HURRICANE IKE DIARY
AN INSIDERS PERSPECTIVE
Thursday, September 11, 2008
3:30 PM City sent us home and closed City Hall. Got home and saw roomies off. I stayed on the computer talking to my friends on Fubar until about 2 AM.
Friday, September 12, 2008
4:30 PM I lost power. It came on for about 15 minutes, just enough to reboot computer and Cable, just as I was getting ready to make coffee it went off for good. Went out back and heard the popping of the transformer. What really sucks is that I can see lights in the subdivision across the drainage ditch behind still has power and I can see the glow of street lamps, it just killed my subdivision. My daughter had called right after that said it looked pretty bad.
7:30 PM Daughter called again no change so far and they say it is flooding Galveston. Passed news on to ex-father-in-law and his girlfriend of what was going on; they said they would be going over a friendís house to stay.
9:30 PM Daughter called back, Fox News is on but she canít get the channel in clear (no cable). Said she would call back in half an hour after the regular news comes on.
10:15PM Daughter called. It looks like the eye going to hit us, reported winds are at 110 mph. The eye is 50 plus miles out from Galveston and moving at 12 mph. Wind has picked up here, can hear it whipping all around. It is strong; I would estimate about 50 mph or so, even though the local Ďhomeí weather station says the winds are at 8 with gusts up to 12 mph, guess it is already broken. Trees are having a fit but no debris yet. Rain has just started and lightning, sounds like the wind is picking up.
10:30 PM Called my friend from Fubar and told her I was okay and to put comment on my profile so everyone would know so far so good. Ike is supposed to make landfall in 1 or 2 hours. Hear this old house creaking, wind gusts are pretty strong. Donít know if Iíll be able to sleep though my eyes are getting heavy. Have to go out to the backdoor every once in awhile to cool off. Hot!!!, with no A/C and the candles. Donít want to use flashlights.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
12:00 AM I must have dozed off for awhile. Went to back door and it really looks bad out there. Phone is out, got some rest at last. Wonder if I can go back to sleep, it is totally dark inside and out. The wind is really blowing hard, it sound like a freight train near the front of the house.
5:47 AM Alarm clock went off and got up to look but it is still dark and I canít see anything. Reset the alarm clock.
8:00 AM Alarm clock went off again. I woke up and can see a little better now. 6 panels of the back fence are down the patio covering which I didnít expect to make it. The swing set is still up (surprise, surprise). I see a lot of leaves and small branches in the backyard also, pieces of shingles. Daughter called, hey phones are back on! She tells me that we are still in a Category 2 and heavy rain coming down. Galveston is getting hit pretty hard.
9:00 AM I got called in for damage Assessment since the winds had died down enough to be safe. Ike made landfall around 2 AM.
5:00 PM There were three places that had high water in spots on the way to work but I was able to negotiate around it on the way in. We returned from Damage Assessment after doing a quick windshield inspection (drive by) of the town and gave estimated damage report. My team did about 1/3 of the city. There were a lot of trees down and in the road. Our portion had a lot of shingles off of the roofs, less than 50 with actual structure damage that we could see. There were 2 gas leaks at different houses a number of blocks away, called FD to come in and get Gas Company to shut them off. 1 house had a complete section of outside wall gone and 1 flooded. The 3 creeks here are up over their banks. One of our people had a lady complain to him about not having power and having a six month old baby, he told her that he has a six month old also that is in poor health and he is here working instead of being at home. Heard Galveston got hit pretty hard, they are not letting anyone back in. They lost all their police vehicles. Early estimate on death toll is 4 confirmed. Estimated time for power to come back on is 2 weeks minimum. My service provider has 2.2 million customers in the area and 2.1 million are without power. Priority is to hospitals, nursing homes, emergency services and public works (water and sewer stations). All the traffic signals are out and some are down. The EOC is feeding us, at lunch we had Chili courtesy of the Lighthouse Cooking Team, and they do a lot of Charity cooking for different benefits in the area. Supper was lasagna; donít remember who it was from. Called my landlord and left a message. This house is probably one of the lucky ones. There is some single damage and some flashing, but the house remained watertight. Last night I had moved roomies truck from the driveway to the street so the oak by the house wouldnít fall on it. The neighborís fence is completely down as is his metal shed. Their trampoline ended up right where roomies truck would have been sitting if I had not moved it. A limb from the cedar tree in front of my neighborsí house hit his truck though, made a small dent and knocked out the passenger side mirror but did not break it. Opened all the windows and doors, a slight breeze is coming through. Talked to daughter and my friend from Fubar, let them know that everything is going to be okay. Very tired so I am going to end this at 6:45 PM.
