The Calm Before

Eight days ago, I watched news accounts of how a massive hurricane named Ike ravaged the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The storm ate those islands. Literally ate them. It left devastation, death and misery in its wake and somehow, even then—as it churned 19-hundred miles away from Houston, I knew it had us in its cross hairs.

How? I don’t know. I’m not psychic. I don’t possess any special gifts, just gut feelings and this one was unflinching; damned near palpable.

Apparently, I wasn’t alone in my thinking.

Even though the storm was more than 600 miles away, I gassed up and got water and other essential items Tuesday night. At the grocery store, I pushed my cart up and down uncrowded and well-stocked aisles and I’d pass the occasional shoppers, who like me, probably had the same feeling I had. I knew who they were because they shopped in pairs and had this determined look on their faces–not fear, but serious concern. When shopping before an impending disaster, you do so with much determination. Captain Crunch isn’t on your mind; neither is the amount of Riboflavin in Wheat Thins–survival is.

I heard them pose questions to each other in hushed tones, “Do we have enough batteries?”

“You get matches and I’ll get water. How much should I get?”

“If we have to get canned goods, please don’t get any Dinty Moore stew! I hate that shit!”

Ordinarily, that would’ve made me laugh. I’m decidedly not a Dinty Moore fan either, but that night, it didn’t matter.

The next morning, the forecasters had Ike heading for the lower Texas Gulf Coast. I remember thinking, “Oh great!! Geraldo Rivera and his Camera Crew of Doom will be arriving in Corpus Christi!!”

I don’t like Geraldo. Where ever that self professed bad news junkie goes, the situation can’t be good.   He’s a harbinger of ugly to come.  Still, I got the feeling that Fox News should hold off on making Geraldo’s flight reservations. He’d only be wasting his time in Corpus; he should be heading north–not that I wanted Geraldo in Houston. Talk about hubris!

I still felt certain that Ike was coming to Houston.

By Wednesday afternoon, mandatory reservations were ordered for low lying areas in and around Corpus Christi.

I still couldn’t shake the feeling that this was unnecessary and I told my co-workers as much. They laughed at me; accused me of being a reactionary and unnecessarily nervous. I had one woman defiantly tell me that Ike WAS NOT coming to Houston.

I became extremely frustrated by the cavalier attitude that permeated the radio station. They wouldn’t listen to me and really, why should they? I couldn’t make them evacuate 72 hours out of Ike’s making landfall based on a hunch.

But I knew in my gut what I was feeling wasn’t a hunch.

It was so strong and carried with it so much urgency that I went home; packed what I could, crammed my Calico, Charlotte in her carrier and at 7:48 pm took one last look at everything I owned; shut the door, locked it and headed west–to the Texas Hill Country, some 260 miles inland from Houston.

I assure you, it wasn’t an easy decision to make. But I did it, like countless other people who live along the Gulf or Atlantic coasts have done, you turn your back on everything you own; all you have; all you’ve worked for. You leave because you know you can’t stay, yet you have no idea if you’ll have any of it if you return.

If you even can return.

Uncertainty is evil.

So, here I sit at my sister’s desk and I cannot quell my fear. You see, I’m a native Texan–I grew up in a small town 65 miles due west of Port Aransas, right on the Gulf of Mexico. I survived hurricanes Carla, Beulah and Celia. I covered Hurricane Rita.

But this storm is different; it’s always felt different. I can’t shake this feeling. And then I watch The Weather Channel and I see that Galveston is already flooding and huge waves are crashing over it’s legendary Seawall which is 17 feet in height. Forecasters say a 20 to 25 foot storm surge is possible and combine that with the distinct possibility of 30 to 35 feet tall? We’re talking a wall of water almost 60 feet tall! The tsunami waves which pummeled Malaysia weren’t that all.

My God, how bad is it going to be when Ike makes landfall, some 13 hours away as I type this?

And what about Houston, which lies less than 50 miles from Galveston? I’m incredibly uneasy about its impact on the nation’s fourth largest city. We’re talking a population of right at six million people in the Greater Houston area, not to mention it’s the hub of the petrochemical industry for North America and beyond. The Port of Houston is one of the largest in the world, NASA’s Johnson Space Center is here and then, there’s the world-famous Texas Medical Center which is home to the renown M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, where kings and queens, celebs, sheiks and imperators from around globe come for treatment.

In addition to that, I worry about menacing problems that exist in the aftermath–the lack of any semblance of infrastructure, lawless anarchy and incredible loss—the kind that runs the gamut. These are problems that are directly and indirectly associated with fierce winds, heavy rain and a possibly mammoth storm surge that forecaster’s say we mere mortals may be completely incapable of handling.

