Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Worst. Birthday. EVER.

On the eve of my birthday, we sheltered in place per orders and waited for the storm. We had evacuated for Rita, and had returned to a home with only minor wind damage and power intact. So, while I wanted to be prepared for the worst, we not expecting much excitement.



We had been told that we were not in a area that would receive much damage - we were a pass through community for people who were dealing with mandatory and voluntary evacuations. We had water, lots of canned goods, flashlights galore. We lost power at 5:30pm on Friday, September 12th and it didn't come back on until Tuesday September 16th.

Our plan had been to leave the kids in their rooms until the storm got bad, and then go get them and bring them down to the makeshift bed in our walk-in closet (our only interior room without windows other than the powder room!), but since the power went out so early, we had to put them in there when they were still wide awake and anxious.



They only slept for a couple of hours, because the winds really started getting rough around 9pm. Bradley would wake and ask me to hold him, and then fall quickly back to sleep. Chloe was scared and clung to me most of the night. Ike was supposed to make landfall around midnight, but the outer bands of winds were strong. The strange thing was that we didn't get any rain until later. Mike and I tried to sleep when we could, because we knew we were in for a long night.

Around 12:30 we started to hear the cracking of trees around the neighborhood, we kept watching our trees fight to stay rooted. There were so many strange noises - our garage door was breathing with the wind and it creaked and moaned until I thought for sure it was going to tear off its track. Then came the chugging sound of a tornado - our entire house shook and all the trees were completely leaning sideways. The windows rattled and shook, and one finally cracked. Chloe woke up and said, "Mommy, we have to pray. We have to pray right now." And so I held hands with my terrified 4 year old as we prayed for safety for our family and friends.

With every terrible gust of wind the window cracked a bit more - because of the light-blocking film on it, it didn't shatter or tear apart. But, we needed to keep it safe. So, we told the kids to stay in the closet and Mike and I went outside in the weather to try to nail up a board. The rain had started, and it soaked us from every angle as we struggled to hold the plywood and nails securely. We were so cold we couldn't feel our fingers and we finally had to give up and go back into safety. We taped the window from the inside and prayed for the best.

At 4am the storm was still raging and I called my brother on my cell phone to see how they were doing - they had power until right around 1am. He said that it should have been over by now, but they had no access to the weather reports. I sat in my room and prayed and prayed.

When morning finally came, the winds died down and the rain trickled to a drizzle. We were lucky that we only had minor damage, and we thought the power would be on by the end of the day.





The power still wasn't on and so we played games and planned meals around what I could cook on the stove (lit with a lighter since it wouldn't light on it own, but we still had gas). We started to worry when the temperature was supposed to climb into the 90s and we still didn't have power.

Our cell phones and landlines were not working, so I drove the 1.3 miles to my sister's to see how they were. They were fine, but didn't have working phones or power either. She said she would drive the 5 miles to our mom's house to see how they were. Mike left to check on our rental house 11 miles away. I took on the task of emptying the refrigerator and freezer because it was now looking like the power wasn't going to be on any time soon. We had made several containers of ice, and my principal had let us leave work during our conference times to get supplies and gas if needed. I had a friend buy me 2 bags of ice, so I loaded those into our ice chest and packed what I could. I had filled my tank with gas on Thursday morning, and school was cancelled Friday so I was fine there.

My mom's house had a lot of wind damage, missing shingles and downed fences and trees, but they were all safe. They too had no working phones or power - but they had a generator to keep their fridge going and to run the small AC unit. Mike returned from the rental townhouse with good and bad news. The bad news was water had filled the living room, and the floor was sopping wet, but there was power! So, he gathered things to clean over there and get ready for the kids and I set to packing furiously to escape the 97 degree heat - at 9pm!

We were so relieved to have AC that we just crashed when we got settled. I woke up because I heard a strange noise. I was horrified at first because it sounded like the skitter of lots of tiny feet. Then, I felt the drip drops on my head. I turned the hall light on, and saw the water dripping from the attic access door. I woke Mike up as the water started pouring down. He grabbed the wet/dry vac and did what he could, but we finally just set out our towels and waited until morning to see what the problem was.

Sunday was spent trying to call friends and family and verify that everyone was safe. No one had power anywhere. My brother and brother-in-law came over to the townhouse to help fix the hole in the roof and we got a better idea of the damage to the townhouse. The gutters were all ripped off, water had filled the living room with about 6 inches of water, according to the water line. There was going to be a LOT of cleaning up and repairs.

So, I returned to our house in Sienna for a few hours with the kids so they could play in their playroom and I could clean some more while the guys worked on the townhouse. I swept and tidied (because I'm crazy like that) - I just didn't want to have to come home to a mess! That evening we worked on cleaning more of the branches and fallen trees. The kids worked hard to make The Pile (a huge collection of branches and bramble sitting on our driveway because we ran out of trash bags!).


