29 September 2008


Just a few more observations from Ike. We got our power back last Monday night after 10+ days but there are still folks in the area waiting for the lights to come back on (16 days and counting). In spite of the massive effort by the utility company (CenterPoint) and all of the extra crews they brought in from all over the country, it has been a monumental task/effort. Crews working 16+ hour days without a break to restore power to 2.4 million customer (the number varies depending upon what news you are listening to). I am grateful for their efforts, but, honestly, at day 10, I was not the most patient person. I tried to play Boy Scout and tough it out by using daylight for most activities, using flashlights sparingly, cooking outdoors on the grill and keeping our food in ice chests. It's interesting to note what you can truely live without with push comes to shove.

With no power, there was no TV, radio, internet. Missed keeping up with the travails of my favorite bloggers and keeping up with the news, but we read a lot and played board games. Spent a lot of time outdoors and went to bed early. At least the weather was unseasonably cooler (for this area) and we could open our windows at night. Was great to keep the house cooler, but the constant droning of generators in the neighborhood made it sound like a construction site. I was hoping to hold out until we had power, but a friend spotted our lack of lights and offered up their generator for our refrigerator and some lights (they had power back on after only 4 days).

And that brings me to today's point. While we were not really hurting for food and supplies, we did go through ice like, well, ice. Saturday, my neighbor told me the city was handing out ice & water up at city hall and I headed up for a bag or two. Very great bunch of volunteers handing out several bags of ice, cases of water, and MREs (Meals, ReEady to Eat). Was not really looking for the food, but they were so anxious to help out and would not take no for an answer. So I wound up with a couple of meals to try consume. Now, just to give you some background intel, in one of my former lives, I was an officer in the US Army stationed in West Germany in the early 80's. Spend quite a few months in the field and ate more than my fair share of c-rations (some of which were pretty ugly), so the prospect of eating MREs did not really scare me off and I wanted to taste what uncle Sam had created for the military. So, my bride and I sat down to a candle lit dinner over a pair of MREs. She took the BBQ pork ribs and I settled on the grilled chicken dinner. Give my expectations with c-rats, I was pleasantly surprise over the quality and taste of the meals. They were actually quite edible (better than your average fast food venue) and showed some imagination.

To heat the meals is an interesting experiment. You have a heating bag that you open and then add about 2 tbs of water to a heating element/pack. You then slide in the entree and seal up the bag and let it warm up for 2 minutes. BTW - when the bag cautions you about being hot, take it as gospel. Being a pessimist, I expressed some disbelief on how this little bit of water in a bag would heat up the meal and promptly scalded the hell out of my fingers. The meal had plenty of food to satisfy most appetites and we were not having to gag it down. Of course, most troops are highly innovative and will find ways to supplement the meals and even get creative with the menus. You'd be surprised on what you can concoct in the field given the right motivation.

All in all, MREs weren't too bad. Wish I had them when I was a tanker.

24 September 2008


Still enjoying being back on the grid. Was weird/interesting having no electricity for that long and not doing your normal routines. Many times I would walk into a room and flip the light switch expecting something. No TV, no Internet, none of them "modern luxuries" like using a washer & dryer. Had to fix our meals on the gas grill out back. We have a gas water heater and the water was not a problem for us, so at least we had indoor plumbing and could take showers. First few days was a freezer dump as we ate up most of the contents of our freezer (steaks, chicken, deer & hog sausage, etc.) but eventually, had to throw out a good portion of the meat as it sat too long in the ice chest. You learn to eat the perishables first and save the canned goods for later. One of the good things (if you can call it good) about a hurricane is that you normally have a few days warning so you can stock up on supplies. We had adequate food on hand to survive a week or two without hardship. It is just some of the perishables (i.e. milk) that you miss after a while. I had stashed a lot of water in the freezer as a source in case our supply had problems, but that was not an issue for us. Had not anticipated being without power for so long nor having most of Houston off the grid, so I had not stockpiled enough batteries for our flashlights/radios. Got most of our news by listening to the radio in the truck. The one thing we could not keep enough of was ice. Even with three good ice chests, the ice only lasted 2 days at most. A lot of distribution points set up in the area to distribute water/ice/MREs and we had to hit them up every other day. Most stores were off line until Wednesday/Thursday so the first few days after the storm rolled through were kind of apocalyptic. Few stores or gas stations were open and if you found one that was, the line was 2 hours long. I drove by Home Depot Sunday after Ike roared through and they had a line of 100 people standing outside for supplies that were being let in one at a time (no lights in the store). With past storms in this area, we could normally count on friends & family across town if we had problems. With Ike, the outage was so widespread that you had to go as far as San Antonio or Austin (3-4 hours away) to find supplies/gas. For the most part, we stayed close to home and ventured out only in the neighborhood to conserve our gas. Checked on my trailer to see if it survived the storm and found no damage except for a water leak through the a/c unit. Most of the rest of the area around the storage yard looked like a war zone with debris and downed trees/power lines.

Lots of folk were helping each other out in the area. Neighbors sharing ice/water. Helping clear debris from yard streets. Sharing your washer/dryer with neighbors with no power. Storing food for those without power/refrigerator. In spite of all of the destruction, there were many examples of people stepping up to help in times of trouble. Gives hope to a otherwise bleak situation.

23 September 2008

Alive & kicking!

11 days without power in south Texas.

We're alive & holding on. Lots of downed tree limbs, but no damage to the hacienda.
Last time we had the lights on (without help from a generator) was Friday 09/12 just before Ike hit. Lights came on last might around 11:30 pm. We were just about to give it up yesterday and settle in for the long haul. No power and no promise of when it would come back on (down fuse on line, Centerpoint would not estimate when that would get repaired). Needless to say, we were a bit frustrated. Had borrowed generator from neighbor and was running fans/lights but was planning on going out today to get a window a/c. Glad to have power back on. Not sure which is nicer, a/c or having my morning coffee again. Even though we are lucky to have power and blessed with minimal damage, there is still ~750,000 people out there this morning still in the dark. And that does not include some of the people who have lost their houses or have had serious damage. My thoughts/heart/prayers go out to them.

Has been mass pandemonium down here. Most of Houston and the surrounding area have been without power (utility company said over 2.1 million) since the storm hit shore. No ice, no gas, long lines. Some stores are just now opening up. One of the blessings has been the weather has been unseasonably cooler (mid 50's at night) for Houston in September. Been actually nice to sleep with open window, although some windows on my house have not been opened for 6 years. Interesting to sleep at night to drone of generators running in the neighborhood. Tried to eat most of the contents of our freezer but wound up having to toss a lot of the meat after it was in the ice chest too long.

Will post some intersting tales in a day or so as we come back on line. One nice observations, it is in times of trouble that true friends & neighbors came together in the crisis and learned to share what they have.

12 September 2008

Here comes the rain

Ike is just starting to hit the island. Lots of news coverage. Reporters standing in the water telling you how bad it is. Already flooding in Galveston & Freeport.

We're sitting about 50 miles inland so the weather looks great right now. Sunny, low 80's and slight breeze. Great weather for south Texas in September. That'll change in a few hours. A lot of people have pulled out heading north. Traffic was ugly and gas in short supply but nothing like Rita a few years back.

Heading out of town

Storm surge has already started on the coast. More pictures later as it hits land (late tonight).

Galveston Island

11 September 2008

Could be ugly

Looks to be a wet & nasty weekend ahead. Our friend Ike looks to be dropping in for a visit tomorrow and we are currently in the direct path of the storm.

Most of of the coastal region has evacuated north to Austin or Dallas. My office is located next to the NASA Space Center and we closed up shop at noon today in advance of the storm. At 14 feet elevation, it won't take much of a storm surge to flood the area. My domicle is located across town outside of any of the coastal flood region, like most of west Houston, and we are not planning to evacuate the area. Planning to hunker down here and ride out the wind/rain. We've laid on plenty of food/water/beer/wine/bullets to survive the next few days.

Not my first rodeo here. We stayed put for Rita in 2005 and plan to do the same this time.

Hope all of my friends out there in south Texas remain safe & dry!

Never forget

I know that many other folks have posted better words, but I wanted to pen my own thoughts/comments.

While we go about our daily lives and prepare for the challenges ahead, take time to stop and remember the events of 7 years back and those who lost their lives. My thoughts and prayers go out for their families in this time. My prayers are also with the men & women in the military putting their lives on the line for me and my family. I've been in those boots as well and know just how much of a sacrifice one makes to serve.