Archive for September, 2008

Please keep that sunshine coming!

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

sunny forecastIn the wake of Ike, an awful lot of my parents’ possessions are sitting in the yard attempting to dry out. So I’m relieved that the weather forecast for our area includes at least six more days of sunshine.

Helping ‘Bella’ get a happy return!

Monday, September 29th, 2008

lost BellaAs Sharon and I walked out of her condo Saturday morning, she spotted a black cat on the sidewalk a few doors away and called, “Bella? Are you Bella?”. Sharon explained that she’d seen “Lost!” flyers in our neighborhood for a missing black kitty named ‘Bella’.

Two days later, walking out our front door, my Mom suddenly stopped and said, “Well, hello!” to a cute little black kitty who greeted us unexpectedly on our front porch. Bill observed that this kitty was clearly acting like someone’s pet, rather than a stray. But I was so tired it took me an hour to belatedly connect that this kitty might be the same one Sharon had told me was missing.

We went outside and called her name, hoping she was still nearby. Hearing a soft mew, I got on the ground to peer under the house, while Sharon went around to check the back. Fortunately, Bill realized that she was still lounging contentedly on our porch, just hidden from view by assorted wet Galveston items. Sharon recognized her immediately from the flyer photo. And a few hours later, Sharon successfully reconnected ‘Bella’ with her grateful, relieved parents. Yay! I just love happy endings!

Still looking for Shane and his family…

Monday, September 29th, 2008

On Thursday afternoon (Sept 11) before Ike, my brother’s friend Shane called from Port Bolivar. He and his mom and his grandmother (who has dementia) were in the process of evacuating. He asked Chris to consult a map book and help him plan a route. The ferry that connects Bolivar to Galveston was closing early due to rough waves, and the main state highway was soon to be overtaken by rising water. They needed alternate routes off the peninsula. They were running late and planned to leave first thing Friday.

But Thursday afternoon — 18 days ago — was the last contact we had with Shane. Shane’s uncle Roy in Dallas has not heard from them either.

Shane Williams
Shane Williams at my parents house at Easter

As Amy H. posted previously, Chris and Roy filed missing persons reports for Shane, his grandmother, and his mom, and they have been getting updates from the Red Cross. So far, officials have confirmed that Shane’s house is still standing, and it’s possible the family rode out the storm there. They also confirmed that Shane’s mom’s pickup truck was located, with no keys in it, which at least means it was left deliberately, before it was subsequently swamped. They have not found any sign of the people or Shane’s white Ford Taurus.

Thursday night (Sept 25) KTRK-13 ran a feature called “Waiting to hear from the missing” that featured Shane’s family and interviewed his uncle. In the interview, Roy says he has already concluded they are no longer with us. And we have definitely heard accounts of bodies along the coast. But I sincerely hope that someone who saw the story has seen Shane or his family since the storm and can share some good news. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.

Gee, I must be tired…

Friday, September 26th, 2008

Wednesday night, I was so tired from our Galveston work that I slept 10 hours straight.

But my alarm went off Thursday morning before 8:00 am, so that I could get to Sharon’s before 9:00 am to let the caregiver in to spend the day with my Gran’mom. Still lying in bed, I realized that I had goofed. When I left Gran’mom Wednesday morning, I left my key to Sharon’s house in case they needed to go outside. But after coming home from Galveston, I forgot to go retrieve it. So I went to Sharon’s keyless, and we had to ring the bell (and make little Max bark) for 20 minutes before Sarah came downstairs to check the door. What a way for Sarah to wake up!

Then, on Thursday afternoon I went for my much-needed weekly acupuncture appointment. Dad and Mom saw me off from the porch, where they were unframing several of my late Granpop’s photos to protect them from creeping mold, and wished me an enjoyable appointment. (Which I had!) When I returned an hour later, I was surprised to see they were still on the porch. Apparently, I locked the door on autopilot as I left, stranding them outside. Oops!

Ike: Wednesday recap: funky Galveston house

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

I made my first trip (my Dad’s fourth and Mom’s third) to Galveston Wednesday to work on recovery. The huge plane trees in the backyard are still standing, though suddenly completely naked. While this may look normal this time of year up north, it looks really odd here in Texas in September.

