September 12, 2008 at 7:34 pm | Posted in Family, Hurricane | 4 Comments

Most of you have probably heard about Hurricane Ike by now.  The coverage on television and internet news sources is hard to miss.  Normally I would be pretty worried with a hurricane like Ike about to hit the Houston and Galveston areas in Texas- my Mom still lives in Houston.  Luckily she is out of the country right now and I know she is safely out of Ike’s path (unless the storm makes an unexpected detour to Germany).

It looks like all of the cable news channels have had at least one reporter and camera crew reporting from Seawall Boulevard in Galveston.  I had heard that 20+ foot storm surges were predicted, but that didn’t prepare me for what I saw.  I spent a good amount of time in Galveston while growing up- family trips to the beach, crabbing off the piers, one memorable New Year’s Eve with friends, etc.  I know what Seawall Boulevard and the seawall itself normally look like.  That makes the images in the news of the storm surge very striking.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Galveston or the seawall, this is an image of the seawall in normal weather:

Not all of the seawall has beach in front of it like in this picture, but the areas where the news crews have been filming are very similar to this.  There is a decent sized beach area, some large boulders/rocks and then a 17 foot high concrete wall.  The seawall is kind of like a Jersey barrier on steroids.  Even so, it’s not enough to stop the storm surge.  This picture taken by Johnny Hanson of the Houston Chronicle shows the storm surge bursting over the seawall:

You have to admit, the waves coming onto the roadway seem much more menacing when you know just what they are surging over.  This is with Ike still a good 6+ hours away from landfall (when the picture was posted).  It’s only going to get worse.

I’ve been through two pretty major storms in Houston.  Hurricane Alicia and Tropical Storm Allison.  I was pretty young when Alicia hit and don’t remember being excessively worried. Plus, growing up in Houston I knew what we needed to do to prepare for a hurricane and my family was ready.  We were lucky with the damage we experienced.  One tree went down in the front yard, the floodwaters came to within about a foot of the house (it’s on a lot with an upgrade) and we were without power for 3 days.  We had a grill, propane cook stove, and plenty of water.  My sister and I had bought small inflatable canoes (pool toys) earlier that summer on family vacation and we used them to paddle up and down the street.  For a kid, it was actually kind of fun once the storm had passed.  For the city, there was a lot of damage from the high winds.  Thousands of glass windows were broken or blown out completely from buildings in downtown, business signs across the city were damaged, and trees and power lines were down.

Tropical Storm Allison was a different experience.  High winds weren’t the problem.  The rain was the problem.  Allison basically stalled over the city, inundating Houston with 35 inches of rain in a day and half or so.  If you do a Google image search, you will see dozens of pictures of the flooding.  One of the images I will never forget is actually from when the floodwaters were receding.  It showed an eighteen-wheel tractor trailer perched precariously on top of another tractor trailer.  The floodwaters had been deep enough for it to float over the tractor trailer on the bottom.  The Houston Medical Center was particularly hard hit by Allison.  It is in a part of the city that is somewhat more likely to flood.  Many of the basements were completely flooded.  At that point in time, the basements of the medical center institutions were primarily used for research laboratories.  Thousands of research animals, tissue samples, and significant amounts of research data were lost.  The costs of the damage due to flooding in the Medical Center from Tropical Storm Allison were over 2 billion dollars.  Although I didn’t live in Houston at the time, I was visiting that weekend.  Much of what I saw and experienced still seems surreal.

So, now another storm is predicted to make a direct hit on Houston and Galveston.  It might be a category 3 when it hits (like Alicia was) and will definitely bring much rain and high winds.  The storm surge hasn’t reached the shore yet and waves are already topping the seawall.  This storm has the potential to cause a great deal of destruction.  I’m thankful that my mother is safely far away.  Damage to the “things” she owns that might not survive the storm can be dealt with.  I’m also glad to hear that the evacuation plans of the state of Texas and the coastal communities have gone as well as they have so far and that so many people have made the smart decision and have gotten themselves out of Ike’s path.  I’m not so happy with the tens of thousands who reportedly stayed in areas under mandatory evacuation, but living in a free country means they have the right to make stupid decisions.

If you want good coverage of the storm, check out the Houston Chronicle.  They have great photo slideshows, videos, and up to date news.  They are a much better source about this storm than any of the national media I’ve looked at.



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  1. Well we surrivived. We live in the far NW part of Houston (Cypress). We lost power about 1:15 am Sat morning and had it restored arounf 7 pm on sunday. We had bought a generator on Sunday morning….guess that is why the power came back so fast (spend a large amt of $ on something to guarnetee you won’t need it for very long). From what I understand when we got power we were in the minority. That less than 30% had power at that time. Sometimes the minority is good! Husband is a ER nurse, so he worked the entire storm and I weathered it w/ the boys at home. No trees down for us….some neighbors not so lucky. Well my part of town got off easy, so now I sit at home with extra days off from work waiting for them to tell me the bld has power and to come back to work. I feel a little guilty sitting at home in the a/c and getting paid. I’ll find some way to get past that.

  2. I’m glad to hear that you and your family are well Krista. So far you are the only person I have heard from with power! At this point you could probably get someone to buy the generator from you for at least what you paid for it (if you don’t want to keep it for next time that is).

    I don’t know if you’ve been through the photos at the Chronicle, but at one point in time they had a few pictures of Todville Road in Seabrook. Based on the height of the street sign it looked like the water was at least waist high! It didn’t look like they were from the “low end” either, more like the area right around CM.

  3. When I was a teen {late 63-67}, Mom would take us {3 kids} down to Galveston in the early spring with some firewood, marshmellows, hot dogs/buns with all the trimmings. {Mom would always take the old bbq grill that no longer had legs so we could burn the wood in it. Kept the beach clean.}
    While there we would have visits from the Galvaston PD. Later in the day we would have a few of the Sailors stationed there stop by because they could NOT believe that we would be there in late Feburary and early March in swim suits {water-VERY Cold but we kids never really notice}. No, not a member of the Polar Bear Club. Mom just trying to give us kids quality time and letting us kids have the memories of the good things when we would grow older.

    Mom always made certain that the PD had a cup of hot coffee and the Sailors would have some coffee, toasted marshmellows and hot dogs. We would have a great time talking and laughing with these young men and Mom always would come home with a few new address.

    Galvaston, her beaches and that famous sea wall brought back a lot of memories. GOOD MEMORIES.

    I will pray that Galvaston will emerge from this better than ever.

    Miss Em

  4. Thanks for the comment Miss Em. I too have great memories of Galveston (some with family and some with friends). It will never be the same, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be great again.

    Sorry for the delay in responding to your comment. I was out of state for a family funeral. Hopefully you didn’t give up on this blog and will come back again!

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