When the snow don't come
You can't swim in the lakes
Now it's hotter than hell
In a bed you won't make
The morning of going to Galveston we stopped by that abandoned Wal-Mart for some last minute questions and supplies. The supervisor told us to pack away three cases of bottled water since the water in Galveston was either not working or undrinkable. They also told us that we're going to need a lot of cash and insect repellant with with over 75% deet. They made it sound like we were heading into Vietnam or something.
It wasn't until we reached north Houston when we started to see large broken branches and after each mile we would see more and more damage. At this point it just looked like a powerful thunderstorm whipped around Houston which was barely notable. When we drove through downtown Houston we noticed that some windows were replaced with plywood.
I remember all those 80's shows would feature a cool looking office. Man would walk in the office and immediately a drink would be served in some cool looking bar off to the side of the office. There would be glasses and all the top line liquors around. I've always dreamed about having my redneck equivalent. It would feature all the bottom shelf liquors and have dixie cups sitting nearby. A piece of plywood in place for a window would also be ideal. I can only hope that there is some guy up there with dixie cups making the most of his wooden window.
I've been in Houston before visiting friends and I really don't care for it at all. For it being the 4th largest city it sure doesn't have much going for it. When you compare Houston to Chicago or New York, I nearly throw up because of how cool both Chi-town and NY are and how boring Houston is. I would probably rate Houston a tad bit above Gatlinberg, TN and just below Humble, TX.
Anyway, south of Houston is where we were finding more and more billboards being blown out. We all made the note that McDonalds signs seemed to fare the worst because nearly all were damaged south of Houston.
Then we'd see some very weak houses with tarps over the roof. Construction equipment was becoming more frequent and there was more and more crap on the side of the road.
About ten miles north of Galveston we began seeing boats laying on the sides of the freeway, the median, and pretty much all over the place.
When we reached Galveston Island it looked very concerning. There was piles of trash stacked up in front of all the homes and businesses were throwing away all the drywall and damaged goods into their parking lot. There was nothing open and everything smelled like a plugged drain that hadn't been pumped in two weeks. All the traffic lights were out too so defensive driving was a must. It was way too easy to have your eyes drift toward a graveyard or some strange debris and you end up rear ending someone.
Everyone in my team kept mentioning the "Galveston song" by Glen Campbell. My parents even mentioned it but I've never heard it before. I just youtubed it just now and now I wish I was never that curious. Good lord that song sucks. The Wreak of the Edmund Fitzgerald blows it out of the water...er...pardon the pun
In this picture you can see the small boat caught up in the tennis court fences but what is really interesting is the dirt on top of the chain link fence off to the right. This dirt is the high water mark for when the storm surge hit. These tennis courts were about 6 blocks away from the Gulf.
We stopped at the local chapter headquarters where we met our next supervisor who looked like she hadn't slept in 3 days. She was dealing with 30 problems seemingly all at once and the four of us were trying not to cause her to snap. She explained the shelter that we'd be helping out and that there are only 6 staff people right now. The 6 were all from Florida and were brand new to the Red Cross and she seemed worried about them. As if they were trouble or something.
We shrugged it off and went to our own shelter where we were being housed. Because there was so many different disaster relief organizations down there (EPA, Forestry, State Troopers, FEMA, Salvation Army, Southern Baptists, and more) they had a huge shelter for all the disaster relief agencies to stay in. The shelter was a tent, and air conditioned tent no less which housed about 400-some cots
On my plane trip back home I sat next to this U of M professor who made one of the funniest statements,
"I do believe that Texas summers are in fact colder than Minnesota winters."
See, in Texas they don't simply turn on the air conditioner but they have every room ready for emergency meat locker storage. It's absolutely insane how cold they make these rooms. When I started packing for my trip I briefly wondered if I should bring a stocking hat for if I should get cold at all. Then I thought,
"I'm going to southern Texas, what would I do with anything more than a t-shirt?"
I figured it was a good point but I actually could've used one. This shelter was waaay too cold at night and I would shiver my ass out the door just to warm up.
Outside the PVC meat locker we had a contracting outfit in charge of showers, washing stations, laundry, and food. Other than tents, we were not roughing it at all. The food was great and in great quantity because you almost needed two plates to hold everything.
Laundry was especially cool because you stop up to this tent, hand them your bag of laundry, and take a number. Later that day it would be cleaned AND folded. Upon learning of this I called up my mom and she thought I would never leave. Folded clothes!!!
Here's where I tease you and say, "Next, I'll talk about what it was like at the client shelter...but that will come tomorrow." So yeah, stay tuned or whatever.