Monday, September 22, 2008

Hurricane IKE, post trauma, lessons learned

We did get a direct hit! Was it as bad as I had thought? For a category 2 storm, it was worse. Now we can extrapolate to cat 5 storm. As noted before in related articles, there are two issues to address - water and wind. Many skeptics believed we had no wind issue. I can imagine that the skeptics can now envision a worse scenario than we had. This storm was relatively weak but devistating. Galveston could have been hit by 180 MPH winds from a storm landing near Freeport. This time, Galveston got a direct hit, so Galveston did not even get the full ferocity of even this storm, neither did we. We were fairly well centered, seeing the eye pass overhead. If the storm had passed further to the west and put us in the northeast quadrant, we would have experienced the worse of it.

What would a cat 5 storm look like? A disaster! My wife told me after Ike, "The Woodlands is a disaster.". Relative to potential damage, it is not a disaster. Yes, we got some trees uprooted, some houses damaged and one even destroyed. Yet this was a moderate storm, not even officially considered "dangerous". If a cat 5 had come in, nature's fury would have been unleashed on our community and many of us would be homeless. Of course one of that strength very rarely occurs. I would say, "you ain't seen nothing yet" if we want to understand what a really bad storm would be like. The bottom line is, in the future we should understand that we are definately in harm's way, given a major storm approaching us. We should not have an attitude that we live inland and are exempt from a true disaster. We are only 80 miles from the coast. That is not very far, far enough not to have a direct effect from the surge, but close enough to have the winds and torrential rains, i.e., what I call Noah's flood.

The twilight zone visited us during this storm. Our battery operated clocks all had different times after the storm. Of course we expected the electricity to fail but never the clocks. Yes, we changed the batteries in the spring. Like my wife noted, the storm came from below the ground when the clock struck 12:00, sort of demon-like.

OK, enough of the negative. I consider us lucky. We have lights again and air conditioning throughout most of our community. We learned a few things and a few things were just reminders of what we have been told over and over again. In the event of a disaster, we have the potential to help each other as well as fight each other. In the storm's wake, there was some looting and even some robberies for essential consumables like gasoline. One person I know, started carrying a weapon for protection against gasoline robbers. We learned that we needed dry milk in our pantry. We still cannot buy milk at the grocery store. We were reminded the reason why there are signs out there saying to fill up our gas tanks; it is hurricane season. We learned to have ready generators. A one week outage is an expectation now. In a stronger storm, it will likely be worse - 2-3 weeks. Some places do not have power yet. Two weeks without power is now their expectation. If anyone asks, my single most gripe is the lack of air conditioning. The humidity after a hurricane is always a problem. Here we got lucky. Just a few days after the storm hit, we had a cool front to dry out things and keep us cool. What worked the best of everything I did to prepare was to cut away all limbs close to the house early in the summer. The single most learning for next time is to test the generator and fix it if needed, at the beginning of hurricane season, not wait for a storm to come before I try to start it. We considered ourselves prepared but like always, we waited until the last moment to do some things and got burned. The reason is? I had an emergency out of town just 4 days before the storm arrived. My family had to fight the storm without me.

I see lots of people cleaning their yards. That is one of my current honey-do's. The work has begun by picking up limbs. Trees have to be trimmed; limbs and twigs tied up or bagged; leaves bagged or put into compost piles. No time to write a blog but I guess I just did!