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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ike and Thomas. and Conner's birthday.

Who knew the effects of a hurricane could wreak such damage so far as into Ohio?

The winds were blowing in earnest by Sunday afternoon. I was coming back with the little ones after taking them to see Thomas the Tank Engine down in Lebanon, Ohio... which was totally awesome, by the way. But a little more on that in a bit.

So I got a little...confused, I’d say, on the way home, trying to make my way via back roads with which I have no familiarity. And it was windy, to be sure, but it wasn’t until the last few miles when I hit the open highway that I felt like I was in a video game, pulling to keep the van on the road while a giant invisible hand was trying to wiggle us off.

The power went out soon after we walked in the door, and the mighty winds blew while I nursed my imploding head with some motrin and a coke and, finally, my bed, none making much of a dent. I wonder if sinus medication is a recommended emergency kit item? For those whose heads react to the storm pressure like a Far Side cartoon.... Not that we had an emergency kit. Note to self: be prepared for hurricane-like winds; never mind that you're in Ohio.

Lots of beautiful trees in these parts are damaged and lost. But more importantly, thousands of people are still without power, some without water. We personally never lost our water supply -- not even a little bit of pressure. And we were among the lucky some 40,000 or so whose power was restored after about 36 hours, with phone and internet following about a day later. Yesterday 180,000 in the Dayton area were still without power. Today, about 150,000.

Can you tell I've been obsessed with listening to the radio?

I don't think anyone around here had any idea of what was about to hit us. We certainly didn't. Yea, we knew Hurricane Ike was going to head this way as it petered out over land ... at first they were calling for five days of rain in the hurricane aftermath. Then the forecast changed to no rain but very humid and muggy. But winds over 75 mph? No idea.

Dayton is calling this the worst disaster to hit this area ever. It's not that catastrophes haven't struck here before -- just not on this scale. A main difficulty in recovery has been the main power company's inability to call on its normal emergency resources -- because those people have their hands quite full with the same problems themselves, thank you very much.

There was definitely a shift once the governor declared a state of emergency on Monday. Some 900 crews are now working 16-hr shifts, with manpower from Indiana and Chicago helping out. There are still 1.3 million families in Ohio without power (as of this morning). Problems they're encountering include entangled wires catching things on fire once they go live; grids getting back on line only to blow again when old transformers couldn't handle the surge...

We're still being told to conserve water, but the urgency is no longer there and it merely sounds like a precaution. Originally with the state of emergency, the local government was asking for more diesel fuel -- necessary to power the generators that fuel the water pumps. That, and ice, for any hope of salvaging cold food items. And, of course, help with clearing the debris. And oh my is there debris. Not like Galveston, mind you. But Ohio has gorgeous trees, and so many are now strewn hither and yon. Some with potentially very dangerous wires tangled up in them.

We have been fortunate for so many reasons. We have our power back, when so many don't. We never lost our water. We were able to clear the debris from our property ourselves -- unlike our neighbors across the street who are having to pay [gulp] $1200 for someone to clear out their very large and hazardous tree wreckage. Nothing hit our house. And the weather has been positively beautiful.

And the power lines in our neighborhood are buried so I haven't had to worry about my own kids going out and electrocuting themselves. Important, since tomorrow will be their first day back to school and I think I would have gone even crazier if I hadn't been able to safely shoo them outside.

As it is, we didn't give them much of a choice. There's been work to be done, after all. Even if it is your birthday. Here's Conner on his last day of being a preteen, giving a thumbs-down. He's not too happy with his fate on his Birthday Eve.
Happy Birthday, Conner! At least you got the day off from school.

(On a side note, luckily Conner celebrated his birthday a little early by having a couple of friends stay the night. One of those friends hadn't left yet when the storm hit, and he ended up hanging out at our house a bit longer than originally planned. Thing is, the last time Justin stayed the night? We had a blizzard. And he literally got stuck at our house for a while that time, too.

This time we told him, Hey, Justin, nothing but love for ya. But I don't think we better have you over to stay the night again. Who knows what natural disaster might befall us.)

You might notice in the photos above that Sean-Peter is keeping his trains close. He loved going to see Thomas. I think they really didn't know what to expect. Even though I told them it was a real train they would get to ride on, seeing it actually coming down the track stopped them cold.They seemed a bit stunned.
But they loved everything, despite the oppressive humidity and increasing winds.

(Although Olivia kept saying she wished she could see James or Percy instead.) (I think she was just practicing teenage malcontent.)

Just today Sean-Peter asked me if we could go see Thomas again. I told him that Thomas had to go back to the Island of Sodor; his friends missed him and Sir Topham Hatt needed him. He's a "very useful engine" after all.

Sean-Peter cried, real tears, "No! Sir Toppin Hatt in Ohio, too!"

Actually, we had just missed our photo op with "Sir Topham Hatt" when he had to go to lunch. I had casually told the kids, "maybe next time" and was more than glad to duck into the gift shop and out of the wind.

And you might notice in this last photo that the wind was starting to kick up a bit and blow their hair about. And yes, I am thinking about cutting Sean-Peter's hair. Just not yet.

We had no idea we were heading home in developing "hurricane-like" winds. Or that the governor of Ohio would be declaring a state of emergency in a mere 24 hours.

It really plays games with your mind, how you just don't know what the next day, next hour, might bring. Even when you can prepare, like the people of Texas, who knew that Ike was coming and had every opportunity to escape out of harm's way. Now what? Do you just wait until you can go back, clean up and pick up where you left off as best you can? I suppose you do, if that's your home. So many people cannot imagine anything or anywhere else.