8:00 PM Woke back up. Sun has fallen and rather than waste candles to read and write by I am tired and decide to go to sleep. This is the earliest I have been to sleep in a long time. I will be sleeping on the couch. I have all the windows open and that is the best place for a breeze. The ceramic tiles in the house (at front door and in kitchen) are sweating and almost busted my ass a number of times. Tried to call people to let them know that I am still okay but house phone is out.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
6:00 AM I woke up to the sound of rain. Talk about adding insult to injury. Phone is still dead, shit! Tossed and turned most of the night due to it being muggy even with the breeze. Even though none of the windows had moisture, I closed all but the two behind the couch. Since I am up I decided to eat breakfast, two cups of cinnamon applesauce. Still sleepy. When daylight does come, cold shower and off to work to do damage assessment.
7:20 AM Alarm went off I must have dozed back off rain has stopped for now, the breeze is blowing again. Hear generators going, especially down the street. Met the 3 brothers and 3 sons yesterday, nice people. Offered me a beer, I should have taken it. One of them works at the Valero and said if I needed anything, just ask, and he would sell it to me, I have a connection (ha-ha). It has been amazing here, no looting and people helping each other out, the true spirit of Texas and America.
7:30 AM Started to rain again.
9:00 AM Headed to the EOC (Emergency Management Center) since my house phone is out and the battery died in my cell (which only works once in a while due to cell towers being out) because I forgot to plug it into the car when I came home last night.
8:10 PM Was not supposed to be in today, but didnít get message because of the phones. Turned out my team went out because of a call about a building that needed to be inspected due to structure damage. We went out to the apartment complex, and actually went to the wrong address because as we were pulling up, we saw that the upper part of the wall had collapsed. We tried to get into the other top apartments, but there was no manager or maintenance man on site. The roof of the bookstore next door and completely come off and hit the building. The wall had collapsed on the bed where the children would have been sleeping if they had been there. We ended up having to condemn three buildings as not safe to occupy due to structural damage on them. Manager was instructed to call but never did. We were then asked to do a quick check on the damage of the commercial properties in the City. To save time we split up and took different portions to do another windshield just on the commercial damages. One station was able to open up because it has its own generator. The owner was run over by someone, and would not go to the hospital to check out his leg, instead having made a splint out of card board boxes. Lunch was a soup like minestrone, but a little different. It was so good. After that we started to on in depth damage assessment, we actually look for damage to the buildings by driving slowly by them. There are many houses that may have internal leakage, but we cannot tell if the homeowner is not home and outside to tell us. Also, we cannot see the back of the house. Sometimes we can get a glimpse on the next street, and then we have to double back. Started south and worked our way back to the EOC. One of the subdivisions that we were assessing was part of a drainage project I had managed 3 years previous. I had talked to one of the ladies whom I had conversed with on many occasions during the project, and they had no flooding whatsoever. Her house had had 3 to 4 feet of water in it during Allison. Every 5 to 15 minutes, a resident would stop to ask us about power, or the drinking water or something else, being out in the field we donít have the current information so we tell them what we do know. It took until 7 PM to do 2 subdivisions. FEMA was supposed to have a POD at the park and ice, but they never showed. They had kept saying that my subdivision. Supper tonight was beef and chicken fajitas that hit the spot. Called daughter and my friend from Fubar to tell them I am still okay, and then went to bed.
Monday, September 15, 2008
7:30 AM Up and out. No time to write this morning. The cold front was a godsend. Woke up at 2 am and had to put a blanket on my legs, thank God for the cold front.
7:00 PM Another busy day doing damage assessment. Lunch was hamburgers and supper was spaghetti served by the Knights of Columbus. The emergency workers are very grateful to all the volunteers who cook for us. Another day of people asking about power, we have a flyer, a press release actually, that has all the information on it to try and speed up the process and just tell people that we only do damage assessment and donít know about anything else, but all the information should be on the flyer or call the main info line. The people want to know when we are going to get power to them. ???? Can they not see the City logo on the side of the truck? One even thanked us for getting her power back on *shakes head*. One guy did throw us a curve, the information he wanted to know about was about his insurance company, if the 5 day reporting limit would be extended. Donít know the answer to that but assume that since no one can make phone calls it should be a given. They keep saying that my subdivision has power or so they heard. Every night though I come home to nada. I will miss my cowboys game tonight, though I have been invited someplace that will have the game on and that has power and a/c. There is a dusk to dawn curfew in place since yesterday. And of all things the antenna to my cell phone is missing. Speaking of phones, still have no house phone either.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
4:10 AM OMG!, itís early. Got up to go to restroom and get a blanket, it is chilly. Canít get back to sleep so I head into the EOC.
