Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sunday September 14, 2008

We're still working 24 hours a day, shifts of 12 hours and 12 hours on standby. I came into the office from Adam's house where I tried to sleep again. He still does not have any power, which also means that he has no water because they are on a well. He has a generator which runs a couple of fans into the living room, making it a little more bearable. I still wake in a pool of sweat, but its better than nothing at all and would be better than staying at my house.

I took a nice shower in the Police station. Luckily for us a shower was provided in the bathroom. It seems like a month since I've felt warm water, but its only been two days.

I was teamed up with Steve Burt, our newest member of the Police Dept. Steve is a nice man, but very slow, both in his driving but especially in his report writing. I tried to take as many calls as he did, just so he wouldn't get bogged down in reports, especially since the computer system is so messed up after the storm. The CAD system has not worked well since we went on generator power. The battery back-up system sees every blip in the power grid as a shut down, so it keeps kicking on, which causes the CAD to constantly go down. I had been using Ethan's Blackberry phone as my modem to link my computer in the car to the network, but last night he came by Adam's house and took the phone back. One of the main problems with the system is that the generator is under-sized, so every time the air conditioner cycles, the generator slows down causing the network to go up and down. Ethan found one problem in the generator was the outside floodlights on the building. He learned that by turning these lights off, it kept the generator functioning properly, but the Chief called the office when he noticed the lights off and insisted the lights be left on and said he would rather have the lights on than having the CAD system running. I don't know what his thinking is.....

I took the only burglary report of the evacuation, a home burglary where the thieves ransacked the house and stole several guns. Not bad, considering so many people were out of town. It's sad that some people take advantage of these situations. I hope there's a special place in Hell for people who loot and steal after a disaster. I intend to work hard on locating these people and putting them in jail!

The gas stations began reopening today. The Chevron on 1128 and Hwy. 6 was the first and had traffic backed up almost a mile from the store. It really didn't take that long to get things arranged and organized, and I had lots of help from the people that hang out at the store. I "deputized" Jennifer Thomas, the daughter of one of my coffee-drinking buddies at the store. She did a wonderful job of moving people around the lot so they could get gas. I did hear that she had a little run-in with one of the night shift officers over a difference of opinion of how the traffic should be run. I wasn't there, so I can't make a comment but she ran the show all day long and we didn't have any problems.

One more night at Adam's house. Before I got off work, Adam asked me to come by and get some gas for the generator. By that time, the Chevron had sold out and no one else in town had gas, so I asked the Chief if I could buy a gallon or two from the city. He said that if we had to, to use a siphon hose and take some gas out of the patrol unit, but sometime during the night, Adam and Mike found some gas and brought it by and fired the generator up again.

Until the next one.....

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Saturday September 13, 2008, Ike's destruction

I woke at Adam's house about 5am and went outside several times to look. It was way too dark to see anything and the winds were still blowing 70-80MPH. I was supposed to have gone back on duty at 6, but I knew it was too bad to get out. Mike woke and we both went outside to look around after daybreak and finally about 730 we decided to try to get to the PD. We had seen a couple of cars drive by and one PW car, so we knew it was pretty safe to drive.

We got to the Chevron station on 1128 @ Hwy. 6 and saw one of the gas pumps had blown over. I stopped to see if it was leaking but spoke with Mike Goodson the owner and learned that they have built-in safety switches that made it safe. David Smith, the emergency management director had run under a cable which was wrapped around the light bar on his truck. He managed to get it untangled and made his way to City Hall where the EOC was located. I don't know why he had been out driving around but guess he had just come in from home in Pearland. It seems funny that he, the director, had not been in the EOC during the night when the storm came in.

