Thursday, September 18, 2008

After Hurricane Ike

I have lived through major hurricanes with a generator and without a generator. With a generator is better.

Hurricane Ike is the worst storm we have lived through since Hurricane Andrew in the early 1990's when we lived in Lafayette, LA. After destroying Homestead, Florida and that area of Florida, Andrew picked up steam again as it went off into the Gulf of Mexico and traveled up the Vermilion Bay. It was bad and our electricity was out for 10 days. Our son was a toddler. We had no generator.

Lessons learned are important to put into play after any major event. We knew a generator was not an extravagance after those 10 days. We bite the financial bullet and purchased a refurbished one that we haven't had to use until Hurricane Ike blew into town last Friday night.

My husband plugged in three other households of neighbors to the generator so that they could run refrigerators or freezers and whatever it is that made them comfortable. For me it was a fan placed in front of my favorite chair and then by my side of the bed at night. Also, the television. We lost cable periodically but that didn't really matter as we were on non-stop viewing of local stations anyway. And the break for the rest of the world didn't hurt either.

When the power came on this evening, we were certainly ready for it. Now we can get back to some sense of normalcy. My husband followed the service truck - filled with workers from Louisiana, I might add - and watched as they worked. He showed them the fuses that needed replacing on the power poles. He's a hands-on kind of guy, that one. And, good leadership qualities. I'm just happy he was home to do what he does.

One neighbor sent down chicken fried steaks for our dinner. They were on our generator. And, they gave my husband a bottle of wine. Another neighbor, not on the generator but gave my husband their cell phone numbers to tell them when power came back on, brought over freshly baked lemon bars as a thank you. They have a toddler themselves and went to stay with relatives with power. The people sharing the generator took turns going out and filling up gas containers to keep the thing running.

Federal, state and local authorities are working very well together. Despite the best efforts of the media, there are no big squabbles or dilemmas to report. No two storms are alike but here in Houston - the nation's 4th largest city, the Chamber of Commerce would like you to know - we learned a lot of practical lessons after Hurricane Katrina and the logistics of accepting those coming here for New Orleans. Now there are SWAT members from New Orleans in the area to help and repay our hospitality.

First responders and power line workers are here from all over the country and from Canada. Texas has helped other states in emergencies and now it is our turn for help.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson said she's "never seen such a well-coordinated plan" as the one worked out by Mayor White and Harris County President Emmett. Emmett is a local judge and has a background in transportation logistics. That experience came in handy when he was needed to untie a knot of FEMA trucks carrying supplies that arrived at Reliant Stadium to be dispensed throughout the city and surrounding counties.

Senator Cornyn has been here several times. So has Secretary Chertoff. The President was here Tuesday. And, no, no one is mad he wasn't here sooner. All the officials who were responsible for requesting help did so in a timely fashion. No power struggles or inflated egos.

Galveston Island is a mess and it will survive. The mayor, Lyda Ann Thomas, is a trouper and doing a fine job. She said she "has no complaints" and is getting all that she asks for in help. Today the USS Nassau arrived bringing Marines, Sailors, earth movers and supplies. Galveston ship channel should be in operation by Wednesday next week.

TSA employees are volunteering their time when not working at the airports to distribute supplies at Points of Distributions (PODs). Houston is a city of volunteers. The Houston Rockets are pitching in. University students are everywhere helping. Faith based organizations are doing yeoman work.

My husband rescued a baby squirrel today. There are a lot of baby squirrels who were displaced by the storm. He put it in a tree in our front yard and the mama squirrel came for it. Then my husband found a bag of sunflower kernels in the pantry and placed them in a knot of the tree.

Habitat for Horses are rescuing horses on Galveston Island and the low lying areas along the coast. Cattle are being herded to dry ground and receiving donations of hay and feed. You may not realize that the coastal region of east Texas has cattle farms but it does.

