Sunday, September 14, 2008

Hurricane Aftermath: Ike!

This will be short as I'm using my sister's computer. Thankfully my baby sister, Holly, lives further out in Katy. They had damage, but it's thankfully much less (thus, they have electricity!) And running water! Until you don't have them, you don't realize how much you take the essentials for granted.

[Photo: Until this past February, I used to work at the big Chase Tower, across the street and 7 floors above where this man is standing]

Ike was a pretty tough little hurricane. Having lost power around 2:15 in the morning, I have no idea how strong it ended up being -- 110 mph sustained was the last I heard. Since then, it's been life in the dark -- literally and figuratively. Only today did I decide to drive a bit.

Not having power meant I had lots of thawing meat and fish in the freezer that I had to do something with. Normally it would be barbecue time. But this morning brought some really heavy rain, and intermittent showers throughout this early afternoon. That's not good barbecue weather, so it was time to truck my meats over to my sister's house in Katy.

The drive out was an eye opener. But damage was heavier in some of the areas just north of me. Most all of the stoplights were dangling from the lines or poles they were attached to previously -- some precariously about the height of an S.U.V's rooftop. Others were completely gone, nothing but dangling wires. Many businesses lost signs, a few lost front windows. Fence, tree and other types of debris are still in some of the busy streets even 36 hrs. after the storm -- and may be there for a while. Electricity was mostly gone, but oddly there were little pockets that still had power!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . [Katy Freeway's T.C. Jester underpass flood]
Businesses were mostly closed. What few stores were open had massive lines, and yet still didn't have the most desired items in stock: water, ice or ice chests, bread, batteries, flashlights.... There were gas stations that were open a little further out from me, and they had gas last night, but again the lines were astronomical and the crowds waiting in line were more than restive. Most gas stations that were open were only selling soft drinks and beer (and still doing a brisk business!)

The damage in my area was mostly trees, power poles and line, fences down everywhere, and some lost shingles and leaks (which I had). As it was hot and still in the house, I walked the area around my neighbohood last night -- in the dark -- and noticed it was pretty consistent all around. I ended up with another longtime trans friend, Karen, and her wife in the next neighborhood over. We sat around, along with two other refugees from town, one a trans student at Univ. of Houston dorms. We chatted into the early morning hours.

Earlier in the day, once everyone had finally ridden out the worst of the storm (around daybreak in my neighborhood), I took a nap until 2:30PM. Once I was up and stirring, all the neighbors and I simultaneously got out and began raking our gutter and yards, dragging limbs and branches out to the street. We had two neighbors on my street who'd been out of town for the last week, so we all pitched in on clearing out their front yards as well. It helps make it look like somebody's there (so looters don't get any ideas that the house is empty).

I love my neighborhood, our little United Nations! We've got folks from Ethiopia, Iran, Phillipines, Spain and Vietnam on my street. Black, white, brown, yellow; we're taxicab drivers, used car lot owners, Dept. of Defense, Sherriff's deputy, security guard -- and even a transgender activist! But we're a close-knit street -- family (even if not of the GLB variety).

[<------- Only in Texas!]

After spending the afternoon cleaning up the street en masse, satisfied, we all retreated back into our hot, still homes -- with all the afternoon's worth of sweat, unfortunately. It'd be so nice just to have a cold shower even, but that's the downside to losing power: water treatment plants can't filter and pump out the water. The conditions bite, but we're all in this together (and have been through it all before).

At some point, once I get electricity back, I'll try to upload more video to the blog. Until whenever that happens, I'll be offline for a bit (unless I make the drive out to Katy between then).

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