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Posts tagged ‘Hurricane Ike’

More Renovation

Hurricanes Rita and Ike left many houses damaged beyond repair. Some of them had trees through the roof, others had structural damage. Red tags on the doors indicate a structure intended for demolition but it seems to take years. However, when I drove by this house down the street from me, it was clearly there at 10AM and when I returned at 2:15 or so, this truck was sitting where the house used to be–and the heavy equipment operator was busy clearing the lot of the few lovely trees that remained. We will now have a vacant lot with weeds—but perhaps better than a vacant house with transients making themselves at home.

Christmas Bird Count in Anahuac


Yesterday we participated in the annual Christmas bird count in the Anahuac Preserve. This area is renown amongst birders as it is part of the flyway of the Mississippi and hosts thousands if not millions of birds. The count this year was particularly important in assessing the consequences from Hurricane Ike earlier this year. We have been to this area several times with our children; and although I had seen photos of the area post Ike, I was still saddened by what I saw.


I suspect that most of us no longer have the energy to feel devastated as we have endured three hurricanes in as many years. The visitor center is now a partial roof and one wall; the interior which had displays and information about the refuge is empty—it was empty after the hurricane. Throughout the marsh are refrigerators, freezers, parts of roofs, decking, fences, and the carcasses of cows and alligators. Stormsurge debris hangs from the trees and the water in the marsh is saltier than Gulf water. There is a smell of decay everywhere. The roads have been cleared—with huge piles of debris and mud.


The day was foggy and a tad chilly and looking rather younger than some of the other volunteers, we were assigned to the Roll-E-Gon. (I’m not sure I have that spelling correct but it is otherwise known as a marsh buggy). Our driver was an employee of the State Fish and Wildlife and specialized in fire control.* He had worked for the department for over seven years and had grown up in Louisiana eating duck every day including breakfast. The marsh buggy had huge wheels—tires that cost 3600 each and rims that were made of aluminum and 1700 each. Only one manufacturer made those tires and they suggested that as long as the tires held air overnight they were still okay to use. The vehicle itself could actually drive over water and our guide claimed it could drive over my foot and not hurt it. (I didn’t volunteer for this experiment)


We climbed aboard and headed off through the marshes leaving a track that will be there for at least two years. Although it was foggy, the mosquitoes seemed to know where we were and followed us along. We could hear birds but not see them. Our assignment for the day was to find yellow rail; a bird usually quite plentiful in the area. We saw just two but the warden noted that there had been a lot of birds before they burned the marsh.


*burning the marsh seems like an odd thing to do but the grass and vegetation gets really thick and can burn underneath the top surface. The fire control folks have flappers that they use to beat out the flames. The flappers are about a foot wide and 18 inches long and mounted on a pole. They’re made of a thick rubberized material and frequently at the end of a long day of fire fighting—even the controlled burns can run away—are covered with huge blistery bumps from the heat. Essentially it is like a peat bog and can burn for weeks and months.


After we had watched some snow geese circling us overhead, we got mired in some gumbo. Our driver tried valiantly to get us out—we had gotten stuck earlier but he had managed to free us. This time he was not successful and he had to call for the marsh-master to come to our aid. This vehicle is on aluminum tracks—and it also got stuck. Our driver got the marsh-master unstuck, off-loaded us, took us to dry ground—none of us wanted to wade through the marsh to get to the road, returned to the marsh buggy, got it unstuck and then picked us up and took us back to the entrance.


I’m not sure we were all that much help but we might have made a small dent in the mosquito population. Too bad we weren’t counting them!


More photos including some short videos of the marsh are on smugmug at


Hurricane Ike and the beach

sea-rim-fenceTwo days ago we drove down to the beach.


Sea Rim Park and the McFadden beach have long been favorites of mine particularly in the winter time. The beach always is so inviting despite the weather, mostly because we usually have it to ourselves. I love to watch the birds run across the sand; pick up sea glass, look at the flowers blooming in the dunes, walk down to the huge beach sock intended to stop erosion. But this time was different.


There was no-one on the beach and a few birds scurried across the sand but the entire topography had changed. There were no more dunes. We could see the ocean from much of the road but no longer could we access McFadden Beach. Sea Rim Park was just a skeleton. Marsh grass was caught in all the fences and in the trees.


One pull-out spot was a favorite for bird-watchers—and a very nice haven for lots of biting insects. It was marked closed—mostly because the boardwalks which permitted travel through the marshy areas were piled in huge jumble midway through the area.  This area is several miles from the ocean and used to be cattle ranch land. But marsh grass was caught in the trees at least four feet above my husband’s fingertips.

Sabine Pass was so sad. Some cleanup had occurred with people now living in campers or tents on the slabs that had been their homes. Nearly every building had a huge pile of debris in front while there were no windows in the houses, and clearly no-one was living in those dilapidate structures. The devastation after Rita looked like someone had driven a bull-dozer around randomly but this was far worse.


Our next stop was the Port Arthur Yacht club. Boats were piled helter-skelter on the banks of the InterCoastal Waterway; huge holes were in many, while a dozen or so had been placed back in the few slips that were still functional. The top of the covered boatyard was piled along the docks several hundred yards away. The fancy houses that faced the marina were accessed by extension ladders while plywood covered their windows.


It’s been over two months since Ike hit—recovery comes slow and we’ve learned to measure it in years rather than weeks.


Compare the beach photos of April 08


with this week’s photos



Hurricane Ike Two Weeks and Three Days

Hurricane Ike two weeks and three days


After thinking a bit more about all of this the most remarkable thing was auditory.


·        Locomotive roar of the tornado passing overhead

·        Doors and windows rattling in the wind

·        The neighbors green house glass breaking

·        The tin on another neighbor’s house rattling as it was being torn off

·        Horizontal rain and wind

·        A single bird chirping in between bands of wind

·        Generators running

·        Chain saws running intermittently during the day

·        Helicopters and planes overhead assessing the damage

·        No radios or televisions or music systems

·        No phone

·        The silence of curfew—no cars, no hum of street lamps, no voices.




This is a photo of my fence. The wind rocked the posts back and forth so that there is over eight inches of excursion. I watched the neighbor’s fence undulating until it finally collapsed. It was an interesting variation of ‘the wave’ at sporting events.


Yes, that is a large hunk of concrete around the post. Each post has been propped up with a T-post until I can find a fence-mender and the insurance adjustor visits.

Hurricane Ike two weeks and two days later

Today I am enjoying a cup of freshly brewed coffee in my living room while reading my email. Yesterday I cleared out brush in my yard and mowed the lawn at the shop. We enjoyed a meal of rice and crawfish tail stir fried with fresh celery and onion. Our bed was made with nicely laundered and dried sheets. And later this morning, we will go to visit one of my husband’s brothers in northern East Texas. I have a few days off, a welcome respite from the pace of the past two weeks. Life for me is sort of normal.


I still have the insurance adjustor to deal with as do my two sons. I still have to find someone to repair the roof—a daunting task with a historic district house and a tile roof. The streets are lined with piles of tree limbs and vegetation and privacy fences are propped up. Blue roofs have appeared again; some of them covering the Rita damage. Crews are still out with bucket trucks repairing and replacing phone lines and street lights. There are still a few traffic signals that are non-functional requiring a four way stop.


It doesn’t seem as bad this time—although small towns near me are totally devastated. Perhaps it is because the roof damage is on the back of the house—I cannot see it when I drive into my driveway. Perhaps it is because I’ve done it before and know what to expect. Or perhaps it is because my losses seem miniscule in comparison to others.


My dear husband suggested I do a series of pieces based on Hurricane Ike. I’ve put together a list and hopefully can begin working this next week—in between more cleanup and regular life. I won’t disclose here my list of images but I thought I might include a listing of impressions.


·        the incredible business-like attitude of the local media and weather forecasters at the Television stations during the days preceding Ike.

·        Horizontal rain and wind so strong I could not open my front door.

·        Generators for the St. E hospital were on two 18 wheelers and used a tanker truck as their fuel tank.

·        The overall good humor of the hospital staff as they worked 14 to 18 hour shifts; sleeping in makeshift dormitories; showering in cold water while trying to convince them-selves it was warm.

·        The unrealistic requests for medical services.( a MRI for three year old shoulder pain in  a hospital that had no CAT scan—it got wet and had to be dried out!)

·        Truck loads of transformers.

·        Rows of porta-potties and washer-driers for the power workers.

·        The good humor of the power workers who patiently put the electrical system back together.

·        The tap water was salty—not gator-ade salty but gargle with salt water- salty

·        A lone snowy egret standing on the sidewalk of Seventh Street looking totally confused and lost.

Hurricane Ike one week later

Yesterday was hectic. I worked in Bellville but my relief did not arrive until almost noon. I felt panicky as I had to find a post office and I hoped they were not closing at noon. Then I had to drive to Houston, pick up a motorcycle at my son’s house, and get back to Beaumont in time to be trained in the computer system and work a twelve hour shift. I had hoped for a nap but the hospital was full and I had to vacate my room for the surgery patient and wait for my relief. Some people might be able to sleep at will but I am not one of them and definitely not during daylight hours. The rest of the world seems oblivious to the facts that we have no mail and no post office and no bank and that major traffic intersections—not just one but many are now four way stops and time must be allowed to wait in line for groceries or gas—if there is any—and that curfew is strictly enforced.