We made it to the PD but it was dark and quiet because most were still asleep. We went into dispatch and learned that we had 16 calls held over from the storm with everything from 911 calls to many home burglar alarms. I went out and began surveying the damage around town. Trees were across many if not most of the streets and roads and of course lines were down everywhere. We slowly came to life and began making the calls that had been held. We got all the old calls taken care of and all came back to the station around 11 o'clock. Ethan gave me his Blackberry to use as a modem for my computer and volunteered to ride with me to communicate on the computer, recording damage from other units, Capt. Bell allowed me to drive over to Dickinson to check on my house. The main roads were passable but there were many trees and branches on the roads. We made it to Dickinson and saw water in the businesses at the corner of 517 and Maple with deep water covering the road. All of the bayous were over their banks but when we got to my house, I only saw the pine tree in the front yard bent over and the back fences down. All of the banana trees were broken in half but I didn't see any structural damage to the house. I made a quick trip inside but didn't find any broken glass or water on the floors.

We went to Ethan's house and saw the damage done by trees to the roof of his house and the electrical box on the side. His wife and two children including a newborn had ridden the storm out there but seemed to be none the worse for wear. We were sent to the apartment complex where the Chief, Steve Burt and Vickie live, but only some damage was seen. it was not learned until later that Steve's building had been smashed in and water had gone behind the walls of his unit. It was first thought that he would lose everything but he later learned that some could be salvaged. This took care of the employees that live out of town for damages done.

I had been assigned the task of photographing all the city locations and the damage done to them. We went around to two lift stations which had not suffered anything other than limbs down abd minor damages. One station which was surrounded by a wooden fence had suffered damage to the fences. City Hall had not suffered anything major but the PD had lost our metal awning behind the station, the fabric awning on the front and something had hit the front of the building knocking out some bricks and allowing water to enter the building which soaked the walls and floors. The carpet in dispatch and my office was soaked with water but luckily none of the electronics was damaged.

By the time we got back it was almost time for me to go off duty. When I did, I went back to Adam's house since we all had to be available in case of an emergency. There was no power on there but he had rigged up a generator to run a fan and the television in the living room. Sometime later in the night, the generator ran out of fuel but Adam and Mike got some more gas and started it again. It was still very hot but the air was moving. It was another miserable night.

I got up around 4:30 and went over to the PD and took a shower. I put on my BDU pants and a uniform shirt and was pretty comfortable the next day.

To be continued.....

Friday September 12, Ike day

After waking before 1 and staying up all night, I went in to work at my regular time and found that some of the patrol guys had been released early. Only Adam Arriaga and Greg Bartlett had stayed out all night. I went out and began making rounds in the city. About 10:30 I learned that the other guys had been called back in and started arriving about 11. Adam and Greg were about out on their feet, but they hung in there. I was taken out of my patrol unit and put back into my Expedition which is much more comfortable. I was told to take my computer with me as an MDT but I had no air card. This has been an ongoing problem, but they switched some cards around and made mine work for awhile. It took some more tweaking by Ethan to make the MDT work, but it did. I lost contact with the network frequently but it was in the car with me.

About 9 o'clock Mike Jaimes had asked Capt. Bell about why there was no food bought for us to have this weekend. Mike and I went to the Valero store and bought some chips, dips and soft drinks so at least we would have something. I later saw the Chief and Capt. going to the same store to buy more snacks for us all to have. No arrangements had been made for real food but others were expected to bring us food. I don't know where food could have been stored at the PD but it seems that some sort of plan should have been made and supplies-other than chips and snacks-should have been bought.

About 10:30 or so, I was told to escort some of the public works guys over to a house that is under construction in Rodeo Palms to get some sheetrock and 2x4's to board up the PD and City hall. I documented all of this with emails to the Mayor, the Chief and to the Capt. No one had thought to have them buy the materials before now. I later learned that the P/W employees had been given off the day before because they knew they would have to work on Friday which is their normal day off when they could have been laying in the needed materials to board up city property. I later learned that Capt. Bell had gotten Greg to use his truck to pick up some other materials at another house in Rodeo Palms. Aaron told me he had called the superintendent of the project and told him what he had taken.

