First off, understand, Houston is not New Orleans. We are not a city built in a bowl, 30 feet below sea level. We are a whopping 43 feet above sea level. Houston sits 45 miles from the coast, but has a huge ship channel cut to reach Galveston Bay. I live 30 miles further north of Houston in a heavily wooded area known as “The Woodlands.” Texans are not much for over dramatic names. We are pretty simple. If there were mountains around here and we built a community there, it would be named “The Rocks” or “The Summits.” There is a golf course in San Antonio built in an old rock quarry. Guess what it is named. I digress.
Hurricane Ike did not sneak up on us. Good lord, that thing was seen thousands of miles away, but it was born in an area of the Tropical Atlantic that has never produced a hurricane that has hit Texas. We felt the odds were pretty good. Ike was not a fast mover. Ike was not a ninja. Ike announced his presence loud and proud. Everyone knew Ike was out there. Around Sept. 5th, there were some stirring in weather rooms around Houston that Ike may make history. I was planning a brief and very much needed vacation from work and had serious reservations about the weather conditions I would be experiencing. As most of my friends can tell you, I am a weather nut. I will chase tornadoes. I will stand out in a lightning storm and watch. I stood out in the middle of a tropical storm down here in 1998 and told the neighbors around me, “this ain’t so bad.” I took Atmosheric Science at Texas Tech, (go Raiders,) and was the curve breaker. In other words, you show me some data, and I can usually derive a forecast. I told people at work on Sept. 7th that Ike could make things very interesting for us. Some laughed, some asked me if I was serious. I am not an expert by any means, and I don’t have access to the really good data, but I know weather. I was farmer. We have weather sense.
Ike hit. Ike was huge. Ike measured nearly 600 miles across. If Ike was centered in Texas, it would have covered the entire state except for El Paso, which really isn’t Texas, Brownsville, which really isn’t Texas either, and the upper panhandle around Dumas and Dalhart which really isn’t Texas…you get the idea. Ike was huge. Ike was officially a Cat. 2 storm, but no one follows up with the fact that Ike was one good puff from Cat. 3. Ike had a strong Cat. 3 storm surge. Friday morning, before Ike was even near the coast, areas of the Texas coast were FLOODED and not a drop of rain had come down yet. You see what we are dealing with here? Ike was a storm that changed the rules about how to prepare for a storm. By Friday morning people who had not evacuated but were planning to, could not leave. They were trapped. The National Guard managed to get some of them out, and the Coast Guard rescued a few more, but there were thousands stuck, because storm planning said that Friday would be a good evacuation day.
I’m 75 miles from all this calmly putting up some boards to protect some windows in my living room from potential flying debris. I’m fine, except that my much needed, recharge the mental battery vacation is rapidly spiraling down hill, but little did I know that the worst was yet to come.
More to follow.