Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Highs and Lows

It's Wednesday, September 24 and we finally got cable and internet back!!!! Hurray. I feel like I'm connected to the world again!! I had connectivity at work, but it's not really the same.

I still haven't had a chance to get my pictures uploaded. I'll work on that tomorrow. I'm just too worn out to do it tonight.

My diet has been absolutely awful for the last two weeks. Eating stuff from the refrigerator, especially the melting ice cream. Then whatever we could scrounge up for the grill when we didn't have power. Hot dogs later, because it was the only thing in the grocery store that wasn't canned. Oh, don't even ask me about the tuna and baked beans experiment. Bleah. Then I caught a cold and went to the drug store for some cough drops. While there, I succumbed to a horrible attack of the snackies, buying a mini package of chocolate covered Oreos, a bag of Sun Chips (Hey, they're better than potato chips right?), and more chocolate covered mints.

I got a hair cut last night that lasted really late, so Daniel was hungry and thought I'd be home sooner than I was, so to make him happy, we went out for Mexican, and I had cheese dip. I think I ate the whole bowl of it. I didn't eat much of my dinner, so it's not all bad. At least, that's what I'm telling myself.

Tonight was the final straw. We finally gave up on FEMA putting a tarp on our roof and got a contractor to do it. They were recommended by our insurance company and they actually showed up quickly. The first company I called said there were 2000 people in front of me. Ugh. The roofers also gave me a good price to take down a tree that had lost over half its crown in the storm, so after they tarped the roof, they started on the tree.

Oh, that's also the same time I noticed our neighbor's roof had a tarp on it that said FEMA. D'oh! If we'd waited one more afternoon, they probably would have gotten to our house, and I could have saved $400. Well, one more thing to bill the insurance for.

I think one more night of a bowl of ice cream might be in my immediate future, and if the doctor yells at me for gaining too much weight, I'll just blame Ike.

Pictures coming soon, I promise. Tonight, I'm catching up on my tv, and researching the availability and cost of marble pillars. They were here when we bought the house, so I don't have a freakin' clue how much they cost or where to find them. *sigh*

I need a vacation. Oh wait, it got canceled because of Ike. *double sigh*

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Road to Recovery

Short post. I still don't have internet or cable at home. I got recalled to work today to help with the damage assessment. So I'm taking a couple of minutes to update this blog.

As I mentioned to Bob earlier, we survived with only a little bit of damage. We have shingles off in several places. Three large sections on two sides, and several single shingles gone from the back of the house. I went by the Army Corp of Engineers Blue Roof site yesterday and registered to get help putting tarps up on my roof. I have a feeling it's going to be months, if not a year, before I get my roof repaired.

We had an awful lot of tree debris in our yard. We had a small tree and several large bushes in the front get blown over, but we're trying to stake them back and hope they survive. A Rose of Sharon in the side yard fell against the window, but it didn't break. We lost a huge branch that could have fallen on the roof, but fortunately, fell sideways instead. The worst was a large shade tree in the back. That tree is cursed. First year, a big windstorm blew a big branch down on our patio. This summer, lightning hit it and took out another big branch. The hurricane blew down 2 more big branches. I think at this point, it's had it. We'll work to get that tree completely gone soon.

We did a lot of cleanup the last couple days. My boss came over with a chainsaw and helped us cut up most of the downed limbs, and we pulled them to the curb. I have a massive pile of tree debris now. Last night, I raked the smaller limbs and leaves into piles to be bagged tonight.

Our big score at the grocery store yesterday was a half-gallon of milk and 2 fresh zucchini. It's very eerie to walk into a big store and see almost nothing in the produce, meat, dairy or frozen section. The couple of things in there, you're not sure you actually want to buy. Why are there only 2 containers of cottage cheese sitting on this huge stretch of empty shelf? I think I'll pass.

We're also avoiding going out to eat for a while. One, the restaurants are packed by people who don't have power yet. Two, I'm still nervous that they don't have fresh food. If I can't find any, where are they getting their food? I can eat canned stuff a few more days. It's food, even if it's not gourmet. Or even particularly good.