Although I didn’t make the computer training session, I was on time for work. Fortunately, the curfew was still in effect and the number of patients was not what they expected for a Friday night. I stayed until about ten with only one patient waiting to be seen and two physicians and one nurse practitioner. Tomorrow I am in Rusk covering for a physician who is in the hospital himself.


So today was a lazy day. We were fortunate to get power back yesterday although most of our neighborhood is still dark. I walked around and found crews everywhere with their trucks. This group is from Reed City Michigan. They well remember the repairs from Rita and are grateful for the twenty degree cooler weather and the relative paucity of mosquitoes.


Close to our house is the McFadden-Ward Museum. This was the home of the McFaddens who made their money in oil and cattle. There are two lovely huge oak trees which were supposedly brought back from Goliad by the original Mr. McFadden. Sadly one of them was topped over by the wind and crews were working to put dirt under the root ball, stabilize it and I’m assuming they will put it upright. The leaves seemed to be wilting so I am afraid their efforts will not be successful.


Interestingly enough, one of the workers remembered me from the past when I used to walk the dogs around the neighborhood. He lived in one of the apartments and was evicted after Rita so the owner could collect money from Housing Project-FEMA people—at a much higher rate. He now has his own place in Vidor and really enjoys it as it is much quieter than the apartment complex.


After a quick lunch we headed out to the shop. We wanted to return the generator to the container where it is not as likely to be stolen and do a bit more cleanup. One of the trees had some limbs that needed cutting and there was still more cleanup in the shed. I managed to put my grandmother’s treadle sewing machine upright—the shelves were knocked off; and remove the glass and paint that had broken and spilled over my lawn tractor. We also put the side of the shed back in place—we need to get another stud and replace the broken one and deal with the roof on the main house.


We stopped at Krogers and found lots of food; bananas, apples, pears, grapes, milk, and orange juice, some fresh tomatoes and a head of lettuce and the usual dried/canned goods.  We got the fixings for a nice salad to accompany steak. It was a nice meal—and now I’m getting ready for work tomorrow.


And today we got mail.

Hurricane Ike and more cleanup

The past few days have been a blur. I worked two ten hour shifts at St. Elizabeth, one as the sole provider. There were never fewer than fifteen charts waiting to be seen. So many people, and so many inappropriate visits, it is overwhelming. I struggle with what to think about the people who have so many medical problems but yet they stayed or they came back despite the mandatory evacuation. It is easy to blame them for what anyone with half a brain would think simple common sense. It is hard not to be angry at the complaining and the begging for narcotics—and then there’s the people who let their children walk barefoot through the water—and the people who bring a car-load of children back despite no power or water or fuel or medical services—and the people who come in requesting MRI’s when the hospital is struggling to do just plain xrays.


The hospital did its best to make life pleasant—one night they served cherry cobbler and another night Ice-Cream Sundaes. Unfortunately, my digestive system was unhappy and I wasn’t able to enjoy it. The weather has been cool and so I’ve been doing some of the outside cleanup before going to the hospital. Our water tastes like ocean water because it is and we’re supposed to conserve it. We do have hot water but I feel a bit guilty about taking a nice hot shower each day since the folks staying at the hospital don’t have that luxury.


Glen retrieved the generator and hooked up the refrigerator and freezer; the only thing in the chest freezer that thawed was some Zummo’s sausage. There wasn’t that much in the refrigerator except for milk and orange juice. We had Italian sausage and sauerkraut for supper last night with the last of the wine—it was called ‘Goats Do Roam’ and it really did taste like those goats had roamed through the wine. It has been a long time since I cooked much of anything and it was a challenge to figure out to cook only on the gas cook-top.


We went out to the shop and started to clean up in the shed. It is a mess. The wind blew it against the stump near the one side of building and pushed it toward the shop knocking off the water access outside. I picked up some things; it’s about half done but all I truly did was just put things in boxes; none of it sorted. I dread the project of sorting all my dye/surface design tools and supplies.


The inside of the shop was wet on the back wall; there were big dents in the carpet where the water dripped through the wall. The floor is warped and uneven but not nearly as dramatic as after Rita. And of course, the paint is peeling off the wall. But all my sewing machines and fabric seem to be dry and unharmed.


Today I am in Bellville and things have not been too bad today. It was hard getting up by candlelight and boiling water to make French Press coffee. Somehow I agreed to work again tomorrow night at St. E and then on Sunday in Rusk. I just hope I can manage this workload.