Thursday night, some talking head with FEMA and the National Weather Service warned people who live in the outer banks of Galveston and the immediate area (Houston lies 45 miles inland, by the way) that if they lived in a one to two story dwelling and chose to stay to ride out the storm, they’d be facing “certain death”.

My God!! I have never in my entire life, heard any government official say that.

Ever.

I can’t even begin to tell you how that made me feel. My heart sank.

But as frightening and ominous as that was; nothing sent shivers up my spine in a foreboding quiver than the news I received a short time later.

A friend called to tell me that he’d heard Geraldo Rivera had just arrived in Houston.

God help us all.

Seriously..

God help us all.

.

17 comments

  1. I’m like you LK, we started stocking up at the begining of last week. My sister (the youngest of my family) has felt that this storm is different! So, we are digging in here in Magnolia – Waller and Hockley area! We hope nothing will hurt our horses and donkeys! We do not have a working horse trailer right now. But, we have enough thickness of the woods and high enough from the water. We are praying that God will put his mighty hand around us and keep us safe.

  2. Stay safe sweetie and check in to the internets often so we all know you’re ok.

    I lived in Houston for a spell, right after college, when I thought I wanted to see the world. I know after about an hour’s steady rain, there is no place for the rain to run off. Batten the hatches!

    You and all of So. Texas are in my prayers!

  3. My prayers are for you and yours from this point ON. I’m so glad you got 260 miles away and are with family.

  4. My thoughts and prayers, darlin’. My (late) brother and my parents who live in Charleston, SC were begged by yours truly to haul ass out of town. (I used to live in south Florida) But, as my dad and brother were both pysicians, they refused to leave. I agree with you–i “knew” a week before it even came close to C’ton that it would come ashore (just like Ike–at full moon and high tide) at Isle of Palms outside Charleston. You know how that shit went down. Anyway, ten days later they showed up at my house in Indianapolis. Mother was still hysterical; however, since she’s been psycotic [read: fucking nut job] it was difficult to tell. I’ll bring my blowtorch to Our Lady of the Perpetual Mink (my affluent church which, when they ask for collections for the poor, my daughters would always say, “Well, geez: that’s US!”) and light every votive candle they have. I will then say Kaddish; get my prayer rug out and bow to Mecca, and sacrifice a goat in my backyard for you and your loved ones safety. That ought to cover all the bases. But shit! I left that damn goat tethered outside and I am at work. Fuck! No way that he’ll still be there when i get home cause of all my Mexican neighbors. And if the Mexicans don’t get him, than the Indians will.
    Be safe–the World needs you, girl!!
    Nancy

  5. Fingers crossed for everyone in Ike’s path. As long as you’re in the Hill Country, why don’t give me a buzz in Austin? I’ll treat you to a beer. We can even drink to Geraldo, the Harbinger of Death.

  6. My best friend is down there…she is a doctor and her husband is a cop, so neither of them can leave. They’re about 10 miles south of Houston. I’ve been calling her all day and I know it’s only a matter of time before the phones go crazy and crash out. Glad you got out of there. I’m worried for the people who decided to stay behind in Galveston. It’s not looking good.

  7. No, it’s not. It’s looked like the storm was on shore hours before it ever even came close to making landfall.

    It could be incredibly tragic before Galveston and the upper SE texas Gulf Coast even start to feel the brunt of it.

    My God.

    LK

  8. You were so right to listen to your gut, Laurie. I’ve just been looking at the pictures of Houston….I sincerely hope your home is still safe, because from what I saw, things aren’t looking good.
    God bless, and keep safe.

  9. Hoping you’re okay in Houston? I remember those hurricanes growing up in Texas also! I remember Celia as my grandmother talked about it many times and how awful it was.

    Hope everyone is getting their lives back together after this horrible storm. We’ve felt some of the effects today here in Kentucky with horrible winds from the storm.

  10. Laurie left my house around 8:30 this morning. I checked in on her enroute and she said traffic returning to Houston on IH 10 was getting ugly. Luckily, she gassed up her car before she got into much heavier stuff. Her apartment complex didn’t sustain much damage-a couple of broken windows, tiles off the roof and part of a fence is down. She’s got electricity but water pressure is low. Her station is almost up and running and she had to report there this morning.

    Charlotte, her cat, is definitely going to be a basket case.

  11. Hi Laurie,

    Just wanted to let you know we’ve been thinking of you here in Nova Scotia and hope all is well! Glad to hear your home is relatively intact. Travel safe going home!

  12. Hi, LK I’m glad you are OK! My family and my horses came thru this with out any injuries, YEA!!!! God’s mighty hand did surround us because, a torando went by us and we only had 2 trees down! So, prayers do work! God Bless you LK and your family and friends!

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