6:00 PM Got off at 4 PM today and went to Wal-Mart. Still have no phone or electric. I had found my cell phone antenna, after back tracking every place I went yesterday, it had been sitting on the dashboard of the truck we were in yesterday. A citizen had left a phone message complaining about two people being in City vehicles handing out pamphlets instead of water, said she was speaking on behalf of all the Cityís citizens. The city managersí assistant called her back and informed her that what she saw was a damage assessment team, trying to do in depth damage assessment to report to FEMA. The pamphlets were a press release so that the teams could get more done instead of trying to explain things to the residents, especially since we were not aware of developments happening in the EOC. Was able to buy batteries for the radio, a propane lantern and propane stove, figured it will be a while before the power is back on so need to make like I am camping out. Took a lukewarm shower, instead of a sponge bath, it felt good. Noticed when I was rinsing out a glass that there was some hot water there although my water heater is electric. The plumbing pipes are run in the attic, and they get heated during the day. Talked to my friend in Maryland for about 15 minutes, she had been trying to reach me since Friday. Talked to my roomy, he said that he and his girlfriend would be back tomorrow then she would head back to her momís. I told him to make her stay there because there is still a shortage of gas and you are only able to get 10 gallons and have to wait in a line 40 to 50 cars long. Hopefully will cook tomorrow AM and make cowboy coffee. Damn, the batteries are the wrong size, the radio takes C batteries not D.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
6:30 AM Woke up at 4:30 with a headache. Had to put blanket on last night got a little chilly. Went into work regular time, EOC on partial status. Subdivision behind me has power. Will be back at City Hall today.
12:00 PM Went to Wal-Mart and got the right batteries for the radio.
6:00 PM Got home still had no power. One of the people from work lent me his generator, so I have some comforts of home (lol). I talked to my friend from Fubar on the phone for a little while.
8:00 PM Cleaned out the deep freeze. Roommates had minnows and shrimp stored in their, after 5 days they were kinda ripe. Wonít tell you what it smelled like, but it was not good. If you really want to know shout or PM me. I think the smell is going to stay for days. Took shower, and the smell seems to be everywhere. Canít sleep so called my friend from Fubar back and talked.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
6:30 AM Coworkersí generator afforded me coffee first thing this morning. Woohoo!
5:30 PM At work checked my providerís website, and it was estimated that the power wouldnít be on in my area until after Monday. I was in a funk all day long. Got home, the electric was on (another woohoo!!!!!) Went to Wal-Mart to get supplies and they had closed at 6 due to them switching over from generator to normal power. Ran to HEB they had closed at 6:30 because of curfew. Boy was I mad; I told the young man at the door that the curfew was until 11 PM. He said that was what the Manager said. Stopped by Valero and picked up some creamer at least. Checked phone, no phone service, called ATT and they said it is still on the list. No cable or internet either (if phone has no dial tone, it wonít connect). Went and rolled up all the cords for coworker to pick up tomorrow. Had ravioli for supper, fresh coffee and a hot shower, boy did that feel good (and I feel human now!). To top it all off, Waste Management has not picked up trash since last Monday and the fish still smells.
Friday, September 19, 2008
6:00 AM Need to remember to call waste management first thing this morning.
5:00 PM I did call Waste Management and they said they would relay the message to dispatch. When I went home for lunch, the trash was still sitting there. Went to Wal-Mart and asked about the refrigerated stock. I was told that they just got regular power at 7 AM this morning. Hmmm, I could have sworn I was told they closed early yesterday because they just switched from generator to normal power. Even if it was at 7 this morning, the distribution center is only 4 hours away so they should have product there now, instead of the couple of days I was told. Called ATT after lunch, they said there was a fault in the line and they had 600 reports. I asked why I wasnít told that the other day when I called in for a repair and why they didnít call me back. They said they had just found out about the fault. The fault being that one of their lines had been cut and it needed to be spliced, she said they were doing that now and it should be tonight or tomorrow to be back in service. EOC has shutdown and found out that the curfew announcement changing it to 11 PM to 5 AM was supposed to be in effect today, the email went out prematurely. There will still be people manning the phones in the EOC to give out information.
