Surviving Hurricane Ike
I'm finding it difficult to integrate the Ike experience as I'm still living it and thousands -- millions, really -- of other Houstonians suffer far worse. Talking about branches and trees that fell in my yard or the small leak in our roof or the fact that we decided to leave in the face of the unknown seems equivalent to being a soldier with a flesh wound telling his war story while lying next to a guy who lost his legs. My family doesn't have it bad and I want to be clear about that to start.
I live in The Woodlands, Texas, a planned community suburb 32 miles north of Houston. It is a wealthy community generally, although it is designed and is home to people of all income levels. Yes, there are some mega-wealthy people skewing the numbers, but the average family is middle class. The community is organized into villages anchored by grocery stores, restaurants, and small businesses. So, while over 100,000 people live in or near The Woodlands, the structure makes for more of a small community feel -- you tend to see the same people at the stores, churches, schools, etc. In each village, there are low-income apartments all the way up to huge mansions on the golf course.
In certain situations, it's not economics but psychology that matters. Without power, grocery stores, gas stations, banks, and businesses running, the economic ground is leveled pretty quickly. Survival becomes paramount. People make decisions based on the information -- or in the case of a natural disaster, lack of information -- available.
Like the rest of the country, I watched the hurricane coverage and saw it tear into Galveston and swallow up a good chunk of the island and almost with it Geraldo Rivera. The storm pushed through Houston and I followed its effects by staying connected to friends on Twitter until the roars and whistling wind and strange blue lightning hit my community. Around six a.m. The Woodlands lost power. No TV, air conditioning, refrigeration, washer and dryer, etc.
One of the marvels of modern technology is the iPhone. With a car charger -- we had no generators -- I could keep it going and stay connected. That was how I Tweeted and blogged despite the lack of services. And then that ended, too, on Sunday mid-morning.
Saturday, people in the neighborhood spent their time getting out -- as in cutting down the massive trees blocking roads and driveways. In some neighborhoods, the trees were so massive that the people had to be cut out by the operating company's trucks. One neighborhood with only one way in and out, Grogan's Point, spent Saturday stuck. Every home -- and that is not an exaggeration -- had at least one tree down. The community is called The Woodlands for a reason. Trees define it. The question was where the trees went. Many went through the roofs of their owner's homes causing flooding.
Saturday morning brought unrelenting rain, so a hole in the roof meant water damage, too, which means mold. Once the rain leaves and holes are plugged, there is heat. So while the homes might not be total losses by being buried by water, they will be a big mess for a long time.
We decided to explore the community Saturday afternoon. Many roads were impassable because of flooding and trees down. Stores were closed. Teenagers made the most of the excess water and kayaked down the street and into the lake. The rest of the damage looked grim.