The house went under approximately 29″ of polluted gulf saltwater:

Dansby water line

So we have 2,000 square feet of soggy carpet, couches, beds, and boxes of papers and records growing impressive blooms of multi-colored mold and mildew. These photos fail to convey both the amplitude of the poofy mold colonies (Mom just observed, “no wonder mold is a problem in ‘Colony Park’!”) and the smell of the raunchy brown slimy water.

mold blooms on old record albums

slimy electronics

Clean up is difficult because the water supply is limited (and not safe to drink). There’s also no power and therefore no air conditioning to inhibit the growth of unwelcome flora. We need to get stuff dry and clean quickly, but the going is slow. Everything is saturated with water and therefore impossibly heavy and cumbersome to move. For example, the sofabed must have weighed more than 400 pounds, because the mattress hidden inside was completely soaked. We were absolutely unable to lift it onto a dolly, so Dad proposed removing the mattress. But it took all three of us with a pry bar and two 2x4s just to get it open and extract the wretched mattress. We spent more than an hour getting the mattress and sofa frame out of the house!

During five hours, we struggled to haul the sofa bed, a loveseat, two chairs, several boxes, perhaps 200 square feet of wet carpet and pad, the big hi-def tube TV, the entertainment center, and several A/V units to the curb. (We also took bedding, towels, clothes, and some photos to the back to haul north and recover.) Around 5:00 pm, one of the official post-disaster debris hauling contractors pulled up outside the house. With their claw-loader, it took them just 8 minutes to collect all of our day’s effort.

hauled off couches

At first, I was impressed with the deft skill of the claw operator. We’ve been meaning to get rid of those tired old couches for years. But when he plucked up my Dad’s old desk chair and plopped it in the back of the truck, I was suddenly overcome with sadness. When my Dad observed later that was his grandfather Papa Chan’s desk chair, we both felt sadder still.

farewell to Dad's desk chair

At 5:40 pm, my alarm alerted us that it was time to load the cars, close the house, and get off the island before the 6:00 pm curfew. By the time we left, only the family room was mostly empty and clean.

one empty room

We still have a long, long way to go. While we were working, an hispanic couple we’ve never seen showed up and offered to bring four others and work for a day. Their asking price was really high, but worse, we realized that two or three of us couldn’t adequately supervise six strangers in the house. My parents have already lost so much. The thought of paying strangers to potentially pilfer more was scary.

So for the moment, I’m hoping for help from trusted friends and family. If any of you are in the area and feeling brave (the environment is semi-toxic), we would welcome help. Please just let me know.

Ike: Wednesday (day 14) quickie

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

Good morning from Houston!

You all are great: all that thinking and hoping for power restoration worked! While I was with Gran’mom yesterday morning, Mom called me to say that the power had come back on at our house. Hooray! After a long afternoon of shopping — I loathe shopping — at Home Depot, Target, Kroger, and Whole Foods, we were thrilled to discover that we actually had cable and internet access, too. Whee!

In other good news, Gran’mom’s new Houston-based caregiver, Nora, started yesterday, and she seems great. I hope that Sarah gets comfortable with her quickly!

Let me also say “Thank You!” to our Ohio family for the enormous box of Power Restoration/Powerless People Party supplies that arrived on our door step. From the dark chocolate raisins, to the chocolate chip cookies, to the crostini, and more, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. What a thoughtful pick-us-up!

Today is going to be a long, hot, mucky day. As soon as everyone is out of the shower, Mom, Dad, and I are going to load two cars and head to Galveston to work on swamping the rest of the water out of the house, and removing wet carpet, beds, couches, dead refrigerator, etc. Wish us luck!

Bob checks in again…

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

I got a spate of text messages from Bob today without asking her first how she’s doing.  Which I’m hoping means she’s feeling somewhat better.  They still have no power, so everyone think good “power coming back on” thoughts.  They could use it.  Here’s her update:

9/22/08 2:14 PM

“Greetings from Houston… It’s day 10 without power here at casa de Bob y Bill.  Mom went into the office this morning, both to catch up, and for AC and internet.  Dad has been making work calls all morning from the house.  I’ve been with Granmom at Sharon’s and doing laundry, while Sharon went off to start her new job at Methodist.  Sean has been hanging out with his friend Miles, and coming back to spell me from time to time, like right now.  Granmom’s new Houston caregiver starts tomorrow.  Chris and his family are back in Houston, staying with a friend who has power.  And Bill is getting ready to fly back to work in NYC in an hour or two.  Which means I need to go learn how to gas and start our friend ‘Genni’ quick before he leaves.

