Friday, September 26, 2008

Remix! Mother Nature to the United States: F*ck Y'all

Well it definitely was a long, interesting, boring, tiresome, hot, sleepless, sweaty, hungry, dark, uncomfortable, isolated, expensive, repetitive, and unforgettable 12 days. My family's power was finally restored this past wednesday, but about 20% of the Houston area is still without power. We cant complain though, since our house is still intact. Hurricane Ike only knocked over our fence and some trees in our backyard, as well as ripping off part of the roof in our back porch. I'm definitely conscious of how lucky we are, given that dozens in the nearby Island of Galveston lost most, if not all, and have yet to even find out. However, the impact of Ike is somewhat fuzzy to me as of right now since I didn't have much contact with media sources for those 12 days. The first 2 days or so I found several radio stations broadcasting live feeds from the local news channels. It was pretty much Hurricane Ike 24/7 during that time, but then they all went back to playing music and basically only took calls, after every song, from listeners who had found gas, ice, food, hotel rooms, etc. I did manage to catch a station that briefly mentioned Ike traveled up the mid U.S. and dropped a lot of rain and power lines there also, as well as the stock market taking a hit, thus the title of this post.

This whole thing had an I am Legend feel to it at times, but of course without the infected population and the people during the day were real, not mannequins. However, we did have some wildlife roaming around the area though, most notably a tiger and a lion (,22049,24359515-5001021,00.html ), alligators, and turtles (one somehow managed to end up on I-10 near Katy, which is even further inland than downtown Houston and nowhere close to a body of water). At night, it was completely dark outside. Very unusual to drive down a street that usually was very busy, but now you're the only car on the road. Everything in the area was closed. I had to drive out about an hour and half out of the city to find certain items. I did manage to catch a station that briefly mentioned Ike traveled up the mid U.S. and dropped a lot of rain and power lines there also, as well as the stock market taking a hit, thus the title of this post.

I was going to make this post about my own personal experiences in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, but they were actually boring and repetitive for the most part since most of my days were spend at home and I'm ready to move on and get past all that. Also, this should not just be about people like me who can pick up and get back to normal life after a couple of days, but also about those who lost it all. that being said, I'd be lying if I sat here and wrote I could ever imagine what those people are going through. I can't. Not even close. I will say I hope they can all rebuild their lives and get the proper aid they need as quickly as possible.That's definitely easier said than done, but I hope FEMA and every other big name involved gets their act straight right now and in the future. (more on this later).

Some thoughts/comments:

-So what's it like to ride out a hurricane? The real scare for me was wondering if a tornado might develop nearby. Other than that, it didn't seem too bad. I'm not trying to downplay the impact Ike had though, keep in mind I was inland in a fairly sturdy home with boarded windows. Also, the strongest winds in this area were recorded at about "only" 87 mph, so my experience was rather peaceful compared to those on Galveston Island or in the eye's path. The power went out early and the storm passed in complete darkness, so I couldn't see if there was any damage outside. All I could see were the really tall trees swaying back and forth. Every abnormal rumble outside quickly had me thinking "twister", but one never formed, so if a tornado's roar is louder than the loudest of those, then I'm sure glad I didn't experience one. From what I've read so far there weren't any tornado sightings during the storm.
- I think the only thing worse than losing your home to flood waters or high winds is knowing your loved ones are no longer resting in peace. A couple cemetaries were flooded and the pressure from the storm surge caused several coffins to rise up and float away. That probably isn't something you'd think about during or after a storm and probably took many by surprise. I sincerely hope they were able to recover all of them because I know it would drive me crazy not knowing where they ended up.

- Centerpoint Enery, which shoots out the power to most of Houston, as well as most of Texas, says the grid was down about 93% after the storm ad had been literally minutes away from completely crashing. A spokesperson explained how a total shutdown would have turned the recovery time from weeks to MONTHS. The hottest days of the year in the Houston area had also just passed in late August, so it definitely shows how close the results were to being much worse.

-Gerald Rivera, once again, getting too close to the action (video) :

- Houston Rockets' back up point Aaron Brooks actually rode out the storm at the Toyota Center. He said he got a work out in prior to the storm and another one after. During the storm he bunkered down further inside the building. I know the Rocket's practice court is at street level, with the wall facing the public street made almost entirely of glass, so that would have a perfect view during a storm. Can anyone else imagine running 5 on 5 on that court under those conditions? Sweet.

-The Rockets also bought and passed out truckloads of goods last week, which was great. Now I don't know how much of the team stayed in Houston for the storm, but only Rafer, Hayes, Mike Harris, Luther Head, and Brooks showed up. Would of been nice to see more guys out there though. One of the posters on Slamonline mentioned it might have been Artest's idea, but it was Rocket's owner Les Alexander who got the ball rolling on that one. A big thanks to the Hornets as well. The trucks came from New Orleans and CP3 and others were among the volunteers loading the trucks.