As I mentioned, I got recalled to work today. The center is closed until Monday, the 22nd, but there are a lot of people here walking through the buildings, looking for damage, fixing stuff. My job today was to research any waivers or changes to environmental rules for the disaster here. Found a lot of interesting stuff, and even a couple of reg changes for transportation that should help us a lot. I have a feeling I'll be working Friday, Saturday and Sunday, then on into next week. I have to cancel my trip to Virginia next week. I kind of figured that would happen. I'm a little sad, but I can always go back for MarsCon next year.

I finally found a newspaper yesterday. It's the first pictures and news I've had other than the talk radio station. The pictures are astonishing to me. Wow. They are awful along the coast. Makes me realize how lucky we were inland. Even a little bit south and east of us, they had horrible flooding. Man, I'm really missing cable and internet now. It's been 5 days, an eternity when you're used to be as wired as we are.

Got the insurance claims in. The State Farm people I talked to on Monday weren't from Texas and didn't realize we have different insurance policies here. They filed my claim under homeowners, without realizing I have a separate policy for windstorm. So Wednesday, they called back and denied the claim. Needless to say, we were a little upset, especially since I was staring at my windstorm policy at the time. I called my agent and he said that was a common problem, but they were fixing it. He opened another claim for me and assured me we were covered and we should see an adjuster in a week or two.

I won't be able to post any of my pictures until my internet at home comes back. I hear that we're supposed to get it tomorrow, but with Comcast, who knows? I think Daniel is seriously considering going to DSL and Dish Network instead of Comcast. This is just the final straw that broke the camel's back.

Later. Send your prayers and thoughts to those who lost so much in Hurricane Ike. We are unscathed and relatively well off.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

12:06 pm, September 14th

(Michelle's friend Bob here, posting for Michelle over the phone.)

We survived! It was a very scary night. We lost power at 1 am. About 2 am the winds got very bad. At 2:30 the eye went over and it was very eerie. Backside hit us around 4:30 am and it was much worse than the front half. We lost five trees, one large and the rest small, as well as part of the fence.

And we will definitely need a new roof, as we lost most of the shingles. Based on the little walk we did, most of the houses suffered similar damage.

But overall we did not take very much damage compared to a lot of what we've seen this morning. No leaks, the roof integrity is okay, and nothing fell on the house.

Still no power of course, and it's hot! But Bob said it's supposed to get down in the 80's by Monday, and there's a nice breeze right now.

I don't know when I'll be able to update again, even via telephone. But just know that we made it through okay with minimal damage -- Yay!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Update: 10:00 pm

Our power just flickered, so I think I'm going to shut my computer down after I post this.

We're getting steady, strong winds and some pretty strong gusts. They're calling for hurricane force winds to impact Houston around midnight and keep going through the morning.

We've looked outside a few times. Lots of leaves down, and it's raining pretty steadily now. No trees down yet. TV said 200,000 people without power, and they expect 5.1 million to be without power by tomorrow. Our house has creaked a bit, but that's about it. Not sure where we'll sleep tonight. Maybe in the bedroom, or we may pull out the air mattress and sleep in the hallway.

We were watching a movie on the expanded cable, just for a break from the storm news, but the upper channels just went out. We can still get the normal cable channels.

Earlier, when we were watching the news, their signal flickered and they said they just went to generator backup. Daniel and I both had the same thought at the same time. We got up and grabbed the flashlights and put them on the coffee table so we could find them quickly.

Anyway, we're set for the night. Towels, blankets, flashlights, first-aid kit, water are all handy. The cats aren't too worried yet, and we're both pretty calm.

As I type, I can hear the tree outside the window bang on the edge of the house every 30 seconds or so. It's a fairly small tree though, only about 15 feet tall.

Alright. Wish us luck. I think this will be my last post for a while. I may get my parents to post something tomorrow for us, just to tell everyone how we fared.


Update: 7:45 pm

That was very funky. A few minutes ago, the sky was perfectly pink. It slowly faded to lavender, and now it's almost dark. Here's a couple of pics.
From Hurricane Ike

From Hurricane Ike

This last one, I swear there was blue sky showing between the clouds.
From Hurricane Ike

Power outages are spreading. No idea how much longer we'll be up. They're talking about power being out for weeks, but I think they always say that for big storms. And I'm in the suburbs, not the rural area. If it seems like it'll be too long, I suppose we can go visit my parents.

This is one of those days where I seem to be hungry all day long. This does not bode well for the next few hours.

