Hurricane Claudette, The Aftermath
Dad arrived in the early hours of the morning. It was still dark aside, and i was deeply tired, but I was able to tell that the clouds have cleared enough that we could now see the moon. After we woke up, we managed to get a small generator hooked up to the house after spending the entire night without any electricity. We are still having difficulties getting the refrigerator to work, but at least the power throughout the rest of the house appears to be working. For a few hours this morning we had a few glimpses of sunshine. I took advantage of it and made a few trips down to the swimming pool with a 5-gallon bucket to procure water for the toilet. While I was at the swimming pool, I saw again the mass of leaves piled on the bottom and resolved to return to the pool and get them out before they could stain the bottom. After I dumped the water in the toilet, I made my way back out and managed to get a few loads of leaves out of the pool before hearing a distant roll of thunder. The southern sky was almost black, and the wind was picking up. The clouds have now caught up with us, this being the reason for my taking the time to update my journal. I must now return to my job at the pool, for although it rained for about five minutes ago, things do not appear to be worsening.
Battery on Palm is starting to get to very low levels. Not long after I posted my last entry, my brother arrived from East Texas with his wife and infant son to help us recover. The first thing we did was get the chainsaw in order to remove the huge mesquite that had fallen down and blocked entry via the front gate. This did not take long. I was able to put the ranch sign back in place since it had only broken one of the welded chains (leaving something like a hook in its place), and Chris righted the ostrich that had been bent back by the wind. Apparently the battery on the front gate had run down overnight, so we simply removed the opening device so we could open by hand. As we were doing so, the lady who lives on the ranch up the road drove by and told us that we were now able to buy gas from one of the local convenience stores. It began raining, and we decided to head back to the house. About that time Mr. Saltieri showed up and informed us that he was heading to Cuero to buy supplies. We also learned that he was making the trip in order to fill his diesel cans so he could keep his generator running, and I went to the shop and lent him four 5-gallon cans. Incidentally, this was the first time that he had actually seen Delilah, since we previously had kept her locked up whenever he and his family came by to visit. After he left, Dad burnt up one of our chainsaws while attempting to cut down the tree that had fallen down and ruined the cattle guard. Most mercifully, Rick Goertz arrived with his backhoe and we were able to tree away from the guard and in the meantime we were able to find a chainsaw that we rarely used anymore. Being called. Must go.
Dad, my brother, and Rick have continued to work at cutting up the trees that have fallen in front of the house, and, perceiving that I was of no use since the third chainsaw (Rick had brought another one) had been destroyed, I went back to my previous job of cleaning out the pool. The sky to the south and directly overhead has become an eldritch black, more so than it was before, and lightning has started to streak across the entire sky. Although this sight may promise another bad bout, it is somewhat comforting that the wind, light as it is, is coming from the direction of the coast, and in that regard, things have again returned to “normal.” While I was at the west end of the pool, I happened to look up while I was dumping the leaves on the grass and saw a beautiful, tall buck grazing in the small oak thicket in the back of the yard looking at me. I enjoyed the sight for a few moments, and then, so as not to scare him off, returned to my work of cleaning out the pool. Sitting at the table in the sun room now, from my view to the west, it appears that the aforementioned storm is now largely headed in that direction, if only very slightly. I should note before I leave that at last we have managed to get the refrigerator running again by using the generator, but, in order to do so, we had to cut all power off to the other areas of the house. Rick was telling us about a relative of his who had come up here from Corpus Christi to “get away from the storm.” He told me that it both a comical and sad sight to see her eyes when he said after she arrived, “I hate to tell you, but that thing’s coming straight for us.” As I have been in here a bit too, long, I am now returning to work.
I am writing this entry by the light of an electric desk lamp and while being comforted by the ceiling fan, but even these comforts are the result of a new, powerful; generator that Mrs. Donaldson–our neighbor–bought for us while she was in Victoria (this not being a free gift, but one for which we gladly repaid her). It was, in fact, the first time that we had ever really talked with her, and everyone in the family was both surprised and touched by this sudden display of neighborliness. About an hour before, a hose had exploded on the backhoe/bulldozer that Rick had brought to the house while we were trying to tear down a hackberry tree so we could get in the back yard and remove the tree that had fallen on the house. As the massive machine now being utterly useless, we realized that we needed to go to Victoria to see if we could replace the part. So my brother, Dad, and I climbed into Dad’s white work truck and dropped off Rick, who informed us that he was going to church for the evening. Since Dad was still tired from his trip from Tulsa, I ended up driving, although I had informed Dad that I had left my license at home. This didn’t seem to bother him.
The next few paragraphs could very well turn into a lengthy catalog of what we saw on the way to Victoria, but as much of it would be repetitive (and also because I am tired), I will content myself with mentioning but a few noteworthy examples. Almost everywhere we went we saw buildings that had sustained some kind of heavy roof damage, and many fences–particularly those that we made of wooden planks–had been knocked down by the wind. Perhaps the most humorous sight was that of the little portable building at the weigh station on 59 at which the state troopers weigh the 18 wheelers: it had rolled over the the point at which it was upside down, and a hole in the side indicated that the air conditioning system was no longer in the building–we strongly suspect someone has stolen it.
A word now about how we must go to the restroom in these troubled times; I just returned from doing so. Urination poses no problem, at least for me, being a man, but in order to “No. 2” some different measