I thought growing up in West Texas, I knew what windy was. Houstonians gripe about 15 miles per hour being windy. Sean and I have played golf in 45 mile per hour winds from the north trying to finish 18 holes before the rain shows up. Wind does not bother me. I have been in the middle of dust storms that look like the scene from the Mummy where the plane gets knocked out of the sky. I have seen sand turn 3pm into midnight. I thought I knew windy. Brother, let me tell you something. Geraldo Riveria standing out in a storm reporting makes it look easy. Hurricanes blow, literally. The eye of Ike was about 60 miles across at landfall, but it diminished somewhat, but 75 miles inland, we had lower level hurricane winds, (75+ miles per hour) for a couple of hours, and then high level tropical storm winds for several hours more. All in all we had high winds for about 9 to 10 hours. The worst of the storm blew over by noon on the 13th, but heavy rain and wind was still flowing out of the system. Once the data was out, Ike’s eye passed about 20 miles to the east of our area. I saw stuff flying around the neighborhood, that I had no idea was aerodynamically sound. I even saw the Wicked Witch of the East on her broom, whom Sean has met. Cool huh? My front door faces north and the wind blew so hard, it blew rain under my door, past the weatherstripping and soaked my entryway. I have tile in my entire downstairs living area. Thank goodness. If I had carpet, it would have been ruined. At one point I looked out my windows in the bedroom and I had my hands on the windowpane. I could feel the window in the frame pulse back against my hands. It was very windy. For the record, something they rarely tell you, when the reporters are on camera, they have found areas that they can report and look like they are in the storm, without actually being in the storm. You cannot stand up and keep your feet in that kind of wind, I know, I tried. Point of information, rain at 50 miles per hour hurts like hell.
The coastal areas are a mess. Galveston is beat up pretty badly, but Crystal Beach and other areas on Bolivar peninsula are GONE! Wipe clean. Only foundation slabs remain. You cannot believe the debris piled up along roads and coastline and streets. I have yet to see any pictures that accurately show the conditions here. I have been around tornadoes, snow storms, and even a minor earthquake that shook my bed. I was flooded in and had to spent the night at work when Allison hit Houston in 2001. Now I have a hurricane under my belt. I will tell you in all seriousness, the flood aftermath and the debris/hurricane aftermath are the most surreal experiences I have ever had. You come out and nothing seems real. Think back to the few days after 9/11 and there were no airplanes in the sky. Several people I talked too thought that was just a wierd feeling. It is the same way with these storms. There was no traffic in Houston. Not a car on the road. There were building that looked like a can opener had been used on it. There were trees that looked like Paul Bunyan had walked through the neighborhood. Huge trees lay uprooted taking huge chunks of earth with them, some of the holes you could have put a car into and buried. It was like being in an altered state. Everything was peaceful and quiet, but wrong.
My house sustained some roof damage and I have water damage in some areas, but make no mistake, we consider ourselves lucky. I got out and looked around and the damage amazed me. I would never have expected that level of damage that far inland. The majority of the damage was the result of those same big trees that people loved to live next too. For those looking for advise on building a house, remove the trees right next to your house. If a tree falls on your house, you house will lose. The houses that I saw that had trees fall on them looked like they had been guillotiened. I thought I was in the French Revolution. I don’t have pictures, but they are all over the net. I saw one of those huge metal billboard sign frames ripped from its mooring and slammed down on top of a 3 story apartment complex. I lost one tree. It was about 10 feet tall and 4 inches across. We live in a new neighborhood with very few old growth trees around the houses. You can imagine what the coast looked like, but the Spring, Woodlands, Conroe, and even as far as Huntsville saw extreme damage by this storm. For those of you not blessed by God to live and know the state of Texas, Huntsville is nearly 100 miles from the coast.
We lost power around 3am on Sept. 13th. As of this writing, it has not returned. I am however, increasingly hopeful that it will magically show up by this weekend. One of my wife’s co-workers got power at her house last Sunday and offered to loan us her generator. We now have a fan and TV, and the world is so much nicer. We can’t wait to get back to normal, but luckily, food is being restocked, gas is easier to find, and both kids and my wife are all OK. We have seen an ugly storm, ugly sides of humankind all greedy and mean. We have seen government officials do a good job in trying to maintain order and help those who need it. Hats off to FEMA, the National Guard, Coast Guard,(some often forgotten folks), the Army that rolled in on Wednesday the 17th to help secure Galveston Island. Centerpoint linemen and all the other power company teams that came in get high marks, but the Centerpoint Energy managment team can bite me.
On behalf of my family, those that sent your thoughts and calls I appreciated them. We will get back to normal, or as normal as my household gets. I am moving through all of my rescheduled projects that need to be done. I am also looking at the really important question, Can I have my vaction now?