And, those expecting immediate solutions to all their own personal problems are out there complaining. "Sheekesha" finally did it today - as we were just waiting for someone to blame President Bush for whatever problem they were having, Sheekesha pulled through. She wanted food stamps and didn't want to verify her income. She said Governor Perry should come to that center and resolve the problem. If not him, then "Bush" should do it. Maybe Sheekesha is related to Kenye West.

I'm again proud of my city. I'm happy to have electricity tonight. I'm sorry for those who suffered the loss of their homes or animals or a loved one. Hurricanes suck. But, so do tornadoes, earthquakes, ice storms and blizzards. It is hard to think of an area that doesn't have challenges with Mother Nature.

The good people of Houston far outnumber the Sheekeshas here.


The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

The good people of Houston far outnumber the Sheekeshas here.

Thank God!

Anonymous said...

Good job, Houston.

Hey, check this out. Who knew a hurricane had THIS much power? :)

Kris, in New England said...

So glad to hear that you all made it thru safely.

Generators are wonderful things. We need ours in the winter - ice storms and blizzards come up unannounced sometimes, leaving you unprepared to lose power for 2 days in subzero weather.

Ah well - it happens and we all deal. So wonderful to hear the good stories come out of such devastation.

Paul is a Hermit said...

Great story, Karen Sounds like the good old days.
Did you ever see, think it was, Twilight Zone, story on how one man in the neighborhood had built the very best fallout shelter and far too many neighbors than it could support wanted in when missiles were coming?

Your generator had me thinking of it. No such problem?

Anonymous said...

Oops. Little linky up there didn't work. Here's the big one -- you just have to read the first article -- it's worth it.

Karen said...

Yeah, it was the hurricane. Snort.

Karen said...

He just offered to immediate neighbors. Those on either side of us and one down from that,too. Another friend on the block was using someone's by her house. And, the neighbors across the street that we're friendly with left town after the storm came thru. It all worked out.

Beverly said...

It is so good to read you report. Glad you're getting back to some semblance of normalcy.

MaumeKim said...

Its nice to see everyone is still as nice in Texas as when I was there in 1982. Ike made it all the way up here to Ohio (in case you hadnt heard) We had for the first time Ever in history Hurricane category 1 winds sustained for 4 to 5 hours straight. We lost our roof and shed, and power was off for a few days. No generators to be found here...Think we would have learned after the ice storm outage a few years ago...anyway we are happy we made it through as quite a few didnt here. Many deaths, WAY too much damage, and a lot of outages still today. Ohioans are helpful to a point but dont expect any neighbors to share their generators here in Columbus unless your family....well maybe we just dont have those nice neighbors others do..Anyway I liked your story and glad you are all ok. Fortunately we didnt get the WATER along with the winds but Im not afraid to say I DO NOT ever want to go through that least a tornado goes away quickly.

Wendy :) said...

Hey Karen. Was so glad to hear things are fine in your part of 77042. You know, all the time I spent listening to the battery powered radio this week was a big change, and most of the time I enjoyed the content. When the Mayor did his conferences, though, I kept hearing this annoying reporter agitating him about what she perceived to be FEMA's lack of preparedness. She was determined to make a mountain out of nothing. Finally found out it was Miya Shay from Channel 13. What a pain in the a**! As soon as I could get e-mail access at the hotel I fired off a note to Channel 13 making sure they knew how frustrating it was to try to hear what the Mayor was saying and having that obnoxious reporter interrupting every thought! That's the end of my watching their news!

I really, REALLY think things have gone well with the recovery process. I don't know why people expect instant gratification, and why they think the government should continue to support their food needs after the grocery stores are open. FEMA is just an intermediate help until food items are available. Every day more stores are opening.

Our neighbor is so happy that the electricity is back that he searched out all the utility workers helping in our neighborhood and invited them to a thank you barbecue for tonight. Wish we could be there. There are workers from Indiana and Missouri, and most had been on the road for 4 weeks, 14 hour days, having worked on the Gustav mess too. Angels in my book!