So yes, if you’ve been wondering, we have been keeping an eye on the elusive Tropical Storm Isaac. Right now, it looks like the best we’re gonna get is a little rain. Maybe some gusty wind. But he looks like he’s steering more toward the west right now, so I think we’re safe. Though that has not done much to quiet the fears of both our friends and family at home and Oklahoma OR the students here who have never lived near hurricanes. Having lived through more than a couple hurricanes and tropical storms myself (I did live in Houston for the better part of my 27+ years…), I don’t get too worked up about them. In 27+ years of living on the Gulf Coast (I lived in Beaumont, Tx in my younger years), I’ve only really had to dodge 4-5 big storms. And I’m also taking a little credit for Rita, even though I was in school in Oklahoma when she came through. I can remember evacuating for Andrew (I was so young I only remember bits and pieces of that adventure) and Ike (which sucked royally…I’ll expand in a minute…), and then all that entailed my parents evacuating for Rita (which came right after Katrina in 2005) which was quite dramatic.
We had tropical storms come through fairly often, but most were not anything to write home about. I remember waking up the morning we were headed to summer church camp to find our street flooded (Allison had developed basically overnight and stalled right on the coast line and was basically scooping up the ocean and throwing it onto land…). My dad piled me and all my stuff in the Suburban to head to my friend Glienke’s house to pick her up and take her to the church. EVERYTHING was flooded! When we got to her neighborhood, we had to cross a little bridge that goes over a creek. There’s chain link fence on either side of the bridge, and the creek was basically lapping up on either side of the bridge. There were literal DROWNED RATS clinging for life on this chain link fence! They were soaked to the bone and there were probably 40-50 of them all over the fence! So we continued plowing through in the tank to her street. We turned in, and there were people CANOEING down the street! Crazy! So we get Glienke and head to the church. Somehow, by only the grace of God, we make it there. And an even bigger miracle is that all the youth going on the trip made it in and we actually left for camp. On our way out, we took a big overpass exchange near downtown. When we looked down it looked like tops of houses floating in an ocean. You couldn’t see streets, all you could see was water and the tippity tops of houses. To this day I have no idea how we didn’t have more trouble traveling that day…
Rita was a different story entirely. You see, because she came really quickly after Katrina (if you don’t know, Katrina was a massive storm that hit New Orleans in 2005…almost wholly devastating to that area and sent people packing all over the country in FEMA trailers for YEARS after…), people were completely freaked out about the possibility of a double whammy situation. So everyone ran screaming from the storm all at once on the same day. I remember calling my mom terrified from Oklahoma to tell her to grab this that or the other before they left. In my mind, there wouldn’t be anything left when they got back. The storm itself didn’t do much to our area (she curved to the northeast at the last minute wreaking havoc on Beaumont, Tx and surrounding areas), but the drama surrounding the mass exodus was enough trauma for everyone. It took people DAYS to make what would have been a 4 hour trip to Dallas. There was no place to go to the bathroom, all the gas stations ran out of gas and the gas trucks couldn’t get there to replenish them, people were running out of gas in parking lot traffic, etc. etc. etc. Kind of a post apocalyptic picture. It wasn’t until after all of that, the Texas Department of Transportation came up with the “counter flow” idea that when there was a big evacuation the southbound side of the highway would become northbound too. So everyone would be going the same direction and there was twice as much space for people to drive on. My poor parents were exhausted when they FINALLY made it to the Rice’s house. And then they basically had to turn right back around and go home because the storm hadn’t damaged much of anything in Houston (other than stripping a few trees and blowing down a few fences…).