-One of the radio stations mentioned that the postal service was back in action about a day after the storm. They joked about how the mailmen can get into anywhere and maybe they should be the ones delivering aid in the form of water and ice. They quickly changed the subject, but I couldn't help but wonder WHY NOT? It's actually a very good idea. FEMA reps kept mentioning the can only bring the help, but its up to the local leaders to direct them where to set up, since they don't know the area and therefore don't know where the most efficient locations would be. A high ranking member of the armed forces even completely butchered Galveston's name during an interview. I don't blame him for the confusion, since he's just trying to help, but it further points out how a lot of the people leading the charge don't know what's around them. So why not receive help from those who travel to every single address in the area 6 days a week ofr most of the year??? Who else knows what areas are usually blocked off during heavy rain and what area includes many senior residents? Who else knows the quickest way or alternate routes to get to certain residents? Who else knows what areas are littered with trees and old structures, therefore vulnearable to heavy winds?? No one else. The neediest residents have very little, if anything to their name. That possibly means no car, or no money for gas. It also means physical disabilities or a single mother who can't afford to go out and look for aid because she has to take care of her kid(s). But who actually gets all the ready to eat meals, ice, water, toiletries, and canned goods??? The people who can afford to fill up their gast tanks, drive their reliable cars out to FEMA pod sites where they can afford to wait for an hour or two in long lines (that only accept cars, no walk-ins). The rich get richer and the poor get screwed. I know some of the people that actually drive out really need the help, but many don't. Many want some free supplies or are simply looking to keep their shelves stocked even though they have enough supplies to last them several days. About a week into the blackout, a city ice truck drove into my neighborhood and passed out ice bags. Now THAT is efficiency. You're going to the problem areas and reaching out to those who really can use the aid that second. I think cities should take a day or two to clean out the roads, since most homes at least have goods for one or two days, and once the roads are no longer blocked, they can really move in deep into cities to deliver aids. Here, no one moved a finger until the storm was completely gone since the first step was getting power crews out and they can't work under those conditions. If they focus on just clearing roads first, then they can get crews out earlier as the storm is almost gone, since the job doesn't call for complete calmness. Then, with the postal crew leading the way, they can make neighborhood stops at the neediest of areas and greatly bump up efficiency. Of course the cost of gass would be a problem, but FEMA or other aid providers don't necessarily need to walk up your front steps. Perhaps they could set up at local post offices, load up USPS vehicles with goods and send them out. They'll already be out there delivering mail, so why not take advantage of that? I know its morec omplicated than I can imagine and I don't have the info to crunch numbers, but I think it is definitely something to look into. Right now the focus is on making help sites accessible for ALL, but lets face the facts, not everyone needs the aid. Make it a priority to reach out to poverty stricken areas and the senior communities. To the homes with only one head of household or the shelters full of locals who had to leave their homes with only the clothes on their backs. Don't tell me Tracy Mcgrady needs some bottled water when his pool is probably filled with Vitamin Water.

- The Rockets just announced they'll be actively participating in rebuilding the area and providing aid for a while. they're not planning on just spitting out benjamins the first week or two and thinking its enough. they had a blood drive this week and have plan for some clean up activities soon and several more to come, Definitely great news. I believe the Astros donated a million dollars, and the Texans have helped out too, but hopefully they plan on sticking to it for the long haul as well.

-On one of my trips out of the city, I found a Walgreen's that actually wasn't closed or was sucked dry of necessary items. I mention this because I think two things that are (and were in my case) often forgotten are that the latest home phones most families have are cordless and running on battery power can get really expensive after a few days. Well at the store I pretty muchran by every single aisle looking for anything I could use and I actually found some of those old corded phones that don't run on electricity. Proved to be a big help since cell phones couldn't be charged unless you had a car charger "(which of course i didn't have either!). I also found some solar powered accent lights, which are meant to go outside your home, but in this case, we used them indoors at night after charging them all day. They were a bit dim, but a great investment at 20 bucks for 6 of them.

-still video of 100 mph+ winds and storm surge as the eye passes through Clear Lake, Tx.

- A cop. An ATV. Surfers. High water. Here's what happened next:
Some images:
Finally, thanks to those who whished me well during this time. Things are getting back to normal around here, but there's still several without power, closed businesses and broken things to fix. Still should only be a matter of weeks before Houston is near full speed. Unfortunately, Galveston Island and other coastal areaswill take a loong time, but I expect them back stronger than ever.
The season keeps getting closer and closer and hopefully we can get back to talking ball very soon, including some team previews.


Money Bill Williams said...

wow, just wow! glad you made it out of it alright RV. We didn't get too much info of what happened here in Aus but it seems like the issue was quite severe. Glad to see you back!

Hursty said...

Great read RV. That last part, about the phones, were they like the ones that they used in the Vietnam War or WW2? Thats what they sound like. Also, how can they run without electricity OR battery?
Glad to have you back man.

RV said...

Money, in my area and beyond the big issue was lack of power and trees/branches all over the place. Any buildings or structures that went down, were few, and probably old or poorly constructed. The coastal area also had those issues, but the storm surge was what destroyed them. Although it was only officially a strong cat 1 storm, the storm surge was said to be similar to a cat 3.

RV said...

Hursty, here's a picture of them. only use one line that plugs directly into the phone jack, they work off of "common battery", not sure of the specifics of that, but through that one line it sends the voice signal and some power to it as well.

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