It rained and blew all afternoon, but nothing major came in. By this time, everyone had reported to the office and it began getting very crowded. I walked into my office and found the lights off, and without asking, I turned the lights on, which surprised and startled poor Cody who had been lying down in my office, unbeknownst to me. I asked that my quiet please sign be placed on the door to let everyone know that someone was asleep there.

I got off duty at about 6:30 and went to Adam's house. All his family had left for San Antonio, so I had the place to myself until Adam and Mike were released and came in about 9:30. They fixed some barbecue, which I ate too, and we all laid down about 10:30. I had been sitting on a love seat couch which I thought was a recliner, but could not find the handle to until Adam came in and showed me. After I found the latch, it was much more comfortable. The power went off about 11:30 but we all went to sleep. I woke up about every hour because of the howling winds-which were the worst I have ever heard-and things banging into the house. I later saw where a limb had hit the side of the Expedition and apparently gone on to damage the side of Mike's ACO truck. Another report to write!

It was a horrible night, having to sit in the dark with no idea what was going on outside, listening to the winds and rain and loud thumps. I imagined all sorts of things that night and felt very sorry for all the animals that had to stay out in the weather. I'm sure that we'll find many of them dead in the morning. Even Adam's dogs were quiet during the storm. I guess they knew something very bad was happening like animals do.

So long for now,

Friday, September 12, Ike day.....

Thursday, September 11, day before Ike

I got up this morning and went to work, again working alone on patrol. I really don't know what they're thinking with all the evacuations going on. I'll do the best I can, but its tough out here all alone if something major breaks.

Luckily for me and the citizens who depend on us for police protection nothing much happened. As I am being relieved, the Captain and all the other patrol officers are coming in. That's great planning, four patrol officers and the Capt. on evenings and midnight shift and only me out here by myself on patrol. I can only imagine what is going to happen during the hurricane!

I went home expecting to be called out at any time. I woke up about 12:30am by wind and a rain shower and just stayed up. The power had gone out and I figured that if I went back to sleep, I'd just sleep all the way into Friday and I can't be late to work.

Stand by for the storm report.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ike continues

I left off my last post here on Monday, when we were planning to take the truck and trailer to Boerne. I was talking to Bill Sims, who lives in Port Arthur, about what we were doing because Ornell had told him that he ought to leave too. I had suggested to him to come with us but he pointed out that the storm will likely go over San Antonio/Boerne after making landfall. He suggested bringing the trailer down to his house. He said that I could leave it there and if the storm kept coming their way, one of his sons could drive my truck to pull my trailer out. I thought that sounded like a plan, so bright and early Tuesday morning I called the park in Boerne and cancelled my reservation there.

Another problem that we found was that I had planned for Stella to drive the city Expedition to Boerne or wherever we decided to go which would have made it necessary for us to have our own insurance rider on another vehicle. My insurance agent said that they wouldn't insure a city vehicle, especially an emergency vehicle.That means that if we evacuate, we'll have to return to Dickinson so that I can go to work in the Expedition.

On Tuesday, the storm seemed to be heading into the Corpus Christi area, so we decided that we would just ride it out at home. I knew I would have to go to work and leave Stella alone, but she could go to Kim's house or with them and would be safe. I went to work and we monitored the path of the storm. It seemed to be heading more and more toward the eastern Gulf coast of Texas, which made everyone very nervous. A mandatory evacuation was ordered for west Galveston and the southern part of Brazoria County but it didn't really affect us.

Wednesday morning the storm seems to be coming more on a Carla-type path, which made us decide to take the trailer to Bill's house in Port Arthur. I came straight home and hooked it up and we were at his house a little after 5. Traffic wasn't bad at all on the freeway and we breezed right along. When we got there we found out that Bill had already called a park in Breaux Bridge Louisiana to go to from his house if needed. He said they could go to Lafayette or wherever it took to be safe. He will drive my truck and one of his sons will drive his and pull his trailer. Ornell is a nurse and will have to stay at the hospital.

