Posted by: Neeraj | September 20, 2008

Hurricane Ike

Over the entire last week I and my brethren experienced rain and reacted differently to it depending upon where we were. While in office we cursed because the journey back home will be long and tedious and if at home, the feeling was romantic bordering on aphrodisiacal. One of my lady friends who is currently studying in Houston will not forget those rains, the winds and the collateral devastation in a hurry. She was only slightly away from the epicenter from what we have come to know as Hurricane IKE. So let us read it as a first person account.

The Introduction

In the first week of September we began to read about Hurricane IKE, but the interest was more academic than anything else – Gustav or IKE, how does it matter; after all they are storms which are only seen or heard and never experienced. But I forgot that if destiny could make me travel thousands of miles to study in Houston it will also not let Mighty IKE touch my life only academically. By the second week of September we knew it was coming. We began to guess how strong and where the landfall will be – the interest had turned from purely academic to slightly real life. That is when I googled for the words “Hurricane” first and “Hurricane IKE” later. The next thing I did was adding weather.com to my favorites in the browser. By September 11 forecasting models began to say that the landfall will be at Galveston, not very far from where I lived.

The Preparation

We were galvanized into action. We visited the stores for what was left in the grocery stores, looking for food which was non perishable, storing water and making a lot of Paraanthaas which could last us for a few days. We went to the gas station and ordered a full tank. Since then it was listening to weather channels constantly, where would IKE hit…, after all Hurricanes could weaken suddenly too, I hoped irrationally. Questions like will we get flooding, wind damage or both or none became the only topics of discussion. IKE was our life for the next few days. I began to understand why news anchors say that survivors suffer most from hurricane fatigue. By Friday we were very sure but still praying and hoping against hope that Mighty IKE might change its course, if only just. We were least bothered where the landfall finally will be and the only thing we prayed for was for Mighty IKE to skip Houston.

I began to curse the wooden house (which I loved so much for its warmth earlier) for its lack of strength. I was afraid that it would fly away when the 110 miles per hour winds hit us. I taped the shards of glasses on my window together stupidly hoping they would withstand the strong gust. I put all potential flying objects (guitar, laptop, vacuum cleaner) on the floor knowing very well it was the biggest hurricane after 1983. I was afraid that my closet which was in one corner of the house might blow away so I removed all my stuff to the rest room. By then we had said good byes to all our friends back home, charged the cell phones again till they were charged all four points, and switched them off (to use them sparingly as they and a small radio with lithium cells could be our only connections to the outside world). We were ready, holed up in the living room.

The Anxiety

In noon we got dumbstruck by the announcement that it was the last chance for people who did not heed the evacuation orders earlier to flee or wait to die. By that time the 500 mile big Hurricane had started hitting  Galveston. The water had risen to sea wall and there was no beach left. Then came the bigger bad news that in our zip code mandatory evacuation orders had come for N. Macgregor residents. Highways were full and leaving then would mean getting stuck on a highway for 10-40 hours. It was too late. If we were to die it’d rather be at home with friends clutching each others’ hands.  I was getting emotional. We were lucky (ironical, isn’t it) that we did not get the mandatory evacuation order till evening and by that time it was too-too late. Nerves began to fray and we shouted at each other at the slightest of provocation. The fact that we were 45 miles away from sea shore, sitting in a wooden house surrounded by trees and that Mighty IKE was reaching for us and not south of us as we had expected, began to tell on us. At 1 am on Saturday the electricity went, Mighty Ike still hadn’t hit the coast, though our house had begun to shake already. It hit the coast at 2 am and was traveling with a speed of 14miles/hour towards us. There were 10 of us but nobody was sleeping. We cracked the oft repeated jokes, laughed nervously at each one and refused to look each other in the eye, lest we would all see the fear in our eyes. It was as if we were deriving our strength from refusing to acknowledge that we were weak. The Mighty IKE finally passed us at 4 am. I touched myself and pinched my friend to see whether the survival was for real.

The Aftermath

In the morning when the house stopped shaking we came out to see how lucky we were. Four trees around our house fell  but miraculously spared us. Only a little damage to the roof remained as proof that Mighty IKE had hit us. The wind gust that hit our house was just 70 miles/hour when IKE passed us as compared to  Galveston which experienced winds in excess of 110miles/hour.

Its been 7 days and Galveston is still a ghost town. The Mayor said many people left their homes not to come back as there is nothing to come back for. The grocery stores are still not open and some which are don’t have enough stuff. The traffic lights are off so you need to stop at each intersection…and there are big lines at each one of them, no gas and big lines at the pumps which are open. Houston is big and no public transport makes it worse. The power will take another week or so to come. There are curfews in the night to avoid arson – the list of woes is endless.

The Musings

This is how the story of Category 2 hurricane which hit the the most developed nation and the power hub of that nation ‘Houston’ ends. It makes me wonder how long people affected by the Tsunamis or floods (most recently in Bihar and Orrisa in India) take to gather the pieces of their lives together and return to a normal life.  Or are they ever able to at all???

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Responses

  1. More Information About It HERE: http://AboutHurricaneIke.com

  2. 🙂 thank you! Houston residents have become popular 😉

  3. Thanks Uzzi. Will surely go thru this. Must be interesting.

  4. I can only imagine how people there must have fared. Waise jo suna hai, usse free holiday ho gaya, and not to mention the once-in-a-lifetime experience!

  5. you havent posted the pic which had you guys playing antakshiri !! its such a good pic cos it demonstrates the fact that indians always come together in tough situations such as these and help each other through. 🙂 otherwise great acount Jyoti, i really wish i was there !!!!!!!

  6. It WAS a close shave.

    In Bihar, floods hit every year at Kosi. Every year millions of lives are lost. What surprises me that when we know floods are inevitable, why dont IITians and other engineers find a permanenet solution? There must be one.

    My second thought is why don’t we evacuate then earlier here?

    Now in past few years, I have been hearing about more hurricanes in America, Katrina, GUstav and Ike. Were there hurricanes happening every year in US too?

  7. Hurricanses are a very common occurence in the US but not as frequent as every year. This year has been bad though. IITians are good planners but we need people who can execute what has been thought out on the ground. That is where the problem starts coming in. Then there is the problem of two countries in the case of Kosi. Solutions exist but not so easy to implement, i guess

  8. One can only imagine the aftermath situation..but this is a part of life…
    For all the hurricanes n floods its we who r responsible… we have been disturbing the ecological balance of nature since ages…
    The reason for hurricanes n all is the change in conc of salt in sea water… which has dropped a lot in past 25 yrs…
    To prevent the hurricanes n all we have to stop disturbing the Mother Nature…


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