Sunday, September 28, 2008

Hurricane Ike Part 1

Wow. 2 years since I've blogged here! Where does the time go?? Actually, I know where it went....first MySpace, then get the idea.

But, nothing like a devastating hurricane to resurrect the old blogger in me! Big L and I moved to Galveston 2 years ago in July, and so we found ourselves in the angry eye of Hurricane Ike 2 weeks ago. Here's our story to date, and I'll continue blogging thru what promises to be a CRAZY and WILD ride over the next year at least!

Wednesday, September 9, 2008 - We are both at work, and watching the storm via anxiously. No one at my office is actually "working" as we're all anticipating a press conference from our Mayor at 10:30am and the following word from our Executive Director as to how we will proceed. (I am the financial Controller for Galveston Historical Foundation. Big L continues to have a tax practice in Houston with his partner and they too are trying to decipher what to do next. )

The Mayor delays and then speaks as to how the storm still appears to be focused on the Matagorda to maybe Freeport area, requests a voluntary evacuation of the West End and that's that. At work, we begin to prepare "just in case" by putting all our computers on our desks, wrapped in plastic and securing all loose papers and files in case of blown out windows.

During the late afternoon, there is another press conference by the Mayor. This time she is ordering a mandatory evacuation of the West End and a voluntary one of the whole island. The storm has shifted a bit more towards Freeport now, and not so much towards Matagorda. If you don't know the Texas Coast, that is more towards Galveston than before. Big L and I make the decision to leave, but by the time we both reach home it is about 8pm. When I had picked up the kids from school at 3:15, we were still having school until 11:30am on Thursday. They had to come to work and help me with hurricane prep, which for me meant hurriedly trying to run checks thru the deposit scanner on my desk so we'd have as much money in the bank as possible in case of a storm. When we all reach home that evening, we are all moving like crazy people, trying to do laundry and pack it, along with valuables like photo albums and pictures. To keep the kids busy, I dumped out a tub of Fall decorations from the garage and let them each pack the same number of toys and stuffed animals in it. (anyone who has 2 kids knows how important the "same number" part of that sentence is!) When they finished that, I assigned them the task of moving all the books from the downstairs bookcase to the coffee table upstairs. I honestly didn't think that was necessary, but it kept them out of my hair and I was too stressed to have them whining and fighting! I successfully packed all our pictures and photo albums in another plastic tub and packed 4 suitcases for a long weekend. I then began packing up our laptops and other electronics...wifi card, portable scanner, camera, memory card reader, and all the cords that accompany such items. We finally paused to feed the kids and get them to bed, and continued to pack and get ready until Midnight. The whole time I was working indoors, Big L was working outdoors. He was helping our next door neighbor "Bart", and together they were securing all the outdoor items. Being that we live on the water, there are boats and patio furniture and grills and kayaks and all sorts of items. Big L tied many such things to our fence to keep them from floating away in a high tide. Many were piled in our garage to keep them from becoming projectiles in the wind. During all of this, the only constant was the news. We had the local news on for non-stop updates and dire warnings. By the time we went to bed that night, Ike had shifted East yet again and was now giving Galveston the evil eye! Larry and I exhaustedly fell into bed hoping that the eastward trend would continue through the night and that we would wake to find Ike headed towards the TX/LA border instead of us.

Thursday, September 10, 2008 - Big L and I both woke early to check the weather. Not only had there been no change in Ike's path during the night, but now the storm surge was predicted to be unbelievably high on our island and hometown. Big L began packing all my plastic tubs and suitcases in the back of his truck. I woke the kids to get them dressed and fed. At 9:30 there was yet another press conference from our Mayor. This time, things had changed. There was now a mandatory evacuation for the whole island. Big L and I looked at each other with alarm. You see, we had evacuation from Hurricane Rita 2 years ago when we still lived in Friendswood, and that experience haunts us to this day. (you can read about it in my archives at The fear of Rita-esque evacuation traffic jolted both of us into mega gear. We both agreed that we needed to be on the road and off the island in 30 minutes or less. No more time to consider moving precious items upstairs. We had done all we could and were now completely out of time. We decided not to try and go to our normal safe haven in New Braunfels for fear of the traffic, and instead to go to Big L's sisters house in Sugarland to ride out the storm. According to plan, we were on the road within a half an hour of the mandatory evacuation order. I had both kids and both dogs with me, and Big L was following by himself in his truck. And to our surprise, traffic was not heavy at all and we reached Sugarland in the normal amount of time....A journey that had taken 6 hours during the Rita evacuation had just taken us 1 hour!

