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Hurricane Ike: The aftermath

Monday noon: Clear Lake virtually closed. Few restaurants open with limited menus. The “Fish Place” was open offering vegetable soup and chicken pasta and we got one of each. Everything was to go. This would hold us for lunch and dinner. Spent most of the day cleaning yards and didn’t feel like cooking or using up our supplies as we were not out of the woods yet. We had low water pressure for a couple days and the news people suggested boiling any tap water before consumption in case the filtration system was not functioning properly.
Tuesday morning: While having a cup of tea, sitting on the patio overlooking the lawn strewn with leaves and branches and enjoying two dozen hummingbirds sipping from three feeders, two loud “cracks” and the distinctive “bwwvv” of transformers blowing up, our power finally went out. We sat there and said, “Oh well”. We were lucky so far and then five minutes later, it came back on. Very fortunate.
Unlike anything I have ever experienced and we are the more fortunate ones. Grocery stores are opening but dry goods only. Anything requiring refrigeration has been thrown away. Gas stations still empty and the majority of Clear Lake still without power. Street lights and traffic signals inoperative and many hanging from the light poles or cables. Traffic takes turns flowing through intersections. Of 2.26 million customers, only 500,00 have had powered restored. 75 percent of 750,000 cable customers are still without cable. Curfew from 6 p.m. until dawn is still in effect.
Fleets of utility trucks have been arriving from 13 states. 17 PODs (points of distribution) have been set up around the city where people can pick up essentials: ice, water, etc. First newspaper delivered in six days. Galveston mayor says the island unfit for habitation and she wants all remaining residents to leave.
Tuesday noon: Out of the blue, I called “Bucks” pizza, which was right around the corner. They were open, taking no phone orders, everything carry out, 1st come – 1st served, and they only were making Large and XLarge pizzas, $8 and $9 respectively. We walked over as four employees from the “Road House” carried out 20 pizzas for their employees. We waited on another group of people carting out 25 pizzas for “Kroger’s” employees. We waited less than an hour and took two, which would hold us for lunch, dinner and dinner the following day.
Wednesday morning: Called back to work in Baytown, which was hit pretty hard. As I ventured out of Clear Lake, very little power restored, street and traffic lights still out and eerily dark. The streets are lined with heaps of branches, limbs and plastic garbage bags. The local radio claims that some surgeries at hospitals had to be delayed due to lack of blood and blood donors. A weird story was told of a lady standing for hours in line to get bags of ice. When returning home, she discovered she had electricity and threw the ice away. Five hours later, her power went out.
Crossing the Fred Hartman Bridge leading into Baytown, the only lights were from several refineries. Just off the first exit ramp, a small marina sits in a quiet, secluded cove. In the darkness, I could see boats piled high. On the way home, I stopped to take a photo of boats piled and smashed two and three deep. I was approached by a large man with a sawed-off shotgun. He asked my business and I said I didn’t have any. He politely asked me to turn around and leave….not a problem! The man was just protecting his and others property.
For several miles to Bayer, the only light available was from my headlights and the setting lunar moonlight. The Bayer plant where I currently work as a crane operator is in a maintenance mode with barely 1/2 of people showing up. Bayer set up a circus tent outside the onsite cafeteria and served free hot breakfast. The facility also provides free gasoline and diesel fuel for the remainder of the week; 30 gallons a day limit.
At lunchtime, they gave us another free meal consisting of grilled pork chops, fried chicken, green beans, baked beans, mac&cheese, and carrot cake. These meals are to continue for the remainder of the week. Very few returning co-workers have power at their residences.
For those without power or basically anyone currently associated with the Bayer facility, can sign up for a free generator. I loaned my generator to a friend in another neighborhood who needed it more than I did. As a contractor on the Bayer turnaround project, we do not get compensated for the five days we lost work and went without paychecks. I lost little else and am thankful for not suffering ANY hardship.
The effects of Hurricane Ike are wide spread. I’m getting a feeling of what people in Louisiana and Mississippi went through during and after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. But I did see its effects when I went to Picayune, Miss in late 2006 as part of a relief group fixing roofs with 55 Amish that came down from Pennsylvania. See “Paradise to Picayune” in the Daily Herald archives in 2006.
For complete coverage, go to the web. For local photos, e-mail me at Ricks@texasarchery.org.