Update: 6:20 pm

They're getting hurricane force winds in Galveston. We still haven't gotten much more than some gusts around 40 mph. Here's a pick of one of our trees in the backyard in a big gust.
From Hurricane Ike

We still have power (obviously), which is nice. We managed to have dinner, and it's cooling on the counter before we put the leftover in the frig. Want to keep the frig as cool as possible for as long as possible.

There have been some big fires in Galveston, and the fire department can't get to them to put them out. Galveston officials say that after 9:00 they won't be responding to any requests for help. That's rather scary. The news says that up to 40% of the islanders didn't evacuate. That's nuts.

The water hasn't risen in the last few hours, but that's because the tide was going out. Soon it'll change and then the water will rise pretty fast.

The house behind us already has some shingles flapping in the wind. We went out to look at our house, but so far, everything looks tight. Another neighbor dismantled part of his fence to use as hurricane shutters over his windows.

We're saving our non-power activities for when the power goes out. Right now, I'm keeping up with the news and internet.

Update: 3:00

Man, this day is passing so slowly! I feel like I'm just waiting and waiting and nothing is happening. I'm watching the news from Galveston, which is just 30 miles away, but there's almost nothing happening here. A few gusts, and every once in a while, it blows for a few minutes.

I ended up making some salmon chowder, and we put some chili in the crockpot so it would cook for tonight's dinner. The chowder's ingredients were dictated by what was in the freezer and frig that could be used. After that, we did one more thing outside. We took down the line holding up our grapevine, so that if a tree limb falls on it, it won't destroy the columns on our patio.

Here's a picture I found from earlier in the day. It's of the Strand in Galveston Island in the historic district.
From Hurricane Ike

They just showed a new picture of the strand, and the water is halfway up the first floor. Wow, it's going to take them a long time to recover.

I have friends who live in Galveston and Kemah, so I hope they evacuated.

We just went for another walk because we had too much nervous energy. The winds picked up a bit and we felt the first drops of rain, but it quickly went away. We chatted with another neighbor. He was stir-crazy too, especially because his house was boarded up, so he couldn't see outside. We heard someone cutting plywood a few streets over. That's cutting it close, to be putting up plywood now.

Streaming Video from Houston News

This is pretty cool. It's a link to a site that has multiple feeds. You can select the one you want to watch. I'm also following the Something Awful Hurricane Hoedown thread. Lots of H-town goons posting about what's happening.

Update: 12:30 pm

Oh wow. They're showing the road into Surfside. They've been showing it all morning, and an hour ago, the water from the Intercoastal waterway was starting to encroach on the road. It's the only road in and out of Surfside. The emergency people said when the road was down to one lane, they would pull out the emergency workers and shut down access to Surfside. Just now, they showed it again, and the road is almost entirely underwater.

They've issued a curfew in Galveston from 8pm to 5am, and if they catch you out, it's a $2,000 fine. The police have closed Seawall Blvd off to the public, but it doesn't matter. People are still out taking pictures and walking along. One of the piers has collapsed already, and the waves are crashing really high over the seawall.

Here's another interesting link. It's to the Houston Transtar camera system.

You can look at dozens of cameras for the freeways and streets.

My neighbors are outside taking down the tin roof over their patio. The winds still haven't gotten rough yet. I'm surprised that it hasn't gotten worse based on what I'm seeing in Galveston. It's only 30 miles east of us.

Heard from one of my coworkers this morning. He's in a mandatory evacuation zone, so he's going to stay with a friend further inland. His wife got on a plane this morning, one of the last flights out, I think. He said another coworker was headed to Oklahoma. I don't know what happened to my other 2 coworkers.

Apparently, there's another mass exodus this afternoon. It was calm this morning, but now that it's looking worse out, I think a lot of people have changed their minds and are leaving.

I'm recharging my camera battery, then I'll post a couple of pre-hurricane pics.

11:00 update

The local news is getting crazy. Western part of Galveston is underwater. The Strand, which is on the east side, protected by the seawall and by the cruise terminal, is underwater. I saw some trucks driving through the streets and the water was up over the tires. In another shot, I saw a car driving on a road that was totally underwater, and the water was almost over the hood. What are these people thinking!?

Here are some local feeds if you want to see the the local news and video.

