Saturday, August 18, 2007

Mother Nature and all her wicked ways.

With Hurricane Dean gaining strength and about to enter the Gulf of Mexico, I started thinking back to my first hurricane experience. I have lived in Houston for 2 1/2 years, and in the days leading up to Hurricane Rita immediately on the heels of the devestation left by Katrina, I have to say that those days were one of the most surreal experiences of my life. I remember the day they announced Rita was heading to Houston, it was a Tuesday, and it was my birthday. I suppose it was some cosmic joke that I got a hurricane for my birthday...

Being blessed to live in America, I had never known a day where I couldn't run down to the local grocery store or gas station to pick up what I needed. I wasn't prepared for the frantic "free-for-all" as people tried to prepare for the impending storm. People were waiting in line for hours to get gas, and most ended up running thier gas tanks dry and before they got to the end of the line the gas was gone, tempers flared and arguments started as people tried to position themselves to get what they could. The grocery stores that were still open had bare shelves and people were fighting over what little was left. No D batteries, bottles of water or canned good could be found anywhere. It was almost as if this metro area of 5 million had rolled up the sidewalks and been abandoned by the outside world. It was completely deserted except for the freeways heading out of town where people sat in a traffic nightmare for 15 to 30 hours to reach their destinations.

Not to say there weren't moments of decency that I witnessed. A young woman was in line to purchase one of the last rechargeable flashlights to be found when a older woman with 5 children in tow asked her where she found the light, but it was the last one. The woman handed the grandmother the flashlight and left the store. Hours later in a little mom & pop corner store, while a man was arguing with the store clerk over the price of a case of coke, a young couple was digging for change to buy a few meager sodas and chips to ride out the storm, it turned out this young couple didn't have any money because even though he had gotten his paycheck early, it was dated for Friday. the day of the Hurricane, and the bank wouldn't cash it, so a stranger stepped in and handed them a $10.00 bill. There were millions of other gestures of kindness as people offered water and food, and even gas to stranded motorists.

At the time I managed a group home and I also took care of a little old man who had no family. By the time I had prepared them to evacuate or weather out the storm, there literally wasn't anything left for me. I couldnt get gas, bottled water or even a flashlight. I chose not to leave and made the best of the situation. I filled ziplock bags with water and put them in my freezer, I managed to find a few things like a little LED reading light and a radio that ran on AA batteries. As it turns out, the storm turned east and hit the Texas/Louisiana border. I was blessed, my power never even went out, although many others were not as lucky. Even though the storm never made landfall here, it is one I will remember to the end of my days.

Anyway I am prepared for Hurricane Dean if it comes this way... I have water, batteries, gas in my car and other necessities. I wont be leaving things to chance this time. I hope others in the potential path of this storm will do the same.

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