Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Hello hurricane Dolly!

An interesting thing about this area is that although hurricanes and tornadoes are common around it, the valley doesn’t have a lot pass over it; so when I found out about tropical storm Dolly probably becoming a hurricane as it headed toward Brownsville, I wasn’t overly worried (they change course, fizzle out etc). Besides, there just isn’t a lot one can do other than cover and protect as best as possible and say a prayer...

Knowing that rain was coming, I went out and mowed as much as I could. When it rains here, you can watch the grass grow a foot a day! For a day that was supposed to be stormy, Tuesday the 22 was quite lovely; a nice breeze and a bit cooler than it had been. It seemed things weren’t panning out the way the forecasters had predicted: the storm was moving slower than expected and thus was building a bit and surprisingly still on track for South Padre Island - and here. Rather than making landfall in the evening, it wouldn’t arrive until the next day. One thing I did notice was the gulls; we are 40 miles or so from the coast and provide habitat but don’t generally see gulls this far inland - so it was a heads up.

Wednesday morning was quite nice, though overcast. We’ve had some wicked tropical storms and lots of very windy days and it seemed not so much different than many others. The wind was clearly picking up from the north and there were some showers; the cooler weather made me think of baking some brownies - something nice to wait out the storm with but I didn’t get to it quite quick enough! Some intermittent periods of more intense rain had me thinking in terms of thunder storms and computer damage, so I posted an update to my net friends, checked on the satellite photos but could only get storm, hurricane, and flooding warnings for Brownsville. Our property is higher than what is around us and I have spent a fair amount of energy re-grading to improve drainage around buildings; so it was then back to 'nothing more to be done but wait it out'. Being rural, we don’t have much in the way of Radio or TV reception so the internet is a major source of info but with it no satellite image, kind of lacking.

My friend from town called to check in and shared the storm watch info on TV. About 30 miles apart, we often have very different weather. It seemed the storm was going to hit the Cameron and Willacy county borders just east of me and if one were to draw a line of its route, well I was in just about the worst place possible! I was thinking of checking the TV to see if there is any signal; I had barely finished that thought when suddenly there was NO electricity, period. I went back to rural living - not uncommon in a storm, though it would likely be a while longer in this case. Using my cell phone (which works poorly out here too), I called my daughter in OR to let her know about the power outage; ask what she was hearing and reassure her we were fine. Yup, it was looking like quite a storm; last I’d heard a it had been upgraded to a '2' and was headed for Arroyo city - not too far from me. My daughter found the town and yup, it had already hit the mainland just south east of me, and darned if it wasn’t still coming directly for us! She put the satellite image up next to the Google map on this blog and was watching the storm; she was hearing about lots of power outages, likely lasting for days. Cell phone was our only means of communication and with no power to recharge the cell, our conversations were short.

So it looked like we had ourselves
a Hurricane about to pass right on through, oh my Toto! I know I have been in hurricanes and tornadoes and some seriously fierce wind storms - and tropical storms - but never here, and not in a structure I know to be seriously substandard and a nightmare of a poor building but that’s a different story! Suffice to say, I know the structure of the building and was wondering where there might be a safe place to duck and cover should the need arise. Of course there was this marvelous storm raging outside and the intellectual and artist in me wants to see and take pictures! I’m not immune to the damage and human suffering that storms can generate; on the contrary, it could so easily have become me - but if so, I figured I might as well document it. I went off looking for the digital to try to take pictures that can actually capture the rain flying horizontally!! The banana trees with their long leaves blown all to one side, like hair in the wind. I hardly dared open the door? The wind whipped by from the north and the north side of the house is quite stormy. I went off to the other windows and interestingly, although windy, the south side was much calmer. The wind was blowing down on us rather than up; less likely to rip the roof off, so I found this reassuring! I went around the house to all four sides and get some pictures; tried opening a window or door maybe, then big shudders of the sliding glass door sent me jumping backward to a safer spot.

My youngest and her hubby have erected a a steel building and will be using it as a studio for now until able to build a ‘real’ house.
However, the steel building is very 'happening' and I will gladly refer folks to Paul from Future Steel in Canada - please give him my name! The building was untouched of course, and quiet inside! Alternative construction is another interest for me, so watch for more on that.

The point is that my daughter and I were in separate
buildings during the storm (although the kitchen is in this one!). She had been here and made breakfast before the power outage; walked the short distance in the weather, and made a couple of trips later to make dinner - wild woman, used to harsh climates with good rain gear! Propane for the stove so we have burners. Trying to remember where everything you need is in the fridge; to open it, retrieve what you want and close it again before losing too much cold, is not easy at the best of times! The things one must think about in such a scenario: what food had I best eat ASAP and when is it better to open the fridge to get food or keep it closed to keep it cold? Meanwhile, the rain was still parallel to the ground; there were some loud crashes periodically, and rats! I had forgotten something critical in the fridge!

I made dinner and the storm seemed somewhat less (nice IF that lessening of intensity was a good thing) and the critter sounds were back (this is one of my favorite parts of the country!). Of course the storms rate of travel size etc meant only one thing... I called my DD in Or again: definitely a hurricane; crop and tree damage for sure, and the eye was passing over us. Yup, she tells me: "I am watching it. The SE corner of the eye is right over your property it has been downgraded to a cat 1 again; still lots of damage, flooding and power outages." The winds were picking up again, so best save the phone battery...

to be continued...


mainpowerconnect said...

Disasters, Hurricanes, Wind Storms, We’ve seen the after-effects, entire communities without power!

Here are some tips on how to safely restore power due to unexpected power outages and safely use emergency generators.

How to Choose the Right Emergency Electric Generator

How to Safely Operate a Portable Generator and Transfer Switch

Generator Safety Frequently Asked Questions

Maisyh said...

Wow, corny, it all sounds scary and exciting at the same time! I can hardly wait for the next instalment!! Post, post, POST!!!

hgirl said...

Dolly did a doozy yet we are still more fortunate than some of our neighbors:D Love the blog, look forward to seeing you continue to develop and add to it. Will check back often!!!

Maura said...

Great post! Can't wait to read more and see more pics! Glad you are safe Corny!