10:30 PM Wrap-up
Most of us faired pretty well. Have four coworkers that had damage to their houses, but not severe enough to have to move, adjusters and repairs already started. It is good to be working with the people I work with. One or two could do well being a comedian, and you never know what is going to come out of there mouths (it doesnít sound as funny retelling it as when you were there Ė maybe need to video tape some lol), but on a whole everyone here is a little like that, it helps dealing with being a public servant. I hear a lot of blasts about government employees just putting in their time and donít really care (this from a local talk show host, who used to be a City Councilmember, because they had tried to get through to FEMA 120 times, and kept getting hung up on by the automated system. Another horror story is it is in many different languages and if you go to the other languages, they are still speaking in English. Then Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff is on TV with 30 FEMA personnel saying there are no open cases. Well duh, there wouldnít be if you canít get through to file a claim, maybe he needs to put those 30 to work answering phones!), but this is not always the case. I CAN speak for this department that we go above and beyond a lot of the time, and most of the time we are out there in the public, because of Inspections and Projects Divisions. This is true of a lot of our departments here, and even in the County, State and Federal Governments. Yes, there are some employees there that just collect paychecks, but there are a majority more that do care. People have to remember that we can only go so far due to laws, regulations and policies, which have been put in place by the people they elected to office, and to change this they have to elect people that actually care. Our department is an enjoyable place to work, though for a time because of elected officials it got pretty hard to keep a stiff upper lip as the Brits say, but it comes and goes in cycles, that is the nature of the beast of public service. Here, with old and new people, it has remained a family; we care about our citizens and each other. We talk about our families and are concerned when one is sick and overjoyed at good news; we are an extended family here. I wouldnít have it any other way and that is the reason I love my job, pressure, bad times and good times.
All in all, though there were some glitches and miscues during this disaster, I have to give the most credit to our Fire Marshal who is our head of EOC. Since this group has been together, this was our first disaster, but everything went well. Was it perfect? No, never is and never could be for each disaster is a little different in nature and resources needed, but we will debrief and look at what needs to be improved for the next one, if there is such a creature. Many had stayed at the EOC the whole time, even the council members did their part instead of just sitting in the EOC. Some did deliveries; one even drove one of the trucks since he had a CDL. We faired pretty good, not as much damage as first thought, and so did the other communities. Still, some like Galveston, Tiki Island and Bolivar were devastated. Last official death toll we heard was 28, and that is pretty good seeing how a lot of the people (24,000 or more) didnít leave the above mentioned areas. There were reports of bodies floating in the waters and laying all over the area, but none has yet been substantiated, just rumor. We heard about 90 survivors being rescued from Bolivar the other day that is good news. The only accurate count of how many died will be when we find loved ones missing, because most assuredly, many had been washed out to the ocean and may never be recovered. Most of all was the amazing team work by first responders, Local, County and State EOCís that have done a great job. Many stayed at the EOC while their loved ones are safely away, spending all the time there, and working ungodly hours. One didnít have any sleep for 36 hours, but hey this is the career we have chosen, and we would do it all over again.
One lesson learned by me personally, well actually two, and first is that we can survive without Ė modern amenities, it is hard but it can be done. The other is that FEMA has said for hurricane preparedness to make sure you have supplies for 2 to 3 days Ė bullshit as I have learned. Next time I do this I will plan on being without for a minimum of two weeks, and anybody in the path of a hurricane should do the same. Make sure you have plenty of water (although I donít drink a lot of it) and plenty of can food or MREís and things to keep you occupied. Oh, one more thing (I know I said two but this is important). If you are running your generator for 24 hours straight, make sure that you do proper maintenance on it during the year and especially while you are using it. Manufacturerís suggestions (my term for the owners manual but heed this well) says to change the oil every 25 working hours. People will not do this and the engine can possibly seize up. Two things happen from this, first you have no generator and second it will not be warranted because the warrantee only covers defects, not neglect due to lack of maintenance, so if you invest in a generator save your money and do the maintenance as per the Ownerís Manual.
In hindsight, please for the love of God, if asked to evacuate, whether mandatory or not, do so, we donít want your loved ones missing you and your life is not worth the property damage. If you are to remain obstinate, then please right your name on one arm and your social security number on the other to make it easier to identify you after the disaster is over (it is my understanding that this was told to some people that would not evacuate and called for rescue when they were waist deep in water on the second floor, do not know if it is true or not, but I think it makes the point to evacuate). Oh yes, and please if you are evacuating, take your pets with you.
Think about it.
I hope this has been enlightening of the different things going on during disaster relief. There are many more stories that I havenít told here, not because I donít want to (all though this is quite long already) but because the past week has been a blur and I didnít write all of them down. I wrote what I could remember or stories others had told, but this was just the tip of the iceberg.
and this is Doc,