back home, and online.
First off, I want to say that I will NEVER again make snide remarks about people who don't evacuate before a storm. I always thought it would be a complete no-brainer, but it was a really, really hard decision. If we had been in a mandatory evacuation area that would have been something else altogether, but we were literally up at 4:00 am Friday morning trying to decide if we should throw the kids in the car and try to get out while the roads were clear. In the end we decided to stay, because we couldn't get any information about how clear the roads were more than 50 miles or so out of town, and the only thing worse than being here for a category 4 hurricane would be being stuck on the road in a car during a category 4 hurricane.
The worst part was the waiting. Wednesday night we had decided to leave Thursday at noon, after the mandatory evacuation times had passed. Because there were so many people in mandatory evacuation zones, we didn't want to add to the cars on the road and potentially keep someone who needed to leave from being able to get out. Then when it became obvious that the exit routes were blocked, it became a waiting game. Would the roads clear in time? Should be take our chances? Where would the storm hit? Was it losing strength? Our bags were packed, the refrigerator was cleaned out, all the jugs we had available were filled with water, the yard was cleared of anything that could become a missile in high wind, and we didn't know which of three options we were going to take.
Then we made the decision to stay, and I just felt sick. What if it was the wrong choice? What if the storm didn't turn? What if it hit as a category 5? I know if we had decided to go, I would have felt the same way. What if we got stuck on the road? What if we ran out of gas? What if we moved right into the path of the storm? What if we fled the hurricane only to get hit by a spawned tornado? I had visions of my children trapped under a collapsed wall, hit by flying debris, pierced by broken glass or impaled on jagged broken tree limbs crashing through the roof.
Friday we planned to drop off food and bedding at my sister's in the morning and then move the cars to a nearby parking garage, where they would hopefully be more protected and not in danger of flooding or ending up under a fallen tree. But the storm was moving very slowly, and the day was clear and still, so we spent the first half of the day cleaning house and putting things away.
Originally I didn't bother preparing the house; I didn't expect it to be here after the storm. But since we had time, I gathered up all the pictures on the walls with sentimental value - the photograph of my grandmother as a little girl, the painting my great-aunt did for her father's office, the certificate my father got for crossing the equator for the first time as a 19-year-old naval officer during WWII, and the self-portrait my daughter painted in third grade - wrapped them in plastic, and stored them in a closet. Then I took the ceramic chickens that belonged to my other grandmother out of the kitchen windowsill, the teapot my mom had teaparties with as a little girl and the pocket dragons that topped our wedding cake off the knicknack in the living room, and put them in a drawer.
We rolled up the living room rug and moved the furniture as far away from the windows as we could, and then there was nothing else to do. The wind was picking up by now, so while Husband moved our stuff to my sister's house and took care of the cars, I went to my parent's house and made spaghetti for supper. After we ate we walked across the street to my sister's house to watch the weather reports and ride out the storm.
The house was strangely dark and unfamiliar; the windows were boarded up, most of the furniture had been moved upstairs, and breakables and pictures had been put away in closets. As the evening wore on, the wind came in fits and starts and the rain was just a light mist and by bedtime it was apparent we would be on the outer fringes of the storm. We all staked out places on the living room floor to get some sleep.
The wind would come and go; it was loud but fortunately never got over 60 mph. Around 2:30 the power went out. I slept off and on until about 7:00; although it was light outside the house was dark. I sat on the front porch and watched the wind; it was still coming in gusts and in between it was very calm. It was fascinating to watch because all the trees wouldn't move at the same time. And even during the times when it was calm, the clouds were racing across the sky so fast it was dizzying.
There was very little damage, mostly small branches and lots of twigs and leaves. Later, we would find one massive elm uprooted at the end of he block, and a smaller tree fallen across a storage shed at one of my sister's rental properties. We spent the day playing chicken feet, hanging pictures back on the walls, and cleaning up the yards. The power came back on at my sister's and parents' at around 1:30 in the afternoon, but we didn't have power at our house until around 8:00 this evening.
I am glad it's over. My heart goes out to everyone in East Texas and Louisiana, who found themselves in the path of the storm with so little warning. Some of Husband's elderly relatives left Angleton and ended up in the hardest hit areas, and we haven't heard how they fared. For now, I just want to take a hot bath and go to sleep in my own bed, without having to think about tomorrow.