Wednesday, 17 September 2008

A wild night, and a grey and sodden dawn

We made it! as no doubt most of you know by now... and we have really been quite amazingly fortunate, especially in comparison to so many others - we were out of power for only two days, when millions of others are STILL waiting to be re-connected; we had running water throughout; our damage was really only superficial, when so many others have lost everything... life here in our neighbourhood is almost back to normal (except for the distant sound of chainsaws).

But first things first...

We spent Friday getting prepared: we moved all the outside things indoors (table and chairs - which had only just gone outside, after arriving from Australia! - plants in pots, the doormats, the washing line), cut a couple of dead branches off the tree at the front, and laid in a stock of fresh water, as recommended. Dave spent a bit of time getting his parents' place ready as well. When we'd done as much as we could, we all went out for dinner - the restaurant lost power three times while we were in there, but it came back on after about 20 seconds every time, and while the winds were really getting up by the time we were going home, the sunset was quite spectacular.

Dave's mum came back to ours; she thought our place was probably a bit safer than theirs; when we checked in with Dean we found that the power had gone off at their place at 6pm, and as we were still powered up, Dean decided to come over and stay with us. He and Dave and I then 'hunkered down' at the kitchen table and played Boggle for hours as the winds rose... when we all went to bed at around 11pm it was blowing pretty fiercely, but it was nothing compared to what was coming.

Strong winds really set in around midnight, and continued til after 7am; none of us got much sleep. It's hard to describe the experience really; the main thing is the noise, as branches and other things hit the house and the windows with sharp sounds like shrapnel; the wind tosses the trees more than they're ever meant to move, and the siding on the house and chimney vibrates and bangs. It's worrying to be anywhere near windows, and none of ours were covered (except the one in Dave's mum's room, where we'd pushed the wardrobe over it!) Most disconcerting of all is the way the house shudders from time to time - like it's being lifted slightly off its foundation and settling back again. And when it all happens at night, and the power goes down, so EVERYTHING is pitch black - well, I guess the imagination fills in any blanks left by reality! It's a very helpless feeling too - there is NOWHERE to go, and NOTHING you can do, but get through it - and it goes on and on and ON... emergency services are suspended until the worst of the weather is over, and there is simply no one to call on, should you have a problem. And of course, all the way through I was reminding myself that Ike was a Category ONE by the time he hit us - I simply cannot imagine going through a Cat3 or a Cat4; it would be unthinkable.

Below is a little snippet of footage I took as soon as it was light enough - it doesn't really give anything close to a complete picture, but at least it's something.

As soon as it was light enough, we started peering out to see what sort of damage we'd sustained - we saw fences down on both sides of the yard, and the trees were pretty torn apart in places, but generally our damage was pretty minor.

As I mentioned above, we never lost running water throughout the hurricane - though the whole of Houston is still being told to boil water before drinking it - and we were only without power for two days (though as Saturday was VERY humid and hot, we were very grateful for an invitation from Chris and Don to come over and have dinner with them on both Saturday and Sunday nights!) We watched power come back in streets all around us before we were re-connected, so there was lots of mock-grumbling about being last, but really, when you see what others are dealing with, we can't believe how easily we got off. Thank you all for your prayers and thoughts - when we were finally re-connected to the internet on Monday, it was so touching to see all the messages and good wishes waiting.

More updates soon!

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Batten down the hatches! - for real this time

Well, the only topic of conversation here is Hurricane Ike...

Originally tipped to make landfall further to the south of us, we're now expecting pretty much a direct hit. Galveston (on the coast) is under mandatory evacuation, as are parts of Houston (though not us at present), and the Houston ISD (Independent School District) has closed all schools for tomorrow (Friday), which means most of the businesses in the area are following suit. There's talk of putting the freeways into contra-flow, meaning that the only traffic would be OUT of the city, on both sides of the road, and we're all being advised to buy up gas, food and water... I'm not seriously worried about the winds, though they may be unpleasant (and I'm a bit concerned that the junky old tree in the front yard might take this opportunity to make a better acquaintance with our windows!), but we could be hit with some flooding, and if we lose power the weekend could be interesting...

It's a weird thing to sit and wait for something like this; the weather is normal right now, sunny and still for the most part, and yet I keep looking out at the garden and at our neighbours' homes and wondering what it's all going to look like in a few days' time... if you want to track the hurricane, CNN has a map here.

Anyway, we're remaining calm about it, and hope to weather this with minimal damage! Even so, your prayers would be appreciated.

I'll check in again after the storm is over!