In the meantime, it’s 1:20 PM, 90 outside, and 84 inside.  According to the news, Centerpoint has restored power to 1.37 million customers.  BUt we’re apparently among the other 800,000 who are still in the dark.”

Ike: Tuesday (day 6) retrospective

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

First, let me thank each of you who have called to check on us. Your empathy and encouragement mean a lot to all of us. Let me also thank Amy H. for sharing my text updates here. It’s nice to know I can reach you with just my little mobile phone!

Bill is heading back to work in NYC Monday afternoon, and obviously taking his cell-enabled work laptop with him. So I figured I’d better worm in and upload some photos before he leaves.

On Thursday, September 11, before Hurricane Ike rolled in, the City of Galveston called a mandatory evacuation of the entire island. When the storm passed by, it left so much destruction in its wake, that City officials deemed it unsafe for anyone to return. We’re all eager to assess the state of my parents’ home, but all we could do was listen to descriptions of the damage on the radio (because we don’t have power in Houston, either).

Just after noon Tuesday, Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas announced a look-and-leave policy, to allow Galveston residents to come survey their damaged property, so long as they left the island again by 6:00 pm. Mom and Dad were prepped to head down by 2:00 pm. They sat in a 10-mile traffic jam with other anxious residents, and finally made it on to the island by 5:00 pm, just an hour before the curfew. Here are some of the images they saw along the way:

boats parked on 61st street
Boats from Offats Bayou are now parked on 61st street

61st fish pierless
The entire 61st street fishing pier at the end of the jetty just isn’t there anymore


Former “caution: drop off” signs along the Seawall are now just poles bent parallel to the pavement

broken apartments
The apartment building off Pine Street lost more than its roof

bent power poles
Power poles bent and broken by the wind left the entire island without electricity.

Looking at these images, it’s easy to imagine why there’s no power, no phones (cell or otherwise), no fresh water, and no working sewers on the island. My parents only had time to walk around their home, and see that it took water, before it was time to leave. More on that soon (I hope).

Update to the update…

Saturday, September 20th, 2008

I spoke to Bob a while ago.  She asked me to amend her earlier update to say that Chris’s friend Shane was not headed to his mom’s house with his grandmother.  Chris’s friend Shane was headed to his mom’s house with his grandmother and his mom.  All three are currently missing.

The Red Cross has told Chris that this is one of their top priority cases.  Chris has filed a missing persons report.  Bob is going to be making some kind of flyer to post.

Man, this is awful.  Please keep Shane and his family in your thoughts.  I hope they are found soon, and were just unable to communicate.

As you can imagine, Bob and Bill and the whole family are pretty wrung out at this point.  I truly hope they get their power back by Monday so they can begin to return to something resembling normalcy.  Power alone won’t do it, given that three of the family members live in Galveston.  (Here’s hoping that is still a present – and future – tense idea.)  But having power would help, not the least because it would allow them to cool off the house and get a good night’s sleep.  (Sharon, Bob’s cousin, does have power, and Bob’s Gran is staying there.)

I hope this lets up soon for all of their sakes.

Update from Bob

Saturday, September 20th, 2008

I think things down there are really starting to wear on Bob.  Instead of texting me throughout the day, now I text her at the end of the day to ask if everyone is still alright, and she gives me a fast update.  Not typical extravert behavior, let me tell you.  If any of you have a chance to find a way to contact Bob or Bill or Jean or Chuck or the rest to let them know you’re thinking of them, I think they could all use all of the positive thoughts they can get.

The update from Bob last night was scary (but not about them, before anyone panics):

9/19/08 9:44 PM:

“Another long day today.  Mom is having dinner with Sharon, Sean, and Sarah.  Dad, Bill, and I are having Ninfa’s.  We decided to mix it up.

We’re fretting about my brother’s friend Shane, who is feared lost.  We think he and his grandmother were trapped when water cut off the road from Bolivar.  They were headed to his mom’s house in Dallas, but they never checked in.  The Red Cross went to where their house was, and checked the shelter lists, but no word yet.  We’re really worried.”

Yikes, no kidding.  If any of you have any thoughts or prayers to spare for Chris’s friend Shane, it sounds like they’re really needed right now.

According to the updated Centerpoint energy map, Bob and Bill should hopefully have power back by Monday.  Keep your fingers crossed about that, too.

More news as I gather it…