It’s hard to believe that one week and a day have passed since Hurricane Ike rudely elbowed his way into our lives. I hated that storm as much as I thought I would, but we dug down deep and revived the Texas pioneer spirit that lay deep within our being to simply…endure. And endure we did, sleeping uncomfortably in the night heat, dragging and cutting tree limbs and attempting to recover from the stupor and shock caused by H-IKE. We are not used to this abuse and as tough as we would like to see ourselves, in many ways we failed miserably.
Most were very fortunate damage-wise, but we are also very spoiled in our modern ways, so any change in the way we normally do things, is an inconvenience and a lot of hard work to boot, especially when you consider cleaning up the tree damage. Here it is a week after the trees fell and my fingers are almost too sore to type and there is still work to do.
Frankly, we are sick of all this destruction and drama and want to forget it and move on, but as someone said, we are amongst the fortunate who still have a relatively unscathed house to go home to. Not so, our brothers and sisters who have lost everything. Bolívar Peninsula, Smith Point, Jamaica Beach, Anahuac, Galveston and Baytonians are living in temporary shelters until only God knows when and here I am typing away in my air conditioned study like the storm never happened.
We are feeling a sort of survivor’s guilt as we return to our normal routine and it should be satisfying, but it’s not an altogether good feeling. Normally sequestered away in our comfortable homes, the big blow drove us out into the streets and into close proximity with neighbors we commonly ignore. This was therapeutic, as we discovered most everyone was more than ready to open their arms in generosity and give freely. We made new friends and healed old wounds; a silver lining in a black cloud.
Neighborly interaction was surely a welcome change in many ways and Baytown got our Neighbors Night Out, early. Unfortunately for some, there is no useable dwelling to return to, so for these folks I ask, what can we do to make life easier for you? Forget Katrina - Baytown and surrounding areas I ask what do you need from us survivors? We are caregivers and we want to help.
Looking back at my frame house on Ashby Street and Hurricane Alicia in 1983, I was much better prepared for this newer spawn from the pits of Hell, but still made a lot of mistakes and miscalculations on preparedness. The weather and news people did their part to the letter T, but I really wasn’t listening. Don’t get me wrong, I watched everything they had to offer, but if I would have really listened, I would have had a bona fide Hurricane kit, like I was told repeatedly to have on-hand and I… didn’t.
We did draw multiple containers of water, so the twelve hour loss of water pressure did not inconvenience us. We own a gas stove also, which the electrical loss did not effect. We ran out of paper towels quite quickly and of course ice, which only a generator would have helped. Scented candles make a person nauseous after four hours – make a note for the future.
I own a generator now. I should have saved every spare dime and had one before I needed it, but like I said – I wasn’t really listening. If it hadn’t been for the cold front, I think there would have been a Looney wagon chock full of Baytonians headed for Rusk, maybe a hundred wagons.
We were told to shelter in place and hunker down. Stay off the streets and obey the curfew and we did for the most part. Cell phone communication was nil until Monday and then spotty, so our only communicative link came from our battery powered radio and 740AM-KTRH. Baytown was rarely mentioned and then usually by a desperate call-in listener wondering what we Baytonians were supposed to do for aid. We wondered also and I realized for all the hurricane preparedness our city leaders went through, the one item we were short of was radio communication for this immediate area.
We need an emergency radio frequency Baytonians can tune into to find out what is available and where to go for us specifically. Years ago any disaster area had a Civil Defense radio transmission vehicle with loud speakers and since folks primarily got their instruction via the radio, it was common practice to tune into their emergency radio station for instructions. But we have the Internet, cell phones, television and technology – right? Wrong. Without electrical power, we are immediately thrown back to the days of 1920’s America, boiling water on our hibachis, cooking meat on a stick and trying to figure out how to make coffee like one of the Sacketts.
I have no doubt our city leaders were busy as a one-eyed cat watching nine rat holes, but I have no evidence. They were as silent to me as a Baytonian - as my no-signal television. I give them every benefit of doubt though and only pray that we add a mobile radio station and instructions to our emergency response plan.
If I could make one major change in the way electricity is supplied to the end user in this town, it would be to move all power lines underground. This would avert a multitude of future storm related outages and beautify our area in one fell swoop. Case closed.
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