Baboon Pirates

Scribbles and Scrawls from an unrepentant swashbuckling primate.

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Location: Texas, United States

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Looks Like Stormy Weather...

Trying To Reason With Hurricane Season!

I'm not too sure that I have many exciting stories to tell about riding out Ike. Certainly nothing like the folks down on the coast, who had the rising tide take out their foundations while the howling wind decapitated their roofs.

I'm far enough in from the coast that the storm surge is a non-issue, for the most part. We've had high water, and indeed water up to the front doorstep in the past, but the close proximity to one of the city's fairly efficient drainage ditches and the multimillion dollar "Golden Bathtub" retention reservoir south of our subdivision keeps most of the water flowing downstream. Even at the height of Ike's rain dump, the water never rose higher than the lower lugnuts on my truck wheels. It's been up over the hubs and damn near knee deep in other storms.

Other storms didn't go on for almost 12 hours, though. It started out last Friday evening looking rather mild, and I was considering heading up almost to Tomball to visit a friend, on the belief I could still make it back by midnight. I probably could have without mishap, but it would have been a white-knuckled drive getting home. By midnight the wind was gusting something fierce, and by 3 a.m., when our power finally cratered, it was quite the spectacle outside.

I entertained a notion of having a ringside seat for the storm by going outside and lashing myself to the oak tree, like Odysseus had himself tied to his ship's mast. Ike's howling wasn't akin to the call of the sirens, however, and Odysseus never had to worry about getting bonked on the head by falling tree branches.

So, I limited myself to peeking out the front door every so often. I've still got a bit of a bruise where the door handle ground into my hand as the 90+ mph wind gusts caught the glass door like a sail. Eventually I got tired of wrestling with the door and crouched on the porch ankle-deep in water, shielded somewhat by the low shrubbery, and watched the storm rage.

It's hard to adequately relate the experience of a huge storm like that. It's kind of like explaining the effects of certain recreational pharmaceuticals to someone who's never even sipped a beer. There's just no common frame of reference. All you can say is "Wow, man. I saw some pretty trippy shit last night..."

I mean, how do you convey the physical presence of that much meteorological power? The way that the storm seemed to breathe, where a gust would rip counterclockwise through the cul-de-sac, making all the trees simultaneously bend and sway in one direction. In the next instant, a terpsichorean counterpoint as every visible branch and limb instantly reversed itself on the exhale... The subtle choreography as the trees would shudder and shake in some eerie rhythm, then in unison cast off their load of rainwater as a deluge of droplets in a strong gust of wind, visible in the flickering lightning strikes? How the wind made one sound tearing through deciduous trees,a low moaning crackle, and the same gust hammering the nearby conifers made a different, lighter sound, akin to the sound The Broom Of The Gods might make when swept across a vast body of water?

The truth is, it's kind of exhausting after a while. I can see how someone trapped outside of shelter in a storm like that could go bughouse nuts in very short order. I'd go inside, towel off, and try to doze sitting on the couch. It was too stuffy & muggy by then to try sleep while lying down. You'd jerk awake all too often at a strong gust hammering the house, then fade out again, never quite achieving sound sleep. Every so often you'd shine the flashlight at the cell phone (the only working clock) and wince at how little time had passed since the last time you'd checked. And so it went, for hour after hour, with no letup outside.

Reluctantly, the dawn arrived. The sun was obscured by layers and layers of cloud cover, and the grey haze lingered well past 7 a.m.

The storm wound down, the wind having shifted direction from north to southwest with the passing of the eye, heading for east Texas and points north. All you could do at that point was go outside and survey the results.

Compared to other neighborhoods around town of similar vintage (late 50's, early 60's brick houses) we came off all right. We had a few big trees collapse, but only one house in our immediate area took major damage. All too often, it was apparent that the trees that collapsed were old & sickly. One impressive oak tree on the main drag into the subdivision was easily 5 feet in diameter, but after it's collapse, you could see that all that weight of the crown was supported by a thin wall of wood; the entire core was completely rotted away.

We dodged a bullet in our area for sure. By this morning, power, water, phones and internet access were back up. I didn't stop to check the cable TV before I left for work, but odds are good that's back on too. Going a couple of days without life's little amenities was nothing more than an inconvenience. Compared to the folks that had their entire lives washed away, it's hardly worth mentioning.

Thanks to all who inquired about my situation and health. I appreciate the kind thoughts and words!

And yes, I will tell the squirrel story. Just not today...