At the time of hurricane Ike, I was working as the maintenance man at an assisted-living facility here in my hometown, located approximately 120 miles to the north and northeast of Galveston, TX. On the night of Sept.12, we had pretty well made every provision we could have possibly made for the safety and benefit of the residents. The Administrator of the facility, along with key staff, kitchen personnel, and myself, decided to stay at the facility, to be of what help we could to the residents in case of the worst.
This was amazing to me, because I have no family of my own making, so it was easy for me to stay, but many of these people elected to stay with the elderly residents at the facility, rather than their own families, most of whom had evacuated or had made provisions of their own. It was a measure of dedication which would become even more amazing in the hours after the storm.
We had gotten a vacant room at the facility, and one of the office personnel brought in three full-size mattresses, and we basically set up camp in this empty apartment. We had plenty of food
(non-perishables), bottled water, flashlights, lanterns, radios, and even a battery-powered little television set, which proved to be of no good use at all, since after the storm hit, the local TV station was thoroughly off-air. We dubbed our little room as "storm central", something which was important, because it was to be our primary meeting place in the event of loss of communications. And, that's eventually exactly what happened!
Prior to the arrival of old Ike, I kept a close watch on the sky, venturing outdoors and walking the property, reporting back to the administrator, (who was busy with residents), what was happening. I will never forget the eeriness of that night. As this thing began to move in, the wind shifted, and the clouds were so low, they looked like they were brushing the treetops, moving rapidly from east to west. That is the whole wrong direction for these parts, but, it was evident that something very bad was about to happen.
About 4:30 on the morning of 13 September, 2008, it began to rain. I mean, it began to RAIN!
It was a tropical deluge, to say the least. We had gone around the outside of the buildings the day before, and had tried to seal everything up as best we could. Ha! Forget about it, Poppie! There was no seal uncompromised by Ike. Then, the wind hit.
And I say hit, because it hit suddenly, like a wall of wind, just BLAM!
Now, the water wasn't just welling up through the sides of the walls into the buildings, it was being blown in through every crack and crevice. Mist was blowing in through the sides of the north doors, as we got hammered with 91 mph winds. I went to the south exit of the south building, opened the door, and took a peek outside. The building offered much shelter against the wind and rain, but just beyond the perimeter of the building, the trees were bowing down to the forces of nature. I saw 100 ft.pine trees bent at almost a 90 degree angle! A good many of them snapped, and a good many of them came right out of the ground. There was all manner of debris flying through the air, but you couldn't hear a damn thing outside, because of the rushing wind and the loudness of the rain. It was an awesome spectacle.
At approximately 6:30 am, all electrical power went out.
We all went into action at that point, walking the buildings and checking up on the residents, making sure they had some type of light, or were at least well-suited to get by until the sun came back up. These old folks were remarkably calm during all of this, it was so cool. Nobody panicked, they were just as polite and cordial as if nothing was happening. I love old folks - it takes more than a little hurricane to rattle them! I was freaking out, myself.
Anyway, at 7:00 am, my duties suddenly changed from maintenance man to kitchen worker. The owner of this facility had provided us with 12-volt tractor lights and marine batteries, and so we began to make breakfast for the residents. We worked at a feverish pace, got all the residents served, and then sat down to have some breakfast of our own.
The wind kept up until approximately 11:00 am, then the eye passed over us, and we got a temporary break. I jumped in my truck and like a damn fool, headed to my apartment to see what damage had been done. Trees were down, and power lines were down everywhere, and so I had to take the really, really long route to get to my place, but I discovered that it had survived just fine, and so now, I began to race back to work.
I made it about halfway back, then the wind shifted west-to east, and commenced to hammer me on the road, although the gusts weren't quite as strong, but the rain was just as heavy. For about the next 4 hours, we got the exquisite privilege of enduring the backside of Ike. 60-70 mph winds! I wondered if this was ever going to end. But, the storm part of it was pretty cool, it's the aftermath that sucked.
We got power back at the assisted-living facility about 39 hours later, but I did not get power back at my place for 6 days. 96% of this town was in the dark, with the exception of our little college, that has a big generator, and thanks to the planning of the city council, the water-pumping facilities never lost power. I had to take cold showers, but mister, let me tell ya - that cold shower was a welcome relief! If we had lost our public supply of running water, as most of the communities around here did, we would have been in hell.
There was a police curfew, and you would be pulled over if out after 9:00 pm. Where would you go anyway, all the stores were closed. There were no supplies. I want you to understand what this was like. Where you gonna go? Nothing out there...
If you didn't get your supplies before the storm, you'll certainly be wishing by now that you had.
The complete darkness of a total power blackout is something I wish to never experience again. It was, in this case not so much the storm, but the days afterward that proved to be difficult to deal with. I will never ride out another hurricane. I see another one of them coming at me, I'm heading to Lubbock, or Del Rio, or Topeka if necessary
I'm not doing any more hurricanes!