Gulf Coast Hurricanes
Hurricanes Versus Tornadoes
There is no comparison between a hurricane and a tornado. I have experienced both and understand the difference. A hurricane is a devastating wind and rainstorm that leaves destruction in its path. Flooding generally accompanies a hurricane. You can prepare for a hurricane and easily leave and get out of the area. The watch and warning phase may last for a week or more with the final countdown coming about three days before the event. A tornado is very different. The watch will be for a storm which may or may not develop specifically in your area. The recent tornadoes are worse than anything I have experienced and the one tornado I did experience scared me silly. The wind really does sound like a freight train coming toward you and most people have nowhere to go during the event. A tornado is a cyclic wind event that can grow to more then a mile wide and heads in a path that is generally unpredictable.
Damage During Hurricane Ike in Texas
My Hurricane Experience
Waiting for the arrival of a hurricane is intense. The barometer falls and you can feel the pressure in the air. If you are a storm junkie your pulse races and you find yourself pacing the floor waiting....and then it happens! The excitement is almost more than you can bear! The winds come at you with a roar that leaves you breathless. It is exhilarating! Depending on the speed of the storm you will notice a gradual increase in the wind... and then the hurricane force winds hit you. If you are smart you stay inside where it is safe.
As a native of Texas and the Gulf Coast I have experienced the eye of a hurricane three times in my life as well as numerous tropical storms. The days leading up to a hurricane has everyone on edge. It is hard to get any work done because in this age of technology the ruling passion of the moment during the days leading up to landfall is keeping track of the latitude and longitude on an hour by hour basis. As the storm gets closer and you begin to think you just might take a hit you start worrying about bottled water, bread, canned meat for sandwiches, as well as batteries, radios, and portable television sets. You also wonder if you can get your hands on a gas powered generator.
Hurricane Carla 1961
Alicia...Little Storm With a Punch 1983
1983 was a tough year. My father died May 1 and my husband was laid off his job with Ideal Cement Company during the spring. We were adjusting to the change in our circumstances and loss when Alicia came to visit in August. Late summer in Texas is sultry, humid and absolutely the worst time of the year. Temperatures soar to the upper 90's and 100's. I was a young mother with three sons at home and we decided to stay at the house with my mother, and 12 year old baby brother. My baby sister lived a few miles away in Channelview with her husband and 3 month old baby boy. She was going to be brave and stay at home through the storm.
We lived about three miles from the Washburn Tunnel that passed under the Port of Houston so we were in the direct path of the storm. Alicia was not a big storm in comparison of recent storms such as Katrina or Ike but it was really powerful and did a lot of damage. There were many tornadoes and they seemed to come right down Dorwayne Street and take a right on Coulson Circle where we lived. The main thing I remember about Alicia was the sound of popping and cracking that went on for hours. The wind was not loud but the popping and cracking went on and on. After the storm I realized that the sound came from the wooded neighborhood losing tree after tree during the storm. During the eye my sister had been so frightened that she determined to drive through the storm to our house which was only a few miles away. As soon as the wind died down when the eye came over they were in the car and headed for our house.
They made it in plenty of time, but she was even more frightened as she described the downed trees and broken houses they had passes. She called it a war zone. Across the street from our house a huge tree that was about four foot in diameter was rocking between two of the neighbors houses. It was only a matter of time before the tree came down on one of the houses. My husband, brother-in-law, and the neighbors wrapped a chain around the tree and using a pick up truck they managed to pull the tree forward into the street away from any of the houses. That was a frightening moment. Soon we were back in the middle of the storm.
If you have never lived through the aftermath of a hurricane you have never lived. The atmosphere changes. There is no wind and it is HOT! We were without power for three weeks after Alicia and it was miserable. Still, we were blessed to have no damage to our home or any of the homes on our block! Amazing!
Ike came in September 2008. The kids are all grown now and have families of their own. Still, my mother and baby brother and baby sister ended up together again at my house. Her husband and daughter were at the hunting lease out of danger and she left her home in Rosharon believing that she would never see it again. She gathered a few sentimental items and joined us in Atascocita hoping we would be all right. Atascocita is in the north of the Houston Metroplex close to the city of Humble and Kingwood. We planned well but we did not realize the amount of damage that would be done to the city. We waited patiently for the storm to come and felt the strange exhilaration that always accompanies such an event. You can never sleep even when a storm hits at night. You pace the floor and hope for the best. This time it was my son and his family living in Channelview not far from the Port of Houston and I have to admit that I was afraid for them. Motherly anxiety, of course. Ike was a massive storm! We knew we were getting the eye of the storm but the first half of the storm took about 4 or more hours to pass over us. For the first time I was a little nervous but it passed. Our house did not shake but there were so many pine trees around us that I feared one would land on our roof. In fact a tree in our next door neighbor’s yard had the top half broke off and shot like an arrow down between our two houses! What a miracle neither house was harmed! We lost power about midnight and lit the candles. It was not particularly hot after that because of the wind that was blowing. I sat on my back porch in a sun room to watch the storm through the glass doors. My son began sending text messages when he lost power. We were checking back and forth throughout the night. He notified me when the eye passed over his house so we were prepared for the eye when it made it to our house about 45 minutes later. The funny thing was that the phone continued to work until after the eye passed over and we could text right through the end of the storm. Then the phones stopped working for a very long time. As soon as the eye of the storm passed over our house people were in their cars driving up and down the roads. It was the most foolish thing I have ever seen. So many people on the road! When the wind finally began to slow down after day light they were out again long before the wind came down to 50 miles per hour. I must be getting old because I could never do such a thing!
A most interesting thing happened when the eye passed over our home. The wind changed direction and was now coming from a totally opposite direction. Up till this point we had absolutely no damage and were beginning to think would escape again. Our HUGE tree behind our patio began rocking back and forth from the wind until the roots were loosened too much. Hours after the storm ended this tree began to lean to the right. My husband brought a chair to the patio to watch the tree. It was an interesting sight him sitting in the doorway watching the tree for any sign of movement. The tree was not leaning toward the house so we thought we might be okay. Suddenly my husband cried out, “It’s going over!” and we started running around trying to get anything off the near walls. The tree seemed to be moving in slow motion and very slowly fell with a thump. Our house only had the corner damaged but the neighbor’s house was in bad shape! My husband ran over there and turned the water off for an older gentleman who was really frightened. We finally got settled down and had to face the aftermath.
Power was out in the entire Houston Metroplex. No one had power, telephones, or worse, internet. Then we realized that the power outage meant there would be a shortage of gasoline. Our tank was full but after a few days we were forced to make a decision. The decision came suddenly. We were cooking on our grill when we realized that we had no more gas for the grill. We knew we would not be able to get any and we could not stand in line for the gas which might be gone when we reached the head of the line. With a half tank of gas we packed our clothes and headed out for Austin where my youngest son lives. It was truly unbelievable the difference in the world when we reached Brenham. It was like the storm had never happened! What a relief. We were out of our home for two and a half weeks before we went stir crazy and returned to a house with no power. My mother came home as well because she could not stand being out of her room and away from her things as well. Even when the power came back there was no cable television or internet so life was really hard. Still, we were blessed to have survived with so little damage. The result of that storm was that I became really ill due to the mold that set up in our house so I was moving in December 2008 just before Christmas. I was finally able to breathe again! It was a happy Christmas!
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