Monday, February 23, 2009

Hurricane Hell followup 9/19/08

After being cooped up for almost a week, I decided Wednesday to hit the streets and see what this city looked like. All over it was pretty much the same. Lots of trees still down and lots of areas still without power.

I started out on the light rail line where there was no power, so no place to charge my Q Card, the rechargeable bus pass. Lucky the light rail was free, but none of the ride stores, at least as far as I could tell, were open. Since downtown still had power, I was able to recharge the card at one of the rail platforms.

Waiting for the bus west to the Galleria, I was able to see that Travis was still blocked off Wednesday. All of the windows blown out at the JP Morgan ChaseTower were now boarded up, as were most of the other windows that blew out downtown, as the bus moved forward through the city.

Traffic signals were still out in some places downtown, but Midtown was without power from about St. Joseph's al the way south to Elgin. So that was Wednesday, and I spent the day out. First to lunch, and then the Galleria.

After being couped up this whole time, it was nice to see civilization again, but there were still signs thinngs weren't quite back to normal. There were people all throughout Galleria II that were on their laptops or charging their cell phones.

On my way home I ran into some friends and that really made my day. It was great to reconnect with people, some that I hadn't seen in two or three weeks. We hung out at a local watering hole and hung out there until the owner ran us off 'round curfew time. Yep, Houston's still under a midnight to 6am curfew through Monday.

So Thursdfay I decided to head west to Memorial City Mall and see how it looked there. Still more of the same along Long Point and Hempstead, along the bus route I chose to take. Spotty is the best word to describe our current power situation. One side of the street will have lights, while the other won't.

One improvement I saw in Westmoreland here is a lot of the trees had been cut up and piled on the side of the streets. Out at Memorial City Mall, it was the same scene as the Galleria. Lots of people using their wi-fi and charing their electronics. I can understand what that's like wanting to reconnect with the world at large and let our friends and family in other places know that we're alive and that this storm didn't get us down.

The streets were busiere today with people either heading back home from evacutating, or just coming home from work. Westchase along Gessner and Westheimer all the way east to about Dunvale was spotty at best as far as electrical service goes.

I got the brilliant idea that Wal-Mart, being this mega giant retailer, would have fucking groceries like cold foodstuffs. Nope. Deli, produce, meat, frozen - empty. Nothing left on the shelves but some drinks and a hand full of gourds. I freaked the fuck out honestly. This was not what I was expecting from Wal-Mart for crying out loud.

Yeah I can understand 99 Cents Only, Kroger, and Randall's here in Montrose since they all just got their power back. 99 Cents Only and Randall's were spotty at best in their selection of perishables.

My friend from high school called me as I stood here agape at the sight of the empty coolers. He lives in League City, and he did a recon mission for me down there. His Wal-Mart had some cold foodstuffs, and he came and got me.

Every where he went traffic was hell. Between the lights out in places on Westheimer, and the traffic on the freeways, what's normally a thirty - or forty-minute drive took closer to an hour. Finaly, he arrived and shuttled me down to League City.

All along 45 South the Gulf Freeway, Ike's calling card was every where. From darkened parking lots to broken signs and fallen awnings, the devastation was evident. The League City Wal-Mart was spotty at best, but they had the essentals I wanted like lunch meat and cheese and milk, things I realized I take for granted.

I have to say that I really appreciate my friend braving all that traffic to get me the hell out of here so I could get groceries. And I appreciate all my friends who've checked in on me, or have thought about me in the wake of this storm. I also give a shout out to those who showed their concernts for not just me, but my family too.

So, the lights are back on here in Westmoreland, but other areas of the Montrose still remain in the dark. Hopefully the power will be back on by the time the curfew's lifted Monday. I know a lot of the bars and clubs have been posting bulleteins that they'l be open this weekend, and they'll even open early to accommodate the city-wide curfew. Hope to see some of you out this weekend. I miss y'all, and I miss hangin' out with y'all. Be well.

Hurricane Hell 9/16/08

For the last twenty-five years or so, the Houston/Galveston area managed to dodge some major bullets in terms of major hurricanes. Many times me and my family prepared for the worst and nothing happened. The most we saw in that 25-year span were baby hurricanes and minor tropical storms. Then, about three years ago, we got the wake-up call with Katrina first and then Rita, which apeared it would take dead aim at the Houston/Galveston area. Once again we'd dodged what was a monster hurricane.

This year's hurricane forecast as in recent years didn't look too good fo the U.S. coastal areas. Personally I'd become complacent in recent years. I'd pretty much determined that if it happened, it happened, and there was nothign I could do about it. This year we avoided a direct hit by Hurricanes Dolly and Gustav, but took a glancing blow from Tropical Storm Edouard.

Then the Cape Verde season began, and that's usually when I pay attention because those storms have historically taken aim at the Gulf Coast. So when Ike formed just off the Cape Verde coast, I really didn't pay much attention because the forecasters said Josephine would have a better chance of taking aim at the Texas Gulf Coast.

Ike was already ahead of Josephine and tmoving over storm weary Haiti, Cuba, and the Caribbean. Forecasters and meteorologists scrambled to predict where exactly the storm would make landfall. For the first time in 25 years, I actually stopped and took notice. Galveston and Houston were in the center of the cone of uncertainity, and the closer it got, the more likely landfall would be somewhere in the area.

Monday I got in touch with my family in Texas City, just to the south of Houston and north of Galveston. Mom told me that she had no idea we were in the target zone, but that she would concact me later in the week with their plans.

In the mean time, I hoped and prayed this thing would go the other way and miss us, but I knew our time was past due. The grocery store where I work was busy Thursday morning, and then by that afternoon, shelves had emptied of can goods, water, and even perishables like dairy, meat, and produce.

After I got off work, Mom had made the decision to evacuate now that it was obvious Hurricane Ike was about to take aim at Galveston. Dad and Grandma sheltered at my apartkment, and the rest of my family at my sister's house in Bellaire.

We watched the news coverage and waited as the storm got closer by the hour. Ahead of the hurricane water pushed into the bays and bayous south from Corpus Christi north to Surfside, Galveston, the Bolivar Peninsula, and even as far north as Beaumont and southern Louisiana. This storm was huge and it was only a cat 2.

Just after midnight Ike began to move into the Houston area after battering the coast. For eight exhausting hours wind and rain battered my apartment complex. All over the Montrose where I live transformers exploded and the entire area went dark.

Daylight revealed lots of downed trees and there were branches and leaves all over the place. Listening to the battery operated radio I had, word from the coast wasn't good. Many landmarks across the Gulf Coast were gone or destroyed.

Just today I got electricity back, and I was able to see just what exactly happened. East of Houston in Orange County and Chambers County, the devastation was unbelievable. Entire communities along the Bolivar Peninsula to the east of Galveston Island were wiped off the map, and water still inundated areas further east.

Along Galveston Bay, many of the communities from Bacliff to San Leon, and north to Shoreacres and Baytown were nearly wiped out by the 13-15 foot storm surge.

On a personal note, my family went home Saturday afternoon and found their roofs slightly damanged, and the trees knocked oer. Nothing as major as what happened along the coast.

So far the Texas Gulf Coast from Brazoria to Galveston and Chambers counties are closed off. Do not attempt to go south and try and help. Instead I encourage people to donate to their local Red Cross and Salvation Army.

It will be many months, possibly even years before many of these areas fully recover. If you loved going to the Gulf of Mexico to vacation or to party or whatever, then I strongly encourage you to help those people because their situation is dire.