We ate supper at Bill's house and he and Stella brought me home. I went to bed about 8:30 but Jana called about 9:30 and it woke me up to the point that I couldn't go back to sleep. I came in here and watched the storm predictions until almost 11 before turning back in and sleeping 'til about 3:30. I got up and saw that the storm is predicted to hit just west of Galveston Bay which will be somewhere in Brazoria county.

I'm glad I had already packed a suitcase to take with me this morning. I'll just add a few items and go on in to work. At least Stella, Cassie and the trailer are safe in Port Arthur and can move if needed.

I'm leaving for work now, so wish us luck.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Weekend at Rayford, running from Ike

We went back to Rayford on Friday after work for a Texas Boomer gathering that had been planned for awhile. We had a few drop out, but 11 attended. We all had a good time. We went out to eat at Mel's Diner in Tomball on Friday night with our old friends Jim and LeAnne Rigsby, Don and Pat Allen, Bob and Darlene Wurch, Barbara Spade and Jodi Neal. We all ate very well, and no one went home hungry.

Saturday morning, we got up and went to eat breakfast with Ricky and Dee Cobb and Bill and Ornell Sims. We went to the Timber Ridge RV park (owned by Gwen and Billy) and actually ran into Billy while we were at the park. He fed the fish in the ponds and we saw what we thought were a couple of turtles or snakes in the water. I don't think I will swim in the pond any time soon! We made our weekly trip to Wal Mart and bought the food for tonight's potluck dinner. We came back to the park and I hung out in the trailer while Stella fixed her scrumptious bananna pudding. Ted and Donna came by for the meal, and it was good to see Ted up and about with his bad back. He goes to the Doctor on Monday to see what's ailing him. We all ate very well that night, but I got a bad headache and had to go to the trailer about 8 o'clock. I stayed there and got feeling much better but got a good night's sleep.

We got up Sunday morning and all loaded up to come home. While leaving the park, I found out that Gwen's mother had died on Saturday and that she and Billy were making arrangements in Lufkin for the services.

We pulled out about 11 and made it home by 12:30, a record for us! We hung out at the house until about 5:30 when we went to Kim's house for supper. Jeremy had fixed a pasta dish like lasagna which was very good. We came on back home pretty early so i could get to bed on time. It sucks having to rise at 3 or 4am to get to work.

This morning, all eyes and ears were on the storm. It looks like Ike is going to come into Galveston on a straight line. He is expected to intensify after getting through Cuba so we don't know where to go. I spoke with Melissa at Rayford, but she said that Gwen had told her that if Ike is a category 3 or stronger and aiming for Houston/Galveston, to have everyone in the park to leave. I can't blame her for not wanting the liability of someone's rig being damaged in the park.

I called the Alamo Fiesta park in Boerne and got a reservation for us there. I spoke with Donna, but she didn't think Ted would be able to get things loaded up with his bad back, Ricky said that if they leave they would go to his Dad's house on Canyon lake. Bill said that he is going to monitor the storm and will try to find something in east Texas or northern Louisiana. He even offered to move my trailer down to his house and keep it and Stella there. What a friend!

We were put on active standby, which means that all leaves andd vacations are cancelled and everyone must do their own preparations for the storm. Capt. Bell told me that I can leave work tomorrow at noon to take the trailer to Boerne and be back as early as possible the next day for work and to be prepared to stay.

I'll continue to monitor Ike and will likely make my decision later tonight about where to go.

Wish us luck, it looks like this one is gonna hit us square in the mouth.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Another week gone, less than a year to go!!

Its getting harder and harder to go to work, doing a job that I don't want to be doing. I look forward to the weekends so much now, especially when I'm camping with my friends.

Thursday and Friday at work weren't too bad, just got caught up on some reports. 2:00 can't come soon enough.....I learned Friday morning that I have Monday (Labor Day) off. It would have been nice if someone had told me. It makes me look real stupid when this happens. Oh well, Thursday marked one year to go until retirement.

