Saturday, October 04, 2008

Ike Badness

When Ike rolled in, it was after we had successfully evacuated from our home just north of Galveston Bay that Thursday.Ike_Bad

We still took two cars, but that was because Lavie and Alvis hadn’t waited around before heading up.  I was delayed many hours as we shut down IT operations and systems across our area and finally were released ourselves.

I unplugged all the electronics in our home, emptied the fridge as best I could, packed up our own hurricane supplies so we could add them to the communal bunker supply.  I disconnected our Shuttle desktop system and stowed it away high on a closet shelf.

Since Rita, Lavie and I had come to better terms with what we needed to take with us and what we accepted and would be left behind.  We all packed much lighter and although it was difficult, almost everything was left behind except a five-day supply of clothing, medicines, our laptops and critical file backups on multiple USB drives, and a few camping-gear items that seemed to be useful.  That was it.  While the family hamster came with us, our poor betta-fish "Mr. Tadakichi" was left behind as we hadn’t prepared how to transfer and transport him with us.  (Luckily he did just fine on his own.  Temporary accommodations will be found for the next time if he is still with us. I’m thinking a mason-jar.)

The traffic wasn’t nearly the nightmare that Rita had brought.  I was able to gas up my car and except for a few choke-points at the smaller towns that I had to pass through as I headed up to northern Liberty county where Lavie’s parents sheltered us, the drive was actually uneventful.

Friday was filled only with preparation work at the in-law’s home.  Unlike Rita we didn’t have time with it’s rapid arrival to dwell on all the local news stories. I don’t even recall turning the TV on.

That night it blew fast and furious.  At one point I thought the roof had come off and went into the attic to look.  Turns out the home was fine and strong.  When daylight broke later that Saturday, the sound we heard was several large oak tree limbs ripping off and crashing onto the well-house. No major damage but it was a horrible sound to have heard.

SciGuy blog was a great source of information during the storm’s onset and recovery. Kudos to Eric Berger.  After his balanced and metered coverage and updates, I just won’t trust anyone else. Period.  We also followed it on Stormpluse and Ibiseye.  The Oklahoma Weather Lab | Hoot - Models: GFS Model Upper-Level Wind 850mb provided us great forecast models of the high/low pressure zones and ridges leading up to Ike’s eventual landfall and really helped us understand the forces driving its path.

After Ike passed, we had no word and only images of the devastation Ike brought to the Houston and upper Texas Gulf Coast area.  It took us almost a week before we knew the condition of our home.  My brother and mom had sheltered in place at her home in the town we live in with them.  It was almost five days before he could safely venture across town and take a look at our place.  With great relief he told us that despite some blown down hibiscus plants, the total loss of one side of our fence, and some tree-limbs out back.  Today I got the fence cut into sections and stood up so the grass underneath can re-grow.  The yard is now cleaned and things are looking almost like normal again.

While we were waiting word on the condition, the biggest fear we had was storm-surge damage and flooding.  We live not very far from one of the bayous that ties into Galveston Bay. So we used the site as well as TSARP Interactive Mapping Tool to discover that our home’s elevation is just about 17 feet above sea level and just under 1/2 miles from the bayou.  Good information to know.

In the end, the water from the storm-surge didn’t reach our home, but were it not for the brave and appreciated efforts of the few neighbors who remained behind, the plugged storm-drains might have led to our homes flooding anyway.  Water got up almost to the foundations as the many storm-grates got plugged with debris.  Every time the winds/rain abated, they would run out and rake out the debris clogging them and kept the water flowing and down…just enough…to keep everyone’s homes dry.  Amazing work and kindness or group survival.  I’m not sure but am greatly appreciative of their effort.

We did spend a number of days back home without power. It was finally restored on September 24th, and the cable (mostly) restored on the 26th.  Our Comcast digital cable (HDTV signal) still hasn’t been restored. Analogue and broadband is working just fine.  Every day I call Comcast and ask them again to send a signal refresh.  FYI, if you are a Comcast subscriber and have a Scientific American “Explorer” HDTV box, don’t believe them when they tell you to reset (reboot) the box by unplugging it.  This model actually requires a “three-finger” salute to reboot.  You push the right and left navigation buttons at the same time you are pressing the “info” button as well.

Seems that the issue we are having in our area is that the refresh signal can’t move fast-enough to update the box so it eventually times out.  Comcast assures me they are working on it.  My only question is how come I have ripping-good broadband speeds but they can’t get their digital box update signal to flow?  It’s not a big loss at the moment.  During one of the troubleshooting sessions I mentioned that their web-page says I need to call them for a billing credit due to the outage.  The tech cheerfully worked with me to figure out my approximate down-time (about two 1/2 weeks) and gave me almost a $60 credit off next-month’s bill.  That was helpful.

Finally, Google Earth has some post-Ike satellite image overlays for the Ike mess. 

The KML file you can download consists of several over-flights by NOAA capturing some (but not all) of the devastation Ike left to our region.

It was amazing to look at them.

Only thing left now to almost feel like our area is “home” again is for our local grocery store to reopen.  Apparently it had sustained some roof damage and has remained closed for remediation work.  I haven’t had the energy to go cross-town to the sister-store so we have been eating out a bit more than we should.  Besides, dragging in at 8-9PM each night I really don’t feel like cooking. I just shrug for now and figure I’m helping stimulate the economy.  I’ve still got about a case left of our MRE rations.  But that’s going to be another post.

Anyway, that’s it for now…back to the “technical” posts and enough of this boring stuff.

Special thanks to for not only allowing me to use his Ike-onslaught radar graphic in this post, but to kindly pass on to me via the back-channels a number of the radar-images he captured while his broadband connection was still working as Ike pushed onshore.

Thanks Jim!

--Claus V.

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