Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ike was Icky

Well, this has certainly been a week to remember! In many ways it is hard to believe that it has only been a week since this all started. Last week Ike looked like is was going any place but here, so I didn't worry about it too much. I was all stocked up with supplies, so I figured I didn't need to give Ike much thought. Then Wed night/Thurs. morning it became clear that Ike's path had shifted back our direction and was truly coming here. I decided on Thursday I'd better run to the store first thing after taking Ty to school that morning. We didn't need much, but I wanted to be sure I had everything we needed in case the power was off for an extended amount of time. Wal-mart was nuts! Even at 8:00am in the morning. It was as busy as a Saturday afternoon during December--and already the shelves were starting to get bare. I was grateful again that we already had batteries, propane, candles, matches, food, bottled water, toilet paper, flashlights, an emergency radio, ice, and the like because there wasn't much of this type of stuff on the shelves. I was able to find the things I came for--diapers, wipes, paper plates and cups, and some books to read--but even those supplies didn't look like they would last much longer. Again I was glad for advanced preparation when I made my way to the checkout counter--every checkout lane had a sign saying that no cash back would be given due to Ike. Thankfully I'd already taken care of that a few weeks beforehand when Gustav seemed headed our direction. Thank goodness for church leaders who urge us to always be prepared!

Next I headed over to the gas station, we already had 3/4 of a tank, but I thought it would be good to make sure it was full. I waited behind 4 or 5 other cars for my turn at the pump. I thought that was a long line at the time, however, after the storm, Marc and I drove past this same gas station and saw at least a hundred cars lined up through the parking lot and around the street and then into the freeway frontage lanes.

Later that afternoon while picking up Ty from school I started to notice signs of the approaching storm. Most people in our area didn't board up their windows, however, a handful did. Others resorted to taping them.

I saw even more windows boarded/taped up on Friday morning, and I begun to wonder if we should have done the same. I also started to worry about the amount of propane we had and sent Marc out to the store to see if they had any left. (They didn't, but it didn't end up mattering--we had plenty.) Marc said the shelves were even more bare than what I had seen the previous morning, and that many people were leaving the store nearly empty handed. There was no school Friday, so Marc and I spent the rest of the day doing laundry, dishes, and any other cleaning that would be difficult once the power went out. We also charged the batteries in the laptops, mp3 player, mini DVD player, and radios. I figured it would be nice to have these in working order-- if only for a few hours--once the power went out. Later we also organized our emergency supplies to make everything easier to find in the dark if necessary. While we worked we listened to the news which tracked the storm's progress towards us. I was amazed at the amount of damage and flooding already occurring on Galveston Island despite the storm being hundreds of miles away. By 8:00pm the winds had picked up and you could tell that the outer bands of the storm were just starting to approach Houston. You could look up at the sky and watch the counter-clockwise rotation of the dark clouds racing by. I was glad the boys were headed to bed before it got any worse. Just after tucking them in Ty decided to stall a little bit (he thinks of some new way to stall almost nightly now), this particular night he decided that it was time for his front tooth to come out and that he needed Marc to pull it out. So after pulling out the offending tooth, we tucked Ty back in with his tooth safely stashed under his pillow and I made a mental note to try to remember to play tooth fairy before I went to bed. Marc and I went back to watching the news at that point, just keeping an eye on when things would start to get bad in our area. I don't remember a whole lot about watching the coverage except hearing about the power outages coming nearer and nearer to us, seeing some house fires, and hearing about the windows being blown out in the high rises downtown. I also remember the power flickering on and off about 8 or 9 times before it finally went out for good around 4:00am. At that point Marc and I moved into one of the smaller bedrooms next to the boys--as soon as I made sure the tooth fairy visited Ty. Our master bedroom has 3 large windows that really starting to shake and rattle with the forces of the wind and I was afraid they were going to blow out. The smaller bedroom only had one window that faced our neighbors home and was much more protected. From about 4:30-6:00am things were really bad. I could hear the house groaning with the force of the wind gusts. A few of the gusts shook the entire house back and forth. It was amazingly loud during this time, not just from the wind, but from the rain pounding the house and the groaning of the frame as it shook. I've never heard anything like it. I was just certain at those points that we were going to lose either some windows, the roof, or both. I began wishing that we had boarded up the windows. By 6:45am daylight started peeking through the clouds and I started to realize that we had made it though the worst of it. It was still pretty windy and wet out, but nothing like it had been earlier. I didn't dare go outside just yet, but I got a pretty good look at our neighbors homes and could see that they didn't have any roof damage, and I was comforted by that. Some of them had lost their decorative shutters off the front of their homes and a couple of trees were down, but overall, things in the neighborhood looked pretty good. The water was off, but that only lasted a day. I called our families and let them know we had made it through the night okay. Up until about a month or two ago we had a large wooded area directly behind our house. A developer came in during the summer and cleared the land in preparation for a new housing development to come in. I had been really sad to see the pretty forested area go at the time. Now I can't help but be glad as I believe we would have been in real danger for some of those trees to come down on our yard, house, or power lines. A small part of that forested area is still there and you can see some of the trees that were lost over there. Around lunch time Saturday things started to calm back down to where it was safe to start checking on our friends and neighbors. The phone started ringing off the hook as people from church started checking on each other and passing along information about those families who needed help. Marc took a trip out to check on some of them. Most everyone did pretty well, however some of our friends had leaky roofs and/or large trees come down on their homes and property. We were very lucky, despite the fierceness of the wind (and it was fierce--look what is did to this house under construction near us), we didn't have any damage at all. We spent the rest of the day checking in with family, cooking on our camp stove, listening to the news on our hand cranked radio, and reading books by candle light. I sighed a huge sigh of relief as I went to bed on Saturday, grateful that things had turned out so well for us and our home. I'm afraid that Sunday morning didn't look as good though! We had a major rain storm come though during the night. It was loud--lots of thunder and lightning, and I could hear the rain pelting the windows--still I didn't give it much thought as in comparison to Ike it was pretty mild. So imagine my surprise to wake up Sunday morning to this: We heard on our little radio that we had received 3-4 inches of rain an hour during the night and it looked like the rain and debris from Ike had backed up our drainage bayou, and now the water had no place to drain. The water rose all morning til the water was within 10 feet our our house. Several of our neighbors who had parked on the street lost their cars. The water was over their bumpers at some points. We had some people touring the neighborhood by kayak and boat, trying to keep the neighbors informed with what little information there was to share. Some of the homes near the corners had water right up to their doorsteps. They posted signs like these begging those who attempted to navigate the water to keep their wakes at a minimum. And then there were those who got creative about touring the neighborhood. These are some friends of our who decided not to stay and evacuated the neighborhood via air mattress :) It's a good thing church was canceled on Sunday cause as you can see by that evening the water really hadn't receded much. We certainly couldn't have gone anywhere. At least the rain had stopped and that made us all worry less.

