Last week we started hearing lots of talk about 'Hurricane Ike' and the further into last week that we got the more obvious it seemed that he was really going to make his presence known here in Houston. Chris was told he didn't need to come into work Friday (although he has to either use one of his personal days or make it up!) and Gracie didn't have school. Chris came home early Thursday and we gathered together some supplies, although not having ever been in a hurricane we weren't sure exactly what to gather. Sure, they post lists on the news and stuff but until you've really been in one there's no way to really understand. We talked about boarding some windows but there weren't too many people doing that so we decided not to. However, the next day more & more people were doing it so we ended up doing some of them. I kind of wanted to leave town but we were told to "shelter in place" unless we were in an evacution zone so we did just that. We'd heard 'horror stories' of people trying to evacuate and getting stuck on the interstate for hours & hours (and longer!) and being simply miserable so we decided to stay put since we were being encouraged to do so anyway.
The weather started getting worse as Friday went on. Chris boarded up the front door, I helped him board up some of the windows (I helped him mark the size of the boards & held the ladder-I was so scared he was going to drop one of those boards on my head! He did drop a nail or two on me!) There were quite a few people out in the neighborhood working on boarding their own homes and there was an energy in the air that said something was about to happen. The wind was picking up and we tried to sleep hat afternoon since we figured we weren't going to get much sleep that night. It was eerie just waiting for this big thing to happen, not knowing exactly what it was going to be like and wondering if we'd done everything we needed to do. In addition to boarding the windows, we had tried to get loose things into the garage and had bottled water and non-perishable foods ready along with candles & a flashlight. We were watching tons of 'Hurricane Ike' coverage on t.v. and were just bracing for this inevitable thing.
We planned for the girls to sleep in the closet in the living room while Chris & I planned to sleep on air mattresses in the living room and Ellie would sleep in her pack 'n play near us. We moved the couch so it was between us & the wall of windows. Katie ended up going to bed early because she was so hyped up she couldn't calm down (that whole barometric pressure thing) so we put her to bed so she wouldn't keep getting in trouble! Gracie stayed up until around 10:30. The wind kept picking up more & more while the rain didn't start until pretty late. I can't remember for sure, but maybe it was sometime between 10-11 before it came.
Around 11:15 I decided to try to sleep. From what I remember (and I think I've blocked some of it from my memory!) the wind was blowing pretty good but I thought maybe I could sleep some. They had said the hurricane would make landfall by midnight at the earliest but probably closer to 1 or 2 am. In my naive state of mind, I thought if we could make it to 2:00-at the latest-we could brace for 30 minutes or so and then it would pass over and be gone. HA! At some point, Ellie was fussy so I got her and held her for awhile and watched more coverage. I guess Galveston was getting it about this point. (maybe 1:30 or so???) Ellie slept in my arms for awhile but then fussed when I put her down so Chris ended up staying up with her. I think she could hear the wind plus her tummy seemed to be hurting her.
Best I remember, it was around 3 or so that I woke up to horribly hard blowing wind. I remember getting up and Chris waking up & saying, "what?" I said, "I can't sleep through this!" I was really scared-I won't lie! I remember the power blinking once but coming back on. As Chris describes it, he says I just kept pacing back & forth. I suppose that is true. I would go look out the window next to the front door then I'd peek through the blinds in the dining room then I'd peek out the blinds in the family room or kitchen. A couple of times I went upstairs to look through those windows. The wind was simply amazing how hard it was blowing. If I'd been able to look into the future and know for sure that we'd be safe I probably would have enjoyed watching it, but I was scared out of my mind! I prayed & prayed that night! The girls were thankfully sleeping through it all-except Ellie was kind of fussy but not too bad. One of our friends tonight commented on the faith of our children that they were able to sleep through it all not being scared while the adults were the ones up worrying.