Sunday night the kids and I walked around our old neighborhood and stopped at Bradley's daycare (a private in-home center). They were busy cleaning, but they too had power and would be open on Monday. So, on Monday that's where the kids went while Mike and I started the real work.

First, we went to the Sienna house and cleared all the debris. My brother came over to help Mike pull up what was left of the fence. We needed some clean clothes, so I washed a couple of loads by hand in the kitchen sink. I hung the shirts in the laundry room to dry, but realized that I was running out of room. So I made a clothesline on our deck. As the proud owner of a well-stocked craft room I had no trouble finding yarn and clothespins!



I decided that if Mike wore g-strings instead of boxers I would have a LOT less laundry to do. I didn't suggest this, though, as he was busy hauling fence posts and such. I just scrubbed and hung and watched our unmentionables dry in the breeze. I think this is the first time I knowingly broke deed restrictions!

We worked there for a couple of house and then headed over to my mom's house to help them. My sister, her husband, and their 3 kids had gone over to my mom's to stay and take advantage of the generator, so they were there too. My brother-in-law had called his brother and his brother-in-law to come help tear down the HUGE trees from my mom's house. There is just something scary that happens when you combine testosterone, chainsaws, and F350s. The trees were down almost as quickly as Ike could have done. The amazing thing was that everyone pitched in to get this job done in record time.





And then Mike, my mom, and I headed back to the townhouse to try to tackle the worst of the jobs ....



Lovely, huh? We had to pull out all the carpet in the living room. And then our insurance company informed us that we have to KEEP IT. All of it, including the pad. To prove that it really did get wet. Now it's festering in bags in the townhouse garage. Gah.

We cleaned and cleaned some more the rest of Monday, and then I walked to the daycare to get my kiddos. We spent another night in the townhouse before the power returned to the house in Sienna. We hauled everything back to our house and took a nap.

Then, my sister told me that she had finally gotten in touch with some friends of ours, Sherri and Rick (and their adorable 18 month old), who live in Galveston. They had pretty much lost everything but their structure - their home had 3 feet of water still in it. They had come to stay at my sister's work (a local minor emergency center) where Sherri is a PA. But, the night of the storm the roof blew off of the building and so they were forced to evacuate from there and head further into town to stay with some friends. They found shelter with some friends in a 1-bedroom condo, where 2 other families were also staying. Things were a bit rough.

Sherri called and asked if they could stay in the townhouse. I told her they were welcome to it, but that it was just one step up from a FEMA trailer! She said as long as it had power they didn't care! My sister, brother, and I headed back to the townhouse to REALLY scrub it down. I mean, I had cleaned it, but I wasn't planning on staying there for more than a few days so we really got down and dirty.

We had been in the process of remodeling the darn thing since we had moved out last November. But, things were slow going as we got our new house ready and such...so we were behind on the work there. From 2 until 5:30 we: installed 2 new light fixtures in the upstairs bathrooms, cleaned toilets, tubs, sinks, and vanities, swept and mopped and made the floor shine as much as an old linoleum floor that just survived Ike could shine. But, we did it - and the family is relieved and happy to just be safe, dry, and cool.

Today I ventured out to get groceries and found most of the shelves still bare. I was able to get some milk, bread, bananas, and some other staples. Now I can at least make pancakes! Gas in our area is hovering at around $6.50, so I am glad I still have a bit over a 1/2 tank left. My school district is closed this week, but should reopen on Monday. I have to report to work this Friday.

My parent's house still doesn't have power, and they are out of gas for the generator, so they went to my sister's house (her power came on when ours did). Most of our subdivision still doesn't have power.

Through all of this madness we have family that was brought closer together, friends that now have a roof (sans leak!) over their heads, and a lot of left over canned goods. While we still have a lot of clean-up to do we are so incredibly blessed that we have power (!), phones (still off and on), Internet (again, still off and on), and our home.

If you have read this far, you must be someone who really does care. Please, please, please continue to pray for the rest of our neighbors across South-East Texas who have lost loved ones, property, and who are still huddled in the dark praying for electricity. Pray for the hard working law enforcement officers, fire fighters, and military personnel who are working to bring people to safety while their own families are in the dark.

Just pray.


1 comment:

Alicia said...

Hi, I met you through Meredith at A Scrap Affair. I am so sorry for your "mess" in this aftermath, but glad that everyone is safe.

We, too, had a grand experience to stuff into the scrapbooks. Even after a new roof, new kitchen ceiling, and some touch ups... we are all safe and very lucky.

Hope to see you around the store soon!

Alicia

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