Marc says I should add a country song in here right about now--so for his sake here is his version of "Ocean Front Property"

I got some... Ocean front property in Tomball, TX. From my front porch you can see the sea. I got some...Ocean front property in Tomball, TX. If you'll buy that I'll throw the pearly gates in for free.................:)

Lol, well it was a pretty strange sight seeing frogs and crawdads swimming about our cul-de-sac!

Oh, and those are not lights on in those house windows, that's just the setting sun reflecting off of them. We didn't get the power back on til Monday night. We spent Sunday and most of Monday, reading, playing with the kids out back,--no flooding in our back yard-- doing more cooking on our camp stove, and watching the water slowly recede. The phone went out as the water went up, so it was a pretty quiet couple of days--we did have some friends wade through all that mucky water to check on us, and our cell phone worked some of the time so we were able to keep family updated, but mostly it was quiet. By Monday afternoon I was getting sick of feeling trapped, so we hiked out of our neighborhood across the newly cleared land to our south and walked to my parents house where we had stored our van during the storm. It was very freeing to be able to get out and drive around town. We saw downed trees everywhere--all over the power lines and roads. We also saw lots of streets that were impassable due to flooding. After awhile we found a McDonald's that was open and picked up a few extra supplies at Wal-mart. As we drove around I again found myself grateful for pre-planning. Every open gas station we passed had a huge line, at least 75 cars waiting at each--some with more. Most however were not open (no power yet--or no gas--or both), and had blank signs. I was really glad we didn't need gas. I was also glad we had plenty of cash as we saw signs like this one at every place that was open. This Walgreen's was being generous accepting checks, most places said cash only. I saw these red trailers all over as we drove around:
And after awhile this became the most common sight of all. Blue tarps everywhere you went. I hadn't realised in the beginning how lucky we were to not have our roof leak. Almost every neighborhood near us had major roof troubles.
As I said earlier the power came back on Monday night, and by Tuesday morning the water had receded enough to allow us to get in and out of our Sub-division. They also lifted the "boil water advisory" for our area. That's about when we started to feel like "normal" was coming back. We spent the next few days helping clean up the yards of our friends who had tree damage. Ty's 1st grade teacher called to check on him Friday, and to let us know that the 1st grade hall did flood a little, but not too badly in Ty's classroom. School is still out, it looks like Ty and Marc will be going back on Wednesday as long as they get the power back on.
Truly we are very lucky. Many people are still without power and we have had it back on for 5 days now. We also had zero damage to our home and property. Few people around here can boast of that. We feel very blessed and are so grateful to all the people who are working so hard to help bring the power and utilities back on. I am also very grateful for the wonderful friends and neighbors we have. So many people checked in on us and made sure we were all right. And the strange thing about being trapped in our subdivision was how much time we spent chatting with the neighbors. That was fun and I enjoyed their kindness and warmth through all of the craziness very much. So many of them offered to share resources and supplies with us even though we didn't need any. At one point we found out that someone on our street needed power for their ventilator. It was amazing to watch how quickly people sprang into action to string huge amounts of extension cords over the backs of our fences/yards and hook up the ventilator to the one neighbor who had a generator. Some people are just so unselfish and kind; I'm sure proud to live on my street. We have some seriously awesome neighbors!
So, all in all Ike was no fun, but I feel my family was blessed and watched over and I am overwhelmed with gratitude for all the good people who have helped out in this diaster. Thank you also to those who kept us their prayers...we certainly felt protected by them.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Staying Put

