Sunday, March 15, 2009

Six months later

This weekend marks six months since Hurricane Ike hit Texas. We were actually a lot luckier than most but for us, it was still a horrible experience.

It was around 2am on Saturday, September 13th 2008 when the storm finally hit land. Most offices were closed from the Wednesday before to allow people to prepare. We'd already decided we weren't going anywhere so all we could do was sit and wait.

We made sure we had enough food and water, as well as some building supplies should there be any damage. We filled bath tubs and buckets with water, exchanged numbers and plans with friends and neighbours and waited.

Everyone was glued to the local news channels for days before the storm was due to hit land in the US. We'd tracked it's progress from the Caribbean and hoped it would change path so to avoid us.

Early Friday evening, the water level around Galveston was already high, spilling onto land and flooding streets. This was even before the rain came. By the time we went to bed that night The Strand area of Galveston was already under 6 feet of water.

We decided that there wasn't anything more we could do so we went to bed around 10pm hoping to get some sleep while we could.

Around 2am my I was woken by my Wife to be informed that the power had gone out. I love her very much but Thanks. For. That.

From that point on there was no more sleep to be had. The rain soon arrived, blown inland by the hurricane strength winds. We lay in bed wide awake listening to the wind and rain. It battered our windows so hard that I was expecting them to smash any time. The roof was creaking so loud that I remember just hoping that it didn't fly off and leave us exposed to the elements.

We had no power so we didn't know what was going on. Friends back in England sent text messages to my mobile to see how we were and they were keeping an eye on the news and giving us as much information as they could find.

Around 9am, the rain finally slowed and the wind calmed down. I thought this break was the eye of the storm and that we would be getting the back end any minute. After about half an hour I spoke to my Mum who was a few miles away listening to a battery operated radio and she said that on the news they were saying that the storm had passed. I felt relieved because I'm not sure the house would've survived another round with Ike but also a little apprehensive as I hadn't heard the news reports myself.

It was finally getting lighter outside so I decided it was time to put on a coat and see what damage had been done. The back garden was covered in roof tiles, and our fence down one side had come down. I walked outside the front of the house and saw tree branches all over the street. Houses facing the storm had their garage doors blown in and most seemed to have suffered more damage than we did.

It turned out the roof tiles were from the surrounding houses and we had very little damage. The main problem for us was the lack of water and electricity.

The next few days were horrible. Hot humid days where we were stuck in the house with no TV to pass the time. We opened up the windows to let what little air there was inside. We played board games to kill a few hours, we read books but mostly we just walked around the house not knowing what to do with ourselves.

On the Sunday we decided to drive around the neighbourhood to see how everyone else fared. Fences were down everywhere, trees were blocking the streets, a couple of houses had lost their roofs, or had trees fall through them.

We were out chatting to a neighbour when his wife came out to excitedly announce that we had water again. Everyone made their excuses and rushed inside to shower and wash away the evidence of the last few days without water.

We used the BBQ to cook food and boil water so thankfully we were still able to have a cup of tea. In fact, I was outside cooking days later when I heard screams of joy from down the street. The power had flicked on, albeit briefly, but it was the first sign of a return to civilisation. A couple of hours later I heard the screams again and this time the power was back on.

The following weekend my Dad and I drove down to Galveston to survey the damage to the property they have down there. We left at 5am as this was the first day that the public were allowed to return to the island. The traffic wasn't too bad at that time, but as we approached the island we saw boats in the middle of the road and piles of debris along the side.

Driving across the island it was shocking to see the damage. I'd seen pictures on the news but to see it for yourself really makes it hit home. Houses had completely collapsed, cars and boats had been washed away, dumped in fields or in the middle of the road. Sand was piled about 10 feet high on both sides of the road, cleared so cars could get through.

My parents house had damage but it was still standing and could be fixed. In fact the repairs are due to be completed any day now. Others weren't so lucky and the island is still a work in progress but the residents are a resilient bunch so there's no doubt Galveston will be back to it's former glory. It's just a matter of time.

Six months later it still seems unreal. When I think back to those days with no power, sitting hot and dirty, playing Scrabble with my Wife it still seems like a bad dream, one I hope I will not experience again.

1 comment:

  1. It is almost as hot in the house tonight as it was during Ike...we have power, please turn on the AC ~~j