Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Gusty Gustav

Sorry for the delay in posting an update, but this is my first opportunity to get online since Gustav hit.

I'm doing fine, although I have temporarily relocated to a place with power and water that doesn't have to be boiled!

The rain from Gustav's outer bands began early Monday morning. I tried to secure things as best I could around the house: bringing small things in from the yard, making sure doors and windows were secure, making sure I had adequate water and food, making sure my gas tank was full before the city shut down... And WOW things shut down fast! By around noon, it was like a ghost town. Even Wal-Mart was closed!

By about 1:30 the winds were starting to kick up and the heavier rain bands were beginning to arrive. I made it to my pastor's house at around 2. The power went out early in the evening -- I think it was around 5 or 6 pm -- so for a while we sat around looking out the window as things flew past. We could hear the wind and the sound of tree limbs breaking.

It was kinda weird, just sitting there listening to the wind and rain and low hum of other peoples' generators. The scariest part was not knowing what was going on... no TV reports, and even the radio signals were often interruped. I woke up early Tuesday morning and everything was pitch black. No one else in the house was awake yet. My cell phone had no signal.

I guess that's when it really hit me: that feeling of isolation, the dread of not knowing, the helplessness of being completely cut off from communication with "the outside." I sat at the window for about an hour, until it got bright enough outside for me to feel safe venturing out on the roads.

Eventually, I got a weak cell signal and was able to receive my text messages and alerts. Even then, I couldn't complete many calls... I got the "network is busy" error. By morning, many landline phones were down too and the radio stations had very little outside news or even "official" news from the local authorities. They simply opened their phone lines for folks to call in damage reports, road blockages, and let others know if a business in their area (especially a gas station) was open.

It was a really weird feeling -- I'm so used to being so connected to the world, and for a couple of hours at least, I felt extremely disconnected. Even though I spent the night with friends, I felt vulnerable without my high-tech safety line(s)...

During my morning drive, I saw lots of trees down, a lot of broken power poles dangling precariously from their wires, and plenty of debris on the roads. But on the positive side, there was no damage to my house or to any of my friends houses (at least nothing I'm aware of at present).

More than 24 hours after it began, the rain was still falling... and so were the trees, weakened by the storm and no longer able to hang on to the saturated ground. Since it didn't seem likely that we'd have power back any time soon, and there wasn't much that we could do to help the situation, I accepted an invitation to wait out the power outage with folks who weren't impacted by the storm.

I haven't gotten a lot of rest over the last few days... so I'm looking forward to a good night's sleep, even if I am getting a late start on it! I'll post more later.

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