Its over a week and a half now since we faced Hurricane Ike. Well, for my readers from India….Hurricane is nothing but Cyclone, as its known in India.
So, how did it all go ?
It was a major storm, and the first and worst we ever faced. Hurricane Ike hit Galveston as a strong category 2 hurricane with wind speeds of up to 110 mph (~178 kmph!). Galveston is the coastal area which took the direct hit. Within Houston, which is around 55 miles away from Galveston, the wind speeds were around 90 to 100 mph. The Eye of the hurricane passed directly over Houston downtown (city center).
We live in the Houston Suburb called Katy which is on the west end of Houston. Luckily for us, we were on the clean side of the hurricane, but we did get winds of up to 80 to 85 mph! Its not just the wind, its wind and rain like you have never seen before. The sound of the wind is awful & scary!
I really appreciate the city of Houston for the way they handled this unfortunate event. They were very well prepared for this hurricane (after the lessons they learn’t from Rita and Katrina). They ordered evacuation of areas that were really needed (unlike whole of Houston during Rita — which lead to major problems on the evacuation routes). The city Mayor Bill White and Judge Ed Emmett did a commendable job. I can’t imagine our city corporators and politicians back in India doing such a amazing job.
Ike was a very big hurricane in terms of size (around 400 miles in diameter), with the eye being around 50 miles wide. Ike made landfall at Galveston Island at around 2.10 AM on 13th September (Saturday morning). And due to its size, we felt the winds pickup in Katy area around 6 hrs prior to landfall.
We lost power (in Katy) at around 2 AM on Saturday. And soon, we could feel the Hurricane force winds (winds over 74 mph). It was pretty scary. My main worry was if our window glasses & our roof could withstand the winds. Luckily they did. The wind and rain continued to pound till about 8 AM in the morning and then slowly died down. By noon, the weather was much better at least in our Area. The hurricane had moved north and was causing havoc there.
Prior to the Hurricane, the power company (CenterPoint energy) predicted that if Houston took a direct hit, it would take up to 4 weeks to restore power to everyone. And they were pretty accurate in predicting it. CenterPoint energy has 2.2 Million (22 lakhs) customers (connections) in Houston. At the High of the storm, almost all of its customers lost power. Around 100k customers were with power. Talk about Luck! As I write this, around 25% of Houston is still without power. Its the biggest power outage in the History of US. Well, for us, we got power back in the evening of 15th September (Monday). So we were without power for around 60 hours!
In India, power cuts and failures are pretty normal, and people are used to it. Life goes on smoothly without power. :) … But here in the US, there is too much dependency on electricity. I have never seen a major power failure in US. Tooooo many things are dependent on electricity here. So, without power for 60 hrs was a challenge!
To give you an Idea… no power means:
- No water (since the pumping stations don’t have electricity to pump water).
- No AC or Cooling – Immediately after the hurricane, it was typically hot and humid. The houses and other structures here are designed for Air-Conditioning — so not many windows to open !
- No cooking – since most homes have electric cooking range (and not gas). Even if its gas based, then the gas supply would be disrupted.
- No TV, No Internet – all down. The only means to get information is via a battery operated Radio, assuming you have stocked up enough batteries.
- The cellphones/laptop last as long as the battery in them last!
- No fuel – All the Gas stations (petrol pumps) work on electricity.
- No hot water to bath. (if you are lucky to have water supply)
- All the food in the fridge goes bad – (also means if you have stored medications like Insulin .. etc in the fridge, they are gone!)
- No way to wash cloths!
- Many people could not shave!!! (Thanks to the electric shavers!!!).
- No ironed cloths.
- None of the shops/supermarket open immediately. Even if they are open, they only accept CASH since the credit-card machines won’t work without power. ATMs won’t work without power – so you can’t withdraw cash!
- No water = toilet flush won’t work!
Luckily for us, we had water supply through out the event. So, a major relief. Also, I had fill up the fuel tank of my car before the hurricane, so we were able to drive around. And we had stocked enough drinking water and non-perishable food. Overall, we were pretty well prepared for the storm, thanks to the hurricane preparedness guidelines published by the government and various other agencies.
The only inconvenience for us was being without power for two and a half days. But that’s nothing compared to thousands of other people who are still without power or worse, without a home to stay :( and lost everything that they had.
We feel blessed!
Thanks to all the people who called us right after the storm to check if we were all right.
Overall damage : estimate at the lower end is around USD 27 billion.
Some photos of the aftermath (source : unknown; credits the people who clicked the snaps; I did not click them):