Hurricane Ike Working at the Hospital



I walked to the hospital this afternoon as I could see a lot of trees and power lines down. The ER had been moved to the second floor and chaos reigned. There were so many people, many of whom wanted refills of medications and expected a two week supply of their chronic pain medications. Some people had been injured, a few doing foolish things, others performing their jobs. It is amazing how many people did not leave and the resiliency of those folks working.


I put in eight hours and on the way home discovered my cell-phone was working. I had many messages all wanting me to report to work earlier—and one that I had not shown up. And then someone wanted me to work on Thursday in Trinity. I am already scheduled for Bellville on that day by which time hopefully life will have settled down a bit and travel won’t be as restricted.


Jimmy said he got power back this afternoon around 4. Of course I am still in the dark. Glen wonders why I didn’t charge up my phone in the truck—forgetting that I’ve been at work today. He decided not to get a generator but I urged him to get a chain saw as we will definitely need one to clean up the backyard.


Good things do come from hurricanes though. It becomes a time for neighbors to meet each other and extend help. I met one tonight—and got the name of a roofer who works with tiles and offered me tiles if I needed extra for my roof. Now that I have walked around the back I can see some that are missing. Interestingly, there are no trees limbs near the ones that are missing. She also heard the tornado that went overhead. I can see the pine tree down the street that is missing the top—it’s all twirled around and broken off.


I’m not as sleepy tonight as last night but with no light except for candles it’s hard to think of much to do that doesn’t require light. Tomorrow I’m scheduled to be back at St. E from 10 until 10.



Hurricane Ike cleanup

Sunday morning 

I woke this morning to flashes of lightening and the sound of rain. Normally I love the sound of rain dripping on the roof and falling through the branches and leaves. But today my crepe myrtles are naked and do not filter the rain. The little bit of cleanup I accomplished yesterday is but a drop in the bucket with the additional water added to the streets and drainage system.


The windup battery is my only companion. I must wind it every ten minutes or so and the reception is not good. I tilt it against a box of butter mints on my breakfast room table. Cell phone service is extremely marginal and I am amazed at the number of people who are managing to call in to the radio station. Many of them are out of town; and the officials are urging everyone to stay where they are.


My refrigerator is still cold inside and the freezer is still frozen. I pulled out a jug of frozen water to place in the refrigerator section. The milk and orange juice are still cold and I had my usual cereal with banana for breakfast. Last night I treated myself to a huge bacon and lettuce sandwich with a glass of red wine. Although peanut butter sandwiches are quick and easy, there’s something about a hot meal that feels comforting.


I still have not ventured out to see what happened to my shop. I am trying to console myself with that it is only stuff. I have no insurance on it—it was just something I could not afford with the medical bills in the past year.


My three sons are all okay; the youngest one thinks his house flooded but wasn’t able to get close enough to really see. He did lose his garage roof and fences and trees. Fortunately he is fully insured but there are some things that are not replaceable.


Today I go to work at St. E’s. I am already worried about how I am going to get back home—if I will be out after curfew. And then tomorrow—I am supposed to be at work in Trinity—which means leaving before curfew and through some unfamiliar roads.


This morning I opened up a box of lettered stamps and walnut ink I had bought several months ago and stamped all over some postcards I water-colored last night. The Nijii waterbrushes get rave reviews from a lot of people but I find them a challenge. So I decided to practice without expectation of anything wonderful. The smaller pointed brush is easier to control. If I am home before curfew, I’ll try them again but this time I think I’ll wet the cards first before painting.


Now to get ready for work.




Hurricane Ike

Sept 13, 2008

1:15 PM


My crepe myrtles are now naked. All their leaves are on the ground and on the street. Yesterday they were blooming; today it looks like mid-winter. Several have a few trunks broken off; and two are laying flat on the ground. There are twigs and branches everywhere.


The back fence is partially down and the new fence we installed last year is wobbling in the twenty or thirty mile gusts of wind. And there are several roof tiles missing. I now feel overwhelmed at the amount of cleanup that will be required. Repairing the roof will be a major undertaking as few roofers will want to come out for a half day’s work.


Telephone service is extremely limited; I’ve not talked to youngest son but heard through middle son that he is okay but lost his garage roof and fences and trees. He wasn’t able to check on flooding but thinks it might have. Middle son also had some damage to house; oldest son is probably in middle of worst of storm now.


People are already out driving around but there are power lines down and some streets are impassible due to downed trees. There is no hope of getting power today; and already my neighbor has started up his generator. I heard that damage in China is bad and I’m trying to prepare myself mentally for finding the shop totally flattened.


It’s just stuff, after all.