Sunday, September 21, 2008

Surviving Hurricane Ike: Monday

9 a.m. As of last night, they have restored power to 380,000 customers. Approximately 18% of the 2.1 million customers who lost power have been restored in, let’s say, 32 hours – depending on when they actually started. That still extrapolates out to about a week. However, given the impact of cherry picking, the two week estimate I heard somewhere may be more like it (and even after that you’ll still have the stragglers).
Breakfast was cereal and cantaloupe. The cantaloupe was delicious. Still cool from being in the freezer. I ate the whole thing! Have to remember to add cantaloupes to the hurricane prep shopping list.

10 a.m. Time to venture out. There is nothing that I absolutely have to have, but I would like to top-off some of my supplies. My sense is it is safe to travel, and I’m curious. (Note: The lead picture is the view from my balcony a week after the storm. In preparation for the storm, residents removed items from balconies, and the management boarded up the six large windows in the lower right. Other than that, this was my view immediately after the storm.)

I guess I had a somewhat distorted view of this storm. The “damage” that I have been viewing is not at all representative of the devastation that Ike has produced. My apartment location strategy has apparently worked better than I realized.
(Note: I took the pictures that follow in a neighborhood about two miles from my apartment – again a week after the storm. By then the residents had cleaned up much of the debris and, if you look closely, you will see that they have already cut some of the toppled trees into logs. I would not have been able to take pictures immediately after the storm since many of the streets were impassable. I took pictures of only 2 or 3 streets, but they were typical of the whole neighborhood.)

Noon. OMG, I have ice! After my quick neighborhood tour, I went to Kroger’s to pick up a few things. I don’t really need anything for a few days, but I thought I would feel better if I had ice and a few more batteries. Customers’ priorities have apparently changed. My understanding is that before a storm the biggest sellers in the stores are water, batteries, and beer. Snack foods are also big. Since I always have my supply of water and canned goods, my priorities before the storm are vegetables and fruit. There’s never competition for those. Today, however, people have seen the light. The tomatoes are all gone; so are the plums, cucumbers, orange juice… People apparently buy healthier foods once they realize it’s serious. Interesting to note that beer is clearly still a VERY big seller. Oh well, might as well join the crowd as long as it’s there. However, ice seems to be at the top of everyone’s list – including mine. The ice line is interminable, but very fast moving; I’m through the line in less than 10 minutes.

I had been resigned to several more days of tuna and sardines. However, on my way to check out what do I see? Roasted chickens! Checking out was amazing. There was only one person ahead of me. The whole process took less than 3 minutes.

I am impressed with how well organized things seems to be so far. It’s reasonably easy to get around by car, except for the lack of stoplights. The trick is to plan your trips so that the bulk of the trip is on freeways. There appear to be enough gas stations, pharmacies, and grocery stores so that everyone can get the necessities.

1 p.m. Lunch. The chicken was delicious. I ate both breasts! Two open faced chicken breast sandwiches, cheese, potato chips, and water. Mayo spoils quickly. Luckily, I prefer mustard on my sandwiches, and the mustard is just fine.

4:30 p.m. I decided earlier to put the ice in my cooler rather than in the freezer. I suspect the freezer has better insulation than the cooler. However, the freezer door is on the front and the cooler “door” is on top. I decide the freezer’s loss of cool air every time I open the door outweighs it's insulation advantage. Then too, the cooler is better prepared to deal with melted ice. Anyway, my refrigerator thermometer (sitting on top of the beer) says it’s 50 degrees in the cooler – plenty cool enough for my purposes.

7 p.m. I’m still stuffed from lunch. Dinner is a snack: an apple, raisins, nuts, and water.
8 p.m. Thank God for this weather. Can’t imagine what it would be like if it was 95 degrees.
The most recent report says 500,000 customers have been restored as of tonight. That’s not good news. It means they restored less than 150,000 customers today. At that rate, it would take two weeks – which means it will actually take well over two weeks given the much lower productivity after they finish cherry picking.
Living without power is almost routine now. I guess you can get used to anything. Anything, that is, except light switches not working. I still automatically flip the light switch every time I go into a dark room – even if the reason I’m going there is to get a flashlight!
Still monitoring the temperature in the cooler. Looks like 50 degrees is as cool as it’s going to get on top of the beer. As a test of my new cooling system, I decide to have a beer. :-)

9:12 p.m. My first reaction was, “What the hell is that noise?” The answer? My air conditioner! – about the only thing that is not unplugged. Then, it's out onto the balcony to celebrate with the few other residents that remain. The sound of the electric pump circulating water in the pool is music to my ears.

Postscript. I was incredibly lucky. It is now a week later, and, even though 20,000 workers from across the country have come to help, still barely 50% of the customers have had their power restored. There are indications that restoring the remaining customers could take weeks. Though it hardly seemed so from my well-protected little hideaway, according to the Houston Chronicle, Ike is “the third most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history (behind only Hurricanes Katrina and Andrew).”

Related Posts

Surviving Hurricane Ike: Friday The first post in the series.
Surviving Hurricane Ike: Saturday The 2nd post in the series.
Surviving Hurricane Ike: Sunday The 3rd post in the series.
FEMA Disaster Supplies Checklists
Updated 8/26/2011

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