Remember Uncle Rich? His sister Sondra and her family live in Galveston. Although currently they are in our hometown of McPherson, Kansas staying with her parents, trying to figure out when they might be able to go back and assess the damage to their home. They left Galveston a couple of days before Ike hit, staying in a hotel with reservations they had made a week prior "just in case". Last I heard Sondra was going to go ahead and enroll their kids in school up in McP, since Galveston is not supposed to have power or water services back for a month. I was told that some siding was torn from their house, which is built on stilts, but that it did not flood. But I would still want to go down and see for myself. (Wouldn't you?)

It's easy to see in retrospect that Sondra and her husband did the right thing by leaving town ahead of time, even though I am sure it was no simple feat with the crowded highways, and I heard that they got shuffled around a bit from one hotel to another...

Livings still have to be made so the husband will be going back to Texas (not Galveston?) where his employer still has an office, but Sondra's job as a teacher at a private school is gone, at least for now. She has to buy her kids new clothes for school because they normally just wear uniforms, accustomed to attending the same school where their mom works. Sondra and her family have so many things to deal with immediately, I don't know what they're thinking long-term. Galveston is their home, has been for many years. Even if they were willing to make a change, what would they do with their house? I don't suppose the housing market would be at its best in the immediate aftermath of a hurricane...

I heard a story second or third-hand, that Sondra had talked to someone she knew from Galveston, whose family decided not to evacuate and they ended up having to be rescued. This woman complained that the only thing the rescuers gave her kids to eat for three days was pop tarts, and Sondra had to bite her tongue, because they wouldn't have had to give your kids anything if you had evacuated!

I've heard the sentiment expressed, from more than one direction, that when a city tells its citizens to evacuate in the event of a natural disaster, that if you choose not to, and you have to be rescued, that you should be billed for the services.

I have thought that sounds rather harsh. But then, is it fair? I mean, what about the people who do go out of their way to do the right thing, even at their own expense. Is it fair to them that others wait for the rescuers to bail them out? Taking up precious time that otherwise could be spent cleaning up and preparing for everyone to return to their homes?

I heard a piece on NPR (of course) with a reporter interviewing one of the rescue workers down in Galveston. She was addressing the issue of having to rescue people who had chosen not to evacuate, and asking him if that upset him at all. He evaded the question quite deftly, but she kept going back to it, a bit rudely, until he finally responded that, no, he felt no anger or resentment at all toward the people he was rescuing; there are so many reasons people have for staying behind, he just wants to do his job and get as many people to safety as he can. He sounded sincere.

If you've read this far, what do you think? Is it a moral obligation to evacuate from a threat of a natural disaster if you have the opportunity to do so? Should you be billed for your rescue if you don't?


Tam said...

OOO yes YOU DISPLAY your award on your sidebar! It does not matter about passing it on...some people wait for months to pass them on or not at is all up to you but YES please display.

OOO MY boys LOVE THOMAS!!!! OOOO say some prayers for me next week while I try my darnest to get WIGGLES tickets for my little boy! We have one show only in SAVANNAH and tickets go on sale Friday and well it looks like it may be a little crazy!!! LOL LOL LOL Sort of like getting Tickets for Thomas day out here in GA!

Tam said...

HMMM that is a question to PONDER but I will say one thing for sure...HERE in Savannah we get the heck out of DODGE and head away. The last time there was almost no one left here except emergency workers....but that was 10 years ago...I do often wonder know if people will just stay instead of leaving since we have so so so many false alarms here...during huricane season. HMMMM

Carmen said...

I think many people suffer from the "crying wolf" syndrome, not at the fault of any weather man. Last time Galveston evacuated during hurricane Rita immediately after Katrina something like 120 people died during the evacuation process. Traffic was at a grid lock, gas staions ran out of gas, thus leaving travelers stranded and people died! As it turned out, the evacuation process proved much more dangerous than Rita herself to many. With that on their minds and the fact that, for 25 years, several hurricanes headed for Galveston turned at the last minute, people decided to take their chances. However, I did see on the news, as the water was crashing over the seawall and all hope of avoiding this one were gone, the newscasters telling people it was not too late to get at that point I don't know what the mentality is.

I do think if you have children you should demonstrate erroring on the side of caution and save them from the terror of living through such a potentially frightening ordeal. Which, indeed, it did turn out to be for many kids.

I guess the fact that rescuers come to save people who make decisons they wish they could take back is a great example of grace, and is foundational to the America we live in. Sometimes people have to learn the hard way. Hopefully, they do learn!

Jolyn said...

Your third paragraph was spot on and I couldn't have said it better myself.

Anonymous said...

I read this blog with great interest. How strange that Ohio would have such high winds and damage. San Antonio did not even get any rain from Ike. However we did have, at one time, 6000 evacuees. I understand there are still about 2000 evacuees in the area.

Deanna's sister and her three children are here from Houston.
They returned home to Houston only to be told to go back to San Antonio. Houston still had no electricity, water, gas, etc.
They are staying with Donna (Deanna's mother). I understand the schools in the storm damaged areas will be attending school well into next summer.

I hope Conner had a Happy Birthday. He is really eyeing those cupcakes!

Carolyn said...

Glad to hear you made it thru the storm.

I got a checklist for an emergency kit on my Blog. Check it out. You can feel free to add sinus medication!

Happy Birthday to Conner


Anonymous said...

I am so glad you guys remained safe! And hopefully you are feeling much better now! That is too funny about Conner's friend "bringing the bad weather"!