Friday afternoon we left for the park as soon as I got home. I absent-mindedly took a microphone to the video camera home with me and had to drop it off but we went up via Manvel which wasn't too bad of a drive. Only a little bit out of the way. When we arrived at the park, Bob Wurch was there in his motorhome. After waiting on Darlene to arrive, we ended up going out to eat pizza at Double Dave's Pizza for a change. It was good but I still like Donnelly's Pizza buffet. We came back and some of us got in the hot tub to relax. A great way to finish the night.

Saturday morning we got up and went to the breakfast at the rally hall put on by the park. Ted and Donna had called and asked if we could get them a site in the park, which I was able to do, even though it was the Labor Day weekend and the park was booked up. They weren't planning to arrive until Sunday afternoon. All during the day we all monitored the Internet and television for updates on hurricane Gustav. It still looks like he's going into Louisiana. I hate to wish bad luck on anyone, but I'm glad we didn't get it. Our friends Bill and Ornell left Port Acres and went to Granbury for the weekend in advance of the mandatory evacuation of the Beaumont area. They said they had some slow going but made it okay. Saturday afternoon, we had planned to go to the mixer and to watch the Hawaiian hula dancers perform at the pavilion. It was okay, but since I was on call and couldn't drink anything alcoholic, it wasn't as much fun for me. Right after that, the park cooked another pig for the Luau weekend, and we all gathered at the Rayford room where the guests brought vegetable dishes and desserts. It was another great meal and the Unique Soul band began playing as soon as supper was through. They are a good band, playing a lot of 60's and 70's music. We stayed down there until the band quit playing at 9. We went back to the hot tub again but this time it was just Dee and I in the tub. Stella's foot wouldn't let her in again and Ricky never comes into the hot tub. Bob had said he would come but he didn't show up.

Sunday morning we got up and fixed a big breakfast of biscuits and gravy, bacon, sausage, and eggs. It was a great way to begin the day. Donna called to tell us that they were held up on the road coming in from Beaumont. Ted was down in his back and couldn't do too much to set his rig up, so Ricky and I volunteered to help. When they arrived, the said that the Highway Patrol had blocked off Hwy. 105 at Hwy 146 and wouldn't let anyone go west on 105. I wondered why because we hadn't heard anything about any road closures because of the storm. I later saw on the news that there had been a bad traffic accident on 105 which apparently caused the road to be closed. They had to go almost all the way to Livingston before being able to turn off and get on Hwy. 59 to come back to Houston. When they got there, we quickly set them up and then Ricky and I cleaned up their truck and trailer which was covered with love bugs. It seems unusual that the bugs are back now, they are usually a springtime nuisance. Sunday night, Ricky cooked us steaks on his grill. The girls had gone to the store and bought all the fixins' for everything, so we had another great meal in the park. We sat outside until about 10:30 when I conked out and we all called it a night. It rained pretty hard just after we all went in, but it was just a shower and didn't last very long.

Monday morning we got up and decided to eat some breakfast tacos this morning. Its amazing how well these thrown-together meals come out. We sat around all morning, relieved that Gustav had gone into Louisiana. Dee's parents live in Lake Charles but left for Mississippi. I heard from Bill that Ornell had to go back to work, so she rode back with one of their sons. He stayed in Granbury and will come to Houston on Wednesday for the rally this weekend.

We had a little excitement in the park today. A couple that had just bought a truck camper came in last night, and while trying to offload the camper onto the jacks, the man somehow lost control of everything with the front end crashing to the ground. I suspect that he didn't have his front jacks extended far enough and it caused the front jacks to fail. It sure broke up his new camper. They had to call a wrecker to pick it up and take it to their shop to try to get it fixed. They apparently live in Mexico and planned to take it back, having just bought it on Friday. Ted and Donna got packed up and left and I left soon after they did. Stella stayed in the park and will come home on Wednesday.