Thursday, September 18, 2008

Yikes Ike: A journey to the scene of the crime

I find myself back in my old Southeast Texas home this week, helping friends and strangers return some semblance of normalcy to lives jumbled by Hurricane Ike, the third hurricane to hit here in the past four seasons.

From the joy of my daughter's wedding in Utah last weekend to the devastation of the Gulf Coast ... it feels a little like shipping out to war. I came because ... well, because I couldn't stay at home and just watch.

Last night, I helped unload two Red Cross 18-wheelers full of 12,000 gallons of bottled water. Today, we'll clamber on a few ruined roofs to begin the process of "drying in" -- sealing the holes temporarily against the humid, rainy weather. The air is already starting to stink of rotten food, tossed out of powerless, dank refrigerators and freezers. Reliefs crews are as thick as the mosquitoes. The wreckage is somewhat less than we saw three years ago with Rita, but if a tree sliced through your home -- as it did in the house next door to where I am staying -- then Rita was literally just a breeze compared to Ike.

Most evacuees haven't yet returned to this purgatory. It's not exactly a ghost town, but neither is it a vibrant place. An 8 p.m. curfew is still enforced, although scattered reports of looting are circulating. Maybe true, maybe not. Stores are opening in dribs and drabs, but usually only for a few hours. The days and nights are cool, thank God, making working and sleeping a little easier.

There is a resignation here. To storms. To disappointment. To the Sissyphean tasks of patching up a landscape and lives that will likely be wracked again in a month, a season, a year or a lifetime. The second most common thing you hear here is: "That's what insurance is for."

The first most common is actually a sign of hope: "Is everybody OK at your house?"


SingingSkies said...

Thanks for coming to help, Ron!

I'm still in exile in Duncanville. This time around, my mom, who lives in Houston, is also without power. Since she's riding back with me and has some heart difficulties, I'm not about to head back until there's power on at either of our homes.

On the good news front, my "tree magnet" of a house ended up treeless this time. At least from a neighbor's exterior view, there's not any visible damage.

Fingers crossed that power comes back quickly and I can get back home.

Barbara said...

Up here, North of Silsbee, we faired much better with Ike than we did with Rita. My heart goes out to the folks who don't know how to live like camping. Don't even know how to camp like camping. Those are the ones who suffer the most after the storms and before power returns.

Now fess came back just because you love us and you care!

Anne said...

It's agonising to be a thousand miles away from Beaumont and know what my family is going through. No power as of 30 minutes ago. My dad, Bob, is 85 and this crap is getting old for him. His 15 year old dog agrees, but as long as they are together, it's all copacetic for her.
My Sis, Julia, is waiting for a liver transplant and the phones don't work if they were to call her to get there for the procedure.
I'm here in Iowa, and am glued to the computer hour after hour, moaning and crying. Their apartment isn't damaged but no power. How much more can people stand of this?

Jill said...

I fretted for over a week because I could not see what others were seeing. No power, no tv...did have water. When my power came on all I could think was "Now what?"

Love, Rita said...

Here in West Central LA, we dodged a bullet named Ike, didn't we? It quite literally looped all the way around Beauregard Parish.

It really pounded Porter, TX, where my dad and brother live, but miraculously their MOBILE HOME sustained no damage. Trees that fell missed their home and only damaged one of their three sheds.

I sure am glad all of you made it through the storm. Take care.

Jana said...

Good luck getting your lives back together all of you.
Congrats to Ron and his daughter (and the new husband) on the wedding last weekend, how time flies. Is son-in-law a journalist or a photographer?