It was right before 3:45 am that the power went out for good. I remember sitting on the couch at that point just terrified, rocking back & forth, crying & praying because I really was scared. I think the thing that scared me the most was that it just kept going & going & going. Before, it would blow and then have really strong gusts that would be scary. At this point, it was like one strong continuous gust. It just would not stop and it was soooo strong. I just didn't see how our windows weren't going to break or how a tree (or our playset!) wasn't going to come through the windows. I kept looking at the playset and being thankful that it didn't seem to have moved! It's really close to our family room windows. I tried to sleep some but I would just doze and then wake up and be scared again. I was really tense and my body literally ached and I know it was from being so nervous! That may sound crazy to some of you-even some of you from Houston who experienced the same storm-but I've never done well with storms and this was a big one. I don't think there's any way to really know what it was like until you've been in one. I CANNOT imagine staying in Galveston like some people did. It had to have been TONS worse than what we got!
Right before the power went out, I had heard them say that Houston was probaby not going to get the 'eye' of the storm which would have been at least a calm break. Instead, because of the size of Ike, we were going to get the outside parts of the hurricane which would be strong the whole time. They had also said that we had 'several more hours' of the strong part of the storm so I kept looking at the time wondering exactly what 'several' really meant! Around 6:30 or so our time, I called my friend in Aiken to ask her to watch t.v. or something to tell me when it was going to stop! She actually didn't answer when I called but called me back soon after. Our cell phones had been-and continue to be-acting really weird so I'm thankful for each successfully completed call!
I guess it was around 7:30-8:00 that it finally started really calming down. I'd noticed for awhile that it was calming down some because although it was still strong, there were 'calmer' times in between stronger gusts rather than the continuous strong gust, but at some point it was quite a bit calmer although still windy & rainy. I called my parents to let them know we'd somewhat survived and didn't think we had any damage to the house although we hadn't gotten a chance to look around too much yet. I also had a call from Melissa checking on us (she sure was glad she came to visit last week rather than this week!)
Once it was obvious that it had calmed down quite a bit, the exhaustion hit big time! Of course, all 3 girls were up by this point, but Chris & I took turns getting some rest. I pretty much passed out! I guess it was around 8:00 am that our power came back on! After hearing that some people might be without power for weeks & weeks, we were so happy! One time in Aiken we lost our power on a Monday and didn't get it back until Saturday (during an ice storm) so we know how horrible it can be for something like that to happen!
At some point in the day, we went outside and were pleased to see that our home had no real damage. It looked a tad messy but was intact! We do have a small problem with part of our fence that connects our house to the garage, but it was in pretty bad shape anyway so we're not real surprised that the wind caused it to truly be on its last leg! At one point we lost power again for about 45 minutes but it came back. We walked around the neighborhood a little bit and napped some more and took down the rest of the boards and welcomed our friends, the Deisters, to stay the night with us since they had no power. It was fun having a 'sleepover!'
This morning our friends left for Oklahoma to visit family since they're out of power, and we headed to church. However, it was rainy, yucky and we got nervouse about the weather causing more flooding (our church is right off I-10 and parts of it were underwater-not parts we used but we were nervous about that changing!) and/or getting caught in weather related traffic, so we headed back home. Chris tried to go back to our apartment to get some things, but he met up with some flooding so he turned around and came back. Maybe tomorrow. This afternoon we went to have a small church service with some friends who live nearby then went to find something to eat. Believe it or not, the weather turned absolutely beautiful this evening so went home and got the girls' bikes and went for a walk in the neighborhood looking at some of the hurricane damage. It is amazing to see the power of a storm and what it can do to trees. It is good to know that God is more powerful than the wind! He made the trees. He made the wind. He can control the wind! I also think it's amazing that even though we've seen lots of fences down and trees uprooted, it doesn't appear that many trees have landed on cars or houses. Surely God had a hand in that!
Gracie doesn't have school for at least Monday or Tuesday and Chris doesn't have work for at least tomorrow. We will probably try to get the yard cleaned up and do some really fun things like that! We are so thankful to God for his protection from this storm. As strong as Ike was, God is so much stronger and I am thankful for that! There are so many who suffered loss of their homes, wind damage, FLOOD damage, and loss of power. These people need our prayers!
Below are some pictures of our preparation for Ike and of his aftermath, along with some of the beautiful skies God blessed us with both before & after Ike. Chris taking the canopy off the playset so it wouldn't rip. Chris & Ellie hanging out watching hurricane coverageThe girls beside an uprooted tree next to Gracie's school. Gracie found these cute acorns yesterday after the storm and turned them into our family!