I know there are a few of you out there wondering how we are and what we are doing in the wake of good old Ike. I just wanted to post quickly and let everyone know that we live pretty far from the coast, and are not under an evacuation order either mandatory or voluntary. We are simply hunkering down and holding on for the next few days. We are well prepared, well looked after by good friends and neighbors, and well stocked --so please don't worry about us :) And since I can never do a post without pictures, I thought I post some back to school photos of Ty. He started First grade a few weeks ago and is loving every minute of it. He seems to have an excellent teacher and we are excited to see him having such a great time in school. This first one is from last year as he started Kindergarten. He looks so young and small to me. Photobucket And here he is now, growing up way too fast: Photobucket Photobucket So anyways, I hope you all have a great weekend--I'm not sure ours will be great, but I'm sure it will be exciting :)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Vacation Photos!

Well, this morning I had a few moments to go over some of the trip photos I promised to post. I had to laugh at this first picture. I have a feeling that this view was a large part of my family's trip! Between me and my brother there was always a camera around taking pictures of everything--including each other :) I'm sure glad everyone was good natured about it though--I know we drove the kids nuts with all out requests to "just let me take 1 more" however, I love the results! Photobucket Case in point, here is what I looked like pretty much all week! I always had the camera out! I found it kind of funny to see the pictures my brother took of me. I'm not used to being out in front of the glass--I guess the tables kind of got turned on me--haha :) Still, I'm glad to be included in the photographic record of our trip--that dosen't happen too often. Photobucket I love that these two photos show what a photo shoot is like. You can see in the above photo on a larger scale what the scene was like--Blake took an unexpected romp in the water during one of our walks along the beach. His pants started falling off and his underware was showing. But all of that dosen't really matter, in fact I never even noticed it was going on until I saw the top photo later on. To me all I saw was the bottem picture--what I saw through the lens--my happy kid playing in the warm gulf waters. I love how not everything about the scene was perfect, yet I was still able to take a photo that refelects my thoughts at the moment. Photobucket This was a really great trip! Despite the hurricane hitting there just before we arrived, South Padre Island was looking beautiful! Photobucket The sea turtle hospital was cool to see. The boys in paticular really enjoyed getting up close and personal with these giants. My brother and I even saw one out in the waves while we were surfing. It wasn't as big as these bad boys, but still fun to see it going for a ride in the waves with us! Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket I've already posted about this little beatuty, our bicycle car, but thought it was fun enough to deserve another look. It was really fun to ride around town for the first 20 or 30 minutes, after that it got a lot harder. By the time our hour was up we were more than ready to turn it back in :) After all, we needed to save our energy for surfing. Photobucket The pool in the back yard of course was a big hit with the boys too! Ty loved showing off and increasing upon everything he learned in swim lessons this year. Blake pretty much hugged the stairs the whole time, but had a good time squirting unsuspecting swimmers with his squirt bottle. Spencer was another stair hugger, but he too loved the water--but then again, who wouldn't--it was so warm! Here is a shot of my nephew and brother relaxing in the pool: Photobucket And even though everyone loved the pool, the beach was really where the action was at: Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket So, yes, the beach was the highlight of the trip! The waves were by no means huge, but big enough to still have a great time. I think everyone really enjoyed themselves--especially the kids! Photobucket So thanks Mom and Dad for organizing and planning such a fun trip! I know we all had a great time! Photobucket After our week at the beach we headed north to visit with the other side of the family. We had a great time there as well! Marc's family is delightful and our visit with them was lots of fun. While we were there I had the opportunity to do a mini maternity session for my super cute sister-in-law who is about 6 months along with a baby girl. We are super excited for them and glad for yet another little girl to join the family! Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket And last, but certainly not least, is a quick family shot for another sister-in-law. I couldn't believe how good my neices were for me during this shoot. I think I need them to come and give lessons to my three boys about how to take a family photo! They did so great for their young ages! Photobucket So anyhow, that was our trip in photos. We had a great time with both trips, but are happy to be home and back into the swing of regular life!