We arrive, along with Big L's parents, and all settle in with 10 people and 3 dogs for the storm to show up. Of course it's not coming until Friday night, so we have a LOT of time on our hands! Big L helps his brother-in-law board up the house and secure items in the yard. For the rest of Thursday, we spend most of that time glued to the news, when we're not running around to grocery and drug stores stocking up on last minute items we keep realizing we forgot!

We call to check on our neighbor Bart, only to find out he's chosen to stay on the island with friends! I completely freak out and keep inundating him with text messages about how he needs to get the heck off the freaking island. Finally, I pull all the stops and text him the quote from Homeland Security that said anyone staying on the island was facing certain death. He tells me I'm playing dirty but that I have his attention. Miraculously, a joint friend of ours from Friendswood calls him and offers his now vacant house to Bart and his crew to ride out the storm. They take him up on his offer and relocate to Friendswood! Bart has his 83 year old father, a 90+ year old man he looks after, a dog and 3 cats in our friends house. Although much safer and out of harms way, his nightmare is just beginning. The 90+ year old, Percy, begins to show signs of dementia and the sudden removal from his house has not helped. Bart is in for a very long night....

Friday, September 11, 2008 - This day brings on a whole new set of challenges. Our daughter is displaying a bad cough and has "that look" in her eyes. She'd missed a couple of days of school earlier in the week, but had appeared to be getting better, until today. We make the decision to call her pediatrician at home, as we know she chose to ride out the storm in Friendswood. After hearing E's story and her current condition, she advises us to take her to urgent care. We find one open (a miracle, as Sugarland is all but rolling up the streets to prepare for Ike) and get her in. They perform and chest x-ray and our fears are realized....The Princess has pneumonia. They administer an IV antibiotic, give us samples of a prescription decongestant to last a few days, and advise us that the Target pharmacy is still open for filling her antibiotic prescription. They also had to administer Tylenol with codeine during the IV ordeal because The Princess does not do pain, especially from a needle. After several hours, it is now 2:30pm and we are heading to Target to fill her RX and get home before it gets stormy. Naturally, Target has closed before we arrive. We begin running all over town looking for any open pharmacy, with no luck. I'm getting absolutely frantic, and am telling Big L that we will have to pack up and head west until we find a town open that can fill a prescription that day!! Big L's sister is returning from the FFA barn where she'd been caring for their animals, and she stops in a little Mom & Pop pharmacy where they are just about to lock up and convinces them to stay open for us! We race over and get her prescription filled and are still in the parking lot when they lock up for the day. PHEW!

Back at home, we prepare what will be our last meal with power and proceed to "hunker down" for the storm. I wake up lots of times in the night as the wind picks up and I can hear things hitting the boarded up windows. At 1:30am, my phone rings. It's Bart. he is getting phone calls from a neighbor whose husband and adult son chose to ride out the storm at their home on our street in Galveston! They've had to SWIM to Bart's house because it's the tallest and has roof access, and they are saying that the island must be devastated and people must be drowning everywhere because the water is insanely high and raging all around, and that ours and Bart's houses are going to be totally destroyed. Big L and I cannot sleep for worry about the people who chose to stay on the island, including these 2.

Saturday, September 12, 2008 - We are glued to the TV and to our phones as we finally hear thru text messages that the 2 got off the island safely once the water receded to knee high. The news coming out of our neighborhood and the whole island is very bad. We are shocked at the destruction that must wait there for us. Because there's no power, we decide we cannot keep The Princess there with pneumonia, as she needs to be using her nebulizer for breathing treatments. We pack up quickly and set off for New Braunfels where friends have an empty house waiting for us.

To be continued with "Adventures in New Braunfels"....

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