Thursday, September 18, 2008

Hurricane Ike, Pt. 1

Friday Sept. 12, 2008

We’ve been told that for where we live, we are to hunker down, not flee. We want to keep LW near her hospital and don’t want her out in crowds – or worse yet, out of gas by the side of a road – so we will “ride out” the storm.

We prepare for the hurricane, a mixture of things we’ve heard, items googled under +prepare +hurricane and sheer randomness. My MIL called me from the grocery store on her cell. “I’m standing in front of applesauce, so I bought some.”

Somewhat half-heartedly, we fill up containers with water. Bottles of water for drinking, buckets of water for flushing the toilets. We do this because it’s the responsible thing to do, because it’s what they say to do, like boiling water if a woman goes into labor. MIL has spent the last 30 years in a coastal town, I’ve lived most of my life here. Every year, there’s another warning. Neither of us have actually had a hurricane hit us before. We are going through the motions.

MIL and I are different temperaments; most of the time we complement each other. Right now, she is hyper energetic. She winds up going to different stores at least 5 times. After the second time, she announces the secret gem of Hurricane Preparation – Walgreens. Everyone else is hitting the grocery stores, hardware stores. Walgreens is still pretty stocked. Except for D batteries. None of those anywhere.

The Husband gets home. He and MIL go out again, having thought of yet another little thing that might help. They come back with some odds and ends, plus a bottle of tequila and 2 bottles of red wine. And a bag of dark chocolate.

Meanwhile, I move slowly and methodically, gathering up containers, making a note of things we need to move inside. I am frequently on the computer, reading projected maps, detailed analyses. I charge up everything I can.

That night, we have a good dinner. We keep the news on constantly. We watch waves lick the coast, but it still doesn’t seem dire. Outside, we have a few clouds, but no rain, little wind.

Later in the evening, we go outside to see what it feels like. We spot neighbors down the street, congregating on a lawn. They have out lawn chairs and drinks. We go down, all of us. We chat, we catch up. I guess it’s a Hurricane party. I announce the Hurricane Ike drinking game to them. They all love my line about slugging your partner.

It’s all kind of surreal. We know that a hurricane is coming, because that’s what we’ve been told, but there is no hint of it at our homes.

The bugs are chewing on us, so we head back home. I turn the a/c down extra cold so that if the electricity goes off, we’re starting at colder rather than normal. We watch the tv. We see the flooding in the streets of Galveston, and think of our friends, and the little church there.

The wind is up now. There are tall, giant windows in our living room and we watch the pine trees bend. We are beginning to feel apprehensive.

We put the children to sleep in our bathroom and go back to watching the news. They show satellite pictures of a storm that seems to fill the entire gulf. We know we will be affected, we don’t know how much. “If it leans just a little bit to the east, we will be in better shape,” announces The Husband. We have all learned that to be on the west side of the hurricane is better. We are becoming meteorologists by the minute.

We watch the newscasters. They have gone too long without sleep and are punchy. We mock them, but listen to their every word as if they can tell us what will happen to our house before it does. Suddenly, everything goes out, tv, lights, the hum of the ac.

We sit on the couch. It’s so dark outside, we can’t see much of the wind and rain, but we begin seeing flashes of light. “Lightning?” No. It’s all the transformers blowing out. One, two, three … we can’t count them all. Over and over.

The wind is louder now. We decide we should move into the master bedroom. The Husband has already moved a mattress into our room for MIL. The children are asleep, oblivious to the storm. We turn the radio on to listen to the reports. The Husband, whom I’ve always joked could sleep through a hurricane, does just that. MIL and I doze, never quite sleeping.

At 4 am, it’s darker than I knew dark could be. The saying about not seeing a hand in front of your face is apt. Open eyes, closed eyes, it makes not difference. The wind no longer howls, it screams. Things rattle; I don’t know what. There is a large crash. There is a strange sound, like someone rattling ice in a glass. I lie there, wondering. Has a window broken and I’m hearing a miniblind slamming back and forth? There’s no hail in hurricanes, I know that much. What I find out later is that the rain is literally coming in sideways, pounding on the windows as it pounded on the ground earlier.

I am scared. There are no words to describe what the sound of a hurricane is like. I keep listening for that sound of a speeding train that they always say heralds a tornado. I think I hear it half a dozen times, but then it changes. The wind is coming from all directions and it sounds as if the house might just be ripped from its foundation.

A bit of the dawn is coming through. It is still dark, very dark, but it is not the smothering darkness of earlier. The winds still howl, but they seem slightly less scary. I become aware that MIL is also awake. The children and The Husband still sleep.

I fumble for a flashlight and MIL and I timidly leave the relative safety of the bedroom, not knowing what we’ll find. Has a tree crashed through the roof? Have any windows broken?

I go over to the window and shine the light outside. The storm is still raging, but my flashlight finds a broken tree, just a few feet from the window. The railing of the deck is broken. But the windows there are whole. I back away. The storm isn’t over yet.

We are afraid to venture upstairs, but we look around the downstairs. There don’t seem to be any broken windows. I shine my light out the window on the front door, but it just reflects back to me. It can’t pierce the dark.

We sit on the couch and watch the light slowly come up outside, even as the winds still bend the trees back and forth and the rain pounds down. The Husband is up by now. He checks upstairs, and reports no damage. We are cautiously thrilled. The radio says we have 4 more hours of this. As we get other “bands,” it could get worse. But it sounds like the eye just missed us. Just by a difference of a few miles. We were on the left side of the hurricane, which is the right side to be on.

Eventually, the winds die down. The rain slows to a drizzle. We discover our back fence is completely down, our yard covered in big branches. But we are grateful. We are alive and our house still stands.

The Rest of Saturday

We are careful to not open the big freezer at all. When we go into the refrigerator or little freezer, we are quick and deliberate. At lunch, I stand in front of the closed fridge and catalog everything we want. Sandwich meat, cheese, condiments, milk. I take a big breath and dive inside, grabbing and snatching. I slam the doors closed.

Some of our neighbors go out in the rain and begin clearing their yards, using chainsaws to saw large limbs into manageable pieces. They rake up the smaller twigs and all the gallons of pine needles that have fallen.

We are tired. The children play quietly and the adults dose off every now and then. At nine o’clock, it is dark outside. The heat and humidity is oppressive. Even though we have hot water, I take a cold shower in the dark, then stretch out naked on our bed and fall asleep.


ogre said...

So glad to hear that you came through ok. Sounds like much more "excitement" than necessary. Much more.

jbgrinch said...

glad to hear that all is "well" I hope that you get your power back soon and can resume life. I cant imagine dealing with that kind of storm in the dark of night. Hope that all goes well in the hospital For LW.

Tara said...

Very glad to hear you're well. I remember how scary it was for us when Hurricane Isabel came through our area five years ago as a category 1-2 (we're about 100 miles in from the coast of Virginia). The worst of that storm hit us during the night, too, and I recall having a very hard time sleeping as I waited, worrying whether the winds would tear the house apart. We counted ourselves lucky to just lose power and some trees.

Anyway, very, very glad to have you back, so to speak, and to know that you & yours are okay!