Hello, Edouard

August 4, 2008

I just got Mom’s hurricane lamps down from the top of the sideboard, cleaned off the dust, and filled them with lamp oil.  A storm is brewing the the Gulf.  We’re battening down the hatches, counting our candles and running off to the store for toilet paper.  I bet for those lamps, it seems like old times.

Mom used to tell stories about the hurricanes of her youth, back when they had no names, just Greek letters: Alpha. Beta. On down the list.  Later there were stories of the big epic storms that hit while we were away, such as Betsy in mid-sixties and Camille which so devastated Gulfport and its neighbors a few years later.  We missed Camille by just a few days, having stopped in Gulfport enroute in an Air Force “Permanent Change of Station” from Japan to Delaware.  Those changes were never “permanent,” but they did allow us the long-distance trips that, with detours, became the vacations of my youth.

Freddie and I will have been living here on the Texas Gulf Coast for six years come the end of this month.  The end of the week we came to Galveston, a tropical storm blew in.  Freddie ran off to Wal-Mart for batteries and supplies while I brought in what few planter pots we had set outside.

The worst experience, deserving at least several posts of their own, was the combined effect of first Katrina and Rita in 2005.  Of course the impact of Katrina on New Orleans, Louisiana, and Mississippi was phenomenal.  It changed Houston, too, and it changed us.  One thing I realized then was that if disaster strikes, we cannot rely on the government to help us.  You can’t wait for FEMA, you can’t wait for the bureaucracy: You have to figure out what needs to be done and start doing it, yourself or with your neighbors.

Both storms also brought on a period of depression, seeing the dead and displaced and then, after Rita, living the next month and a half in a house with boarded-up windows.  It was like living in a mausoleum.  And although Rita spared Galveston after first threatening it head on, two buildings a block away from our home were lost to the storm, to fire started by a resident burning candles when the power went out.  We were very lucky that the flames did not spead through the entire neighborhood.

The great storms of 2005 were a factor in our decision the next year to relocate.  We didn’t ever want to have to evacuate again.  Other factors included the 100-mile round trip to Freddie’s Houston-based doctors; the expense and problems associated with living in a poorly renovated 90-year-old house; the desire to live without a stairway; and more.  After a new round of medical issues, we decided at Thanksgiving, 2006, to sell the Galveston house and look inland.

After a false start or two, we settled in our house in Pearland in February, 2007.  Here, we have a house that is built to withstand 130-mph winds.  We are fifty miles inland, just outside the south side of Houston’s Beltway.  There is almost no circumstance that would lead us to evacuate from here for a hurricane, except for an extended power outage.

It’s now 4:30 and the temperature outside is 96 degrees.  My job, this evening, is to bring in the plants from the patio and find a place for the patio furniture.  I’m going to fill a big plastic tub with water in case the water goes out or gets undrinkable.  The hurricane lamps are ready.  Now I’m off to get the candlesticks and yes, count the candles.

One Response to “Hello, Edouard”

  1. Ray Says:

    As you can see, I’m catching up on your old blogs, Bob. Here’s what NOAA had online concerning the history of how hurricanes get named –

    For several hundred years, hurricanes in the West Indies were often named after the particular saint’s day on which the hurricane occurred. For example “Hurricane San Felipe” struck Puerto Rico on 13 September 1876. Another storm struck Puerto Rico on the same day in 1928, and this storm was named “Hurricane San Felipe the second.” Later, latitude-longitude positions were used. However, experience has shown that using distinctive names in communications is quicker and less subject to error than the cumbersome latitude longitude identification methods.

    Using women’s names became the practice during World War II, following the use of a woman’s name for a storm in the 1941 novel “Storm” by George R. Stewart. In 1951 the United States adopted a confusing plan to name storms by a phonetic alphabet (Able, Baker, Charlie), and in 1953 the nation’s weather services returned to using female names. The practice of using female names exclusively ended in 1978 when names from both genders were used to designate storms in the eastern Pacific. A year later, male and female names were included in lists for the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. The name lists, which have been agreed upon at international meetings of the World Meteorological Organization, have a French, Spanish, Dutch, and English flavor because hurricanes affect other nations and are tracked by the public and weather services of many countries.

    The Tropical Prediction Center in Miami, FL keeps a constant watch on oceanic storm-breeding grounds. Once a system with counterclockwise circulation and wind speeds of 39 mph or greater is identified, the Center gives the storm a name from the list for the current year. The letters Q, U, X, Y, and Z are not included because of the scarcity of names beginning with those letters. Names associated with storms that have caused significant death and/or damage are usually retired from the list.

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