I saw footage from Kemah, one of my favorite places to go eat. It's right on the water. Normally the water is 4-6 feet below the boardwalk, and we'd feed the catfish. Today, the water is almost as high as the boardwalk, and the waves are pushing through the boardwalk and already popping some of the boards loose.

The news talked about Bolivar peninsula and said the Coast Guard was already starting to rescue people off their rooftops. Apparently they weren't expecting the water to get so high there.

Galveston has suspended water service, including drinking water and sewage, to protect the system from saltwater.

The sky is getting less blue and a lot more gray. The winds have died down for the moment. I just took a nice shower and I'll have lunch soon, so I can have something hot.

Hurricane Ike Update - Friday 10:00 am

I think we're all battened down now. I made pancakes this morning and ran the dishwasher. From now on, we're eating on paper plates. I fully expect the power to go out in another 2-4 hours. Last time we went through Isabel is Virginia, they shut the power grid down 3 hours in advance of the storm to save the power grid.

Watching the local news this morning. At this point, it's much more informative than the Weather Channel. The western end of Galveston is already underwater, and the waves are overtopping the 17 foot seawall at the eastern end.

We went for a walk this morning, just to get out one last time. It's getting very gusty out, and it actually feels pretty good. The breeze was fairly cool. About 30-40% of the houses in our neighborhood are boarded up. Ours isn't one of them.

Only task left is taking pictures, and put the most necessary supplies in the bathroom in case we have to retreat there tonight. The cats are going into their carriers later tonight, and I'm sure they won't be happy.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hurricane Ike Update - Thursday Afternoon

We talked it over all night and again this morning. We finally decided not to evacuate, although I have yet to cancel my hotel room in Dallas. The models have shifted and have Ike coming in as a weak to moderate Cat 3 coming in a little west of Galveston Bay, putting us on the dirty side. I think they're forecasting us to get winds of 60-90 mph. They're predicting 15-20 foot surge into Galveston. We're at 23-25 feet above mean sea level. We are not in a mandatory evacuation zone.

We went out this morning to Wal-Mart, early, and I'm glad we went early. We didn't need much. Got a couple lights, another tarp, some instant coffee and one more flat of water. Had to go out again to run a couple of errands, like dropping off library books, and topped off my gas tank. The interstate headed north was already backed up and moving very slowly.

When we got back, we started putting stuff in the garage. Put Daniel's car in the garage, but we're going to wait until tomorrow morning to try and squeeze my car in there. I think we have everything inside now. The last big task is to take pictures of all our belongings in case something catastrophic happens.

We're eating stuff out of the refrigerator and freezer to empty those out and saving the canned food for later, because I expect the power to go out. Put the collars on the cats, and they're very annoyed at that.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hurricane Ike

Should be renamed Hurricane EEEK! I keep changing my mind every 30 minutes about whether we should evacuate or not. The nightmare of evacuating from Rita is still scarred into my mind. I really do not want to go through anything like that again. Hours and hours of sitting in traffic in the middle of the night with 2 cats yowling in the back seat and desperately praying for a gas station that had gas. I just don't know if I can handle it.

The official forecast track is to come in at Matagorda Bay as a Cat 4. That's about 90 miles SW of us. If so, we'll experience Cat 1 winds Friday night. I'm not worried about flooding or storm surge. On the other hand, a couple of the better models have it coming in at Galveston Bay as a Cat 4. If that's the case, it's idiotic to stay.

I just made hotel reservations in Dallas, about 5 hours north of here. Of course, the tracks show it going over Dallas as well and soaking it. I've also got the phone numbers of a cousin who said we could stay with them.

Even if we don't get bad winds, we could lose power. Staying here with no A/C or fans and lots of mosquitoes doesn't sound like any fun either.


Well, I think we'll make some preparations tonight, then assess again tomorrow.

My big news

Want to hear? I'm pregnant! :) Hard to believe. I'm actually just into my 13th week, so I'm entering my second trimester.

I was sick all day with so-called morning sickness for about 6 weeks. I still have to watch what I eat. I think sugar and refined wheat products really make me sick. They make me so bloated I can't eat anything else. Now I crave veggies, fruit, milk and beans. Wierd. At least it's mostly health food, and not junk food.

Everything looks healthy, but we can't tell the sex yet. We'll keep you posted.