Last night, my son read to me a paper he is working on about his experience with Hurricane Ike, and I realized that although I have been dealing with the aftermath of the storm, that I had not written about some of my observations of events around it. I was surprised by the lack of preparation by some people, and I was impressed at how neighbors pulled together, so I wish to share some random thoughts with you.
Home inspectors love their tools and gadgets, and I was glad that I stored my hand tools in an easily accessible spot. With no electricity or gasoline available, power tools quickly became useless.My son organized some neighborhood boys to create their own clean up crew, and to assist some neighbors, while I went with my pruning saw to several homes. The collapsible ladders that I sue during my home inspections became invaluable because I was able to carry them across the flooded areas with no problems. I managed to clear a few roofs of debris because of them. My son managed to help clear drains with my pick axe and rakes. Before the hurricane, people smiled at me for being so dedicated to hand tools; the week after the storm saw these tools in a different light. By the way, I have a lot of power tools; I just always preferred using hand tools, even my push mower.
I was glad that my son found several other boys. Our lives are so focused on what is happening inside the home, that boys do not seem to experience the outdoors as much, unless it is through some group’s activity. For the evenings, I discovered that reading fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm proved to be a family favorite. My wife laughed as I trying to keep up with all of the different voices for the various characters. I have always read to my children, but the time became special when there was little else to do in the evenings. My son liked my reading of the play Cyrano De Bergerac which came after the fairy tales, which my daughter enjoyed. I often have not thought about the fact that many people do not keep books. One visitor called my home a library, since I have tomes stuffed into spaces in every room.
I am the cook in the family, and I worked hard to prepare healthy meals after we had lost power. I wished that my cooktop worked on gas, but I did have my grill. I had canned vegetables, but I was concerned that my pregnant wife and small daughter were not obtaining the nutrition that they needed.I rummaged around the remnants of my vegetable garden to find something for them. Grilled beets turned out well. I had to use my cell phone as a flashlight in a store to find some fruits and other vegetables. When a co-worker of my wife’s complained that her children were starving because they had no cooked food to eat, my wife told her of my efforts. It turned out that this person had a gas stove, but simply was not cooking because the kitchen was dark. My wife became angry at this foolishness, and I became glad that I kept my head, so I could make a family meal each night.
Each evening after the storm we had a neighborhood party. We gathered at one house or the other to share what news we had managed to hear. During the day, we sought ways to help each other with the clean up. At one of these gatherings, we had families from two other subdivisions in our mist. They were amazed at the atmosphere on our block. They mentioned that nothing like this was happening around their own homes. Although I know that such events were taking place all around Houston, it is easy to forget that in some places this feeling of community was not as lively as I was experiencing, so I am glad for my neighbors. We really did look out for one another.
What can you expect in the aftermath of a storm? Well, that question is hard to answer. Many neighbors did not have coolers to store ice and other items in. Many did not have a means to cook, or stay entertained when there was no power. Clean water also became an issue. Keeping a cool head and thinking through problems becomes very important. Having good relationships with the neighbors was important too.