families) who made this decision and died. I will not, however, begrudge any of the adult survivors their fair dose of post-traumatic stress disorder, sleeping problems, or whatever else comes their way. Seems like a fair trade for having willfully put the lives of others in jeopardy.

In the aftermath my two favorite stories had to do with lions and tigers. One man refused to evacuate because he couldn’t bring himself to leave his pet lion behind. He later took refuge, with his lion, in a local church.  I’d imagine they had plenty of room upon arrival. The other story had to do with a tiger loose on Crystal Beach. Wow. Imagine having to fight him for food!

It’s going to take a long time to rebuild Galveston, and the local officials there seem to have struck a proper balance between the need for residents to have access to their properties and the need to acknowledge public health and safety issues (particularly given the demonstrated lack of willingness of so many residents to have done the same in the run-up to the storm).

I look forward to a restored and revitalized Galveston, wish those rebuilding the best, and hope that some lessons have been learned for the next time a storm is on the way.

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