Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Comcast Sucks, Hurricanes Blow, and Other Assorted Woes, Part 5 - the Aftermath.

Saturday - Dh and I just sat around for awhile, eating some random stuff, drinking water or sodas for a bit. We opened the blinds and I was surprised by the amount of debris in front of our house, in our courtyard. DH decided to go exploring for a bit, and the dog wanted out too, but I refused to let DH take him until he's seen what was out there first - after all, the dog can't wear shoes.

DH checked out our patio, and it was covered, absolutely covered in small branches and leaves, and one of our gate boards had split down the middle, but we were otherwise fine. DH let the dog pee, then sent him back in to me while he explored. I urged him to check on our neighbors and ask for D batteries while he was out, since the clock radio didn't work and since we only had 4 of the 6 batteries needed for our cd player/radio. I tried to get a signal on my phone to call or text my family, but no dice. I was frustrated and very angry to learn that DH had spoken to his family earlier but neglected to contact mine - as I said, "You mean the side of the family that actually likes us and cares for our well-being? You could at least have called my mom, who must be frantic hours later with no word, and who would have called everyone else!" He was properly ashamed.

Dh reported that the complex looked like a warzone - large branches down in the courtyard, one oak tree split in half (for all intents and purposes), someone's fence down in entirely, an uprooted tree in another courtyard, but no evidence of damage in our complex. On the other hand, outside our complex, across the street, a carport was ripped to shreds, pieces of it in our lawns, and a funeral home's fence and carport destroyed and part of it's roof shredded. Later, on Sunday, as we drove around a bit to recharge our cell phones in our car, we'd see massive damage to billboards and awnings and signs, all in the street and littered throughout parking lots around us.

At one point, I stepped outside to charge the phone and try my family and found a knot of my neighbors talking and waving me over. I didn't know them but by sight, but we talked for a couple of hours, our dogs playing together, getting out energy, seeing who had what supplies and checking our own to help each other out. After awhile the rain stopped and mosquitos started and we all wandered back inside.

We sat and sat and sat for awhile, reading, dozing, eating some of our supplies, trying not to open the freezer or refrigerator to keep things colder longer. We ate the pizza we'd ordered Thursday night and stashed in the fridge and other stuff like onion dip and hummus that would go bad if power was not restored soon. As night approached, it dawned on me that the baby swing we'd set up for training the dog ran on D batteries and we did what you aren't supposed to do and mixed them with the new ones and finally had a link to the outside world. We'd listen for an hour or so, and then turn it off for a bit. The gist of it was there was not much to report, but hearing it was relieving. We lit a bunch of tealights in the decorative screen that had been a (surprisingly useful) wedding gift from my mother and in the wall sconce DH had hated putting up, and had enough light to play Yahtzee and read by. We went to bed when they began to flicker out.

Sunday was much the same, though we did bust into the frozen shrimp as it was beginning to defrost. We were fortunate that it was cool outside, so the indoors didn't get above 80. The lack of air movement was still a bit stifling and we were beginning to have cabin fever, but we read, and washed in the sink, and ate, and again at night, played Yahtzee. I had managed to get text messages out to key people and had tried making calls all day, but the cell phone coverage was sketchy at best. We went out driving for a bit Sunday evening for a change and to charge the phones, but it was scary. People weren't paying attention to the 4-way stops and there was debris in the roads. We sat in parking lots for a bit and then drove just up and down our street until the phones were charged. By this time, we'd received word that we were expected back at work Tuesday, and were infuriated and discussing that ad nauseum.

DH and I had both hoped that we would have electricity restored quickly, because of our location - near a news station and a hospital - but were beginning to feel discouraged as Sunday closed. I realized that our candles would be gone in two more nights, and the thought of another warm night with no blankets and no shower (because it's simply too dark in the bathroom with no overhead light to bathe safely) was depressing. I should say we tried to keep our spirits up and be patient, and we were very grateful for having running water, even if we couldn't drink it - no problem, as we had plenty of bottled and had filled every vessel we could before the power went out- but having only intermittent news from outside, and that mostly consisting of 'we don't know when power will be back' and the blame game between the city and FEMA over the PODs of ice and meals and water was wearying. The contents of the fridge were spoiled and the freezer was beginning to defrost. We agreed to clear the fridge out in the morning and to break out our new grill and have hot sausages and hot chocolate and croissants in the morning.

Unfortunately, we could not get the coals to light. Bless his heart, DH was so earnest and so upset that it wasn't working correctly, especially since we'd looked forward to it. Discovering a large puddle under the fridge dripping from the freezer only made it worse, because it meant the little we had left that was not in the form of granola bars or bags was in danger because we couldn't cook it. It also meant that our supplies were running seriously low, because things like rice or pasta were useless without heat to boil the water. We were starting to get snappy with each other from our enforced captivity and boredom. Granted, even with power, our options were limited, but something other than reading (which was uncomfortably warm upstairs and simply uncomfortable downstairs for long periods of time) seemed warranted. Shortly after a temper flare over nothing, DH and I agreed it was time to clear our patio, since the fridge had been cleared out, we noticed that a Centerpoint crew was in our complex, the next courtyard over, where a line had fallen into the trees at the back of the property. We cheered. DH spoke with a neighbor who spoke with the crew - her understanding was that once the pole was replaced and the line reattached, they believed we would have power restored. Dh and I felt restored, but apprehensive. Someone would go check to see that the crew was still there about every fifteen minutes. Other neighbors did the same and we noticed that we weren't staring at the crew with gratitude or watching because of boredom. People stood and glared, arms crossed, tense, the unspoken message being "You better not leave until this is fixed." Inevitably, one trip out, DH found the crew was gone, and his anger boiled over. I tried to be the calm one, to speak reason - they may have taken a break (they'd worked for over 4 hours at this point), they may have needed more parts, there may be another portion of the line down further up or down, they may need to restablish power at a central point first, but we were both feeling strained, the hopefulness of earlier draining away. We ate some cold thawed sausage, and more dried fruit and nuts and then about 4:10, an hour after we discovered the crew was gone, there was a blip and a whine and the power was back!

We danced and yelled with happiness, and shouted. DH rushed to the kitchen and heated the rest of the sausage in the microwave, while I turned on the computer. We threw our sweaty clothes in the filled washer and let it run, and then we turned the AC way down and took showers. We debated going to the store - we needed milk, eggs, spinach, broccoli, buttermilk, mayonnaise and bread, and we'd be set for the rest of the week. We didn't know what would be available, but we decided to take the chance, at least for some variety over what we'd been eating. We didn't find perishables or produce, but we were able to get some evaporated milk, some Bisquick, and soup that could cook in the crockpot and mayo to make tuna and chicken salad. And lots and lots of chocolate.

We reveled in the power last night, and felt relieved that we had survived, and in the end, it hadn't been so bad. Not something we wish to repeat of course, but we made it intact. There are things we know to do differently next time (get ice, get self-starting charcoal, freeze soup and meat earlier on), and things we know for certain (we can survive a lower grade hurricane and days without power, but if we have kids, we're gone, and if it's more severe, we're gone).

We were extremely lucky and we know that. We feel our blessings. The damage to our house could have been very bad if the carports had come loose, or the trees blown in a different direction. Many, many people are still without power and won't have it for a long time. Our petty irritations fade when compared to the people who lost their homes entirely, or worse are still waiting to hear, because things are so bad they are not allowed back in to see the damage.

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