Now Ike, ugh. Where to start with Ike?? He came through in September of 2008. Because of all the “let down” with Rita, Ike didn’t get much hype as he was making his way through the Gulf. It’s almost like the weather center didn’t want to incite mass panic everywhere. But then about 48 hours before he hit, it became apparent that he was making a B-line for us and he was getting stronger every day. They were predicting a CAT 4 or 5 by landfall. I have to tell you that the fall of 2008 was also my first year of teaching. I was frantically trying t run a band program by myself in my very first year, and then this hurricane comes through. Pasadena ISD didn’t want to make a big deal about it if it wasn’t necessary, so they stayed open ALL DAY on the day that the State Department was issuing mandatory evacuations. We piled all the band, choir, and orchestra kids into the band hall and kids were getting called out of class to go home once or twice every 5-7 minutes. Finally, when more than half the kids had gone home in the school, and lots of the teachers’ homes were in mandatory evacuation zones (like mine), we piled the kids into the gym (all that were left in the school) and waited for parents to call. I scrambled home to prep my little rent house for a hurricane and pack and get out of town. We really had no idea what to do. We covered stuff in trash bags and moved it away from windows. We duct taped glass and cleaned out the fridge (NOT the freezer), loaded down the car, and got the heck outta dodge (with the dog and cat smashed into the front seat with me…the cat screamed all the way out of town). A lot of people stayed because of what had happened with Rita. People just didn’t want to go through that again. For that reason, Jonathan and I had a relatively easy time getting out of town. We drove to Tyler, Tx and slept there for the night before heading on the OKC. We watched the waves lapping up over the seawall in Galveston on the news, watched beach houses already start to crumble, watched news anchors in the bottom floor of the hotel we stayed at on our wedding night getting whipped by wind INSIDE, and the storm itself hadn’t even really hit yet. Very scary. Galveston ended up with a direct hit. The town was under water for weeks. Some things have yet to bounce back from it 4 years later! Our little town of Clear Lake took somewhat of a “peripheral hit” but we had some serious damage in our front and back yards. We stayed gone for nearly 2 weeks in OKC and schools were still closed in Pasadena and CCISD (where Jonathan was working). On our way back into Houston, the farther south we drove, the more dramatic the damage was. Highway signs crumpled, windows in sky scrapers blown out, trees uprooted, cars flooded out. When we got back to our house every single side of our fence was down, a pine tree in the front yard had been basically uprooted and was dangling precariously close to our roof in the front yard, and our pergola in the back yard had miraculously not gone through our sliding glass doors into the master bedroom. Though it looked like God had crumpled it up like a ball of paper. Our French doors in the living room had blown open and we had to peel plant matter off our furniture and wood floors. The most traumatic part was cleaning out the freezer. The electricity was STILL out 2 weeks later and everything in there was rancid. We drug a giant garbage can to the end of the driveway and we took turns taking huge breaths, holding it, and running inside to scrape as much as we could out of the freezer and running it out to the trash can, tagging the other one to take their turn while standing in the grass dry heaving from the stench. Not to mention the fact that you really didn’t know exactly what you were scraping out because it was all greyish-brown and goopy no matter what it “used” to be. Needless to reiterate, it was all very traumatic. The people that opted to stay in town were even more traumatized than us. Brett Farrell said “I will NEVER stay again!”. She described her and her husband huddling together at her parents’ house listening to sounds outside that were out of this world. Wondering when the wind was gonna just rip their roof off or send something flying through a window. Very scary.
So where does that leave us now? Number One, Ross has an evacuation plan for students and they take any storm that poses a threat VERY seriously. They watch it hourly until it’s no longer a threat. One year they flew all the students to Miami and they had class at the hotel that they put everyone up in. This storm isn’t posing so much of a threat, so we aren’t too worried. Though we are prepping for potential loss of power (canned foods, jugs of water, etc.). Michelle sent Matt to the store to get “hurricane food” (you know…stuff you can eat without needing refrigeration or heat) and he came back with chips and cokes. Very important you know… I went to the beach yesterday with Matilda and you can already tell that there’s something brewing out in the ocean. Here’s the pics:
Don’t worry though, those are only the outer rain bands of the storm that are likely the only action we will see from Isaac. We are also watching this new invest that just came off of Africa, but it will likely be several weeks before it makes it’s way to this neck of the woods. It may not even do anything at all. The Bahamas definitely are more susceptible to tropical weather than Dominica is, so don’t worry about what we’ll do when we’re down there. It’s too far south and east to really be in the line of any storms that have gained strength. And most of the time the storms pass so far to the north of the island that there’s really no threat at all. In the meantime, we are taking the proper precautions and we will be fine. Don’t worry!