One piece of equipment that we've learned to keep at all times is a generator. This is because our city house is located in the Bay Area of Greater Houston, and in 2008, our house was destroyed by Hurricane Ike.
This kind of thing will toughen you up a bit, in several ways.
|Our house had to be completely gutted.|
|My Stefie's room. She'd not have her own room for her entire|
senior year of high school. Living in an RV in our driveway would be it.
We were without electricity for an extended period of time. Our roads were impassable. All stores were shut down. Our area was like a ghost town for a long while.
There was no gasoline to be sold, besides, without electricity the pumps do not work. No one was allowed in or out of our neighborhood for days, there were actual police barricades erected at every single entrance and exit to our neighborhood.
Deputy Dave, myself and Stefie (18) had chosen to not participate in the deadly escape from Houston; about a dozen people died on the roads while trying to flee the hurricane --- everyone was in a panic about the recent Hurricane Katrina disaster in Louisiana three months prior. Personally, I had already been through a hurricane evacuation gone terribly wrong and didn't want to do it again, so we decided to hold down the fort during Ike.
|Playing around hours before the|
hurricane hits. Yes, we're nuts.
A little crazy? Maybe. Regardless, I'm glad we stayed. Absolutely. I would have had a ruined house no matter if I had stayed or left town. At least I was able to be home and be moving things during the house falling apart so that I could try to save what I could.
Stefie and I decided to stay for another reason, since we have a First Responder living in this house who is legally unable to leave town during an emergency, we decided to ride it out together. Deputy Dave was allowed to come home during the heart of the hurricane; sorry folks, even the police don't do rescue jobs in the midst of a hurricane...this is the purpose of mandatory evacuations, so the police and EMS won't have to worry about rescuing people.
Anyway, we three were here at the house, hiding out in the master bathroom when the roof flew off and a tornado hit the house. And no, there's no one to call. But, we were ready to take responsibility for our choice to stay behind and ride out the storm. We'd also taken several safety precautions to protect ourselves as best we could and it worked.
Yes, we "hunkered down" as they like to call it in the South during a hurricane. But, as the hurricane wound up its energy, it snapped off our electricity. Before the storm even hit fully, we were already without power. It was an ominous sign that the hurricane was already whirling its devastation our way.
But, after the main storm passed through and after the house had been hit hard, we were stuck with a soggy house in the Texas heat, with no relief from the hot, muggy air, and no way to charge our cell phones and all "pipe" water was contaminated. We did fill every single container and pot with water in preparation to the storm, so we had ample water. And even though everything around us was destroyed, it was still added agony to know that all of your food in the fridge and freezer would be spoiling.
At least we were here in the house so we could throw all of the contents of the refrigerator into the trash outside before it began to rot and stink while inside the house. Most of our neighbors were coming home days after the storm to find their hot, damp house to be a nauseating experience and their refrigerator to be leaking disgusting contents.
We felt as if we'd escaped a few horrors of the aftermath because we did ride out the worst of the storm. There's always a trade-off, always.
|This is the traffic in Houston as the freeways are made all one-way|
for everyone to exit Houston. "Contra-Flow" I think is the word for it.
But, the problem is, grid-lock. And, no gas.
Average time on roads in Houston attempting to flee...10 hours.
You can't save the contents of your fridge when there isn't a store open to sell ice. I once received stellar advice, "Cook all of the food."
Okay, we can cook everything, but you STILL need refrigeration to store cooked food...same situation, cooked or raw, the food spoils quickly in the Texas heat. The things that we could not buy were gas, ice, water, or food. And take it from someone who has lived through a a few natural disasters, those four things are mighty valuable.
Thankfully, within 3-4 days of the hurricane, we had deliveries of military MRE's and bottled water for our area; the deliveries sustained us for a couple of weeks.
After this storm, we decided that we'd never go without a generator again. If a hurricane heads our way, we're stocking up on gas.
We'd once owned a nice generator, but Deputy Dave loaned it to one of his brothers, who will remain nameless, so that he could use it during a fishing trip. "Dilbert" left our new generator at the edge of his garage, at night, with the garage door open. Brilliant. Yes, it was stolen. But, the best part was...he replaced the generator, for himself. It's become a funny story, but it put a crimp in Deputy Dave wanting to loan out his things and it put a HUGE crimp in us suddenly lacking our own generator.
Regardless, we've learned the HARD way that generators can provide much needed relief in an emergency. And during Hurricane Ike, you could not find a generator within hundreds of miles of us. Some shady people were out selling $400. used generators for over $2,000. It was crazy. People were desperate. But, if you think about it, with a generator, we could keep our refrigerator going, have a light (even after the batteries run out), we could even have a blessed room of cool air with a window unit, we can keep our cell phones charged and plug in the radio.
However, in areas hit hard by the hurricane, it is very difficult to keep a generator going when you are in the middle of a neighborhood that is suffering. There's a dark side to owning a generator during a natural disaster in the city. Everyone around you HEARS your generator and suddenly everyone wants to plug into it. Too many people. Frazzled people who have already lost just about everything in their household can take one of two roads for their behavior, they can become angry and lash out or they can radiate the peace of God...the ugly ones have usually snapped.
It can become a bad situation for the person trying to run their generator. Suddenly, strange people show up and declare that their household emergency is more dire than yours, so they need your generator. Yes, this actually became a regular news topic. Generator Madness. People with generators were not to be envied in the hurricane aftermath, they were to be prayed for.
In the Houston area, we saw several news stories in the weeks to follow the storm that showed people sitting together in a driveway, each holding a shotgun to protect the generator. They let their neighbors closest to them plug in for alternating time-periods, then they combined their efforts to protect the energy they were getting from the shared generator while scrounging for the gas to run it.
If you don't think this stuff happens, then you might never want to be around a metropolitan area during a natural disaster.
If another storm approaches, the one thing that we will stock ourselves with is gasoline. We've learned that gas is gold during widespread devastation.
Also, the people who had a generator, water and an ice-machine were making money. They told everyone to bring their own bag and they'd fill it up with ice. Pretty ingenious, especially in the South.
On the flip side, once we're out of the city, our generator is useful on the acreage because we can't run electricity to all corners of the our land because of the rough terrain, creeks, and bluffs...not forgetting that the high cost of installing a line of utility poles to all areas is cost prohibitive. With a generator loaded on the utility trailer, we can use the lawn tractor to pull it to the location we need to address and let that big boy hum with its power-generating business.
On our land, the generator is invaluable. Soon, we will be hooking some electricity back up to a couple of areas on our land.
There's no doubt that we're looking forward to selling our house and moving away from the bay area of Houston before the next hurricane season comes rolling around. Since most of our family lives in this coastal area, our place in the country will likely serve as the "safe-house" during future storms. But, we will be incredibly thankful to not have to flee any other hurricanes or to be in a city full of crazy people trying to flee a storm.
And in the country, our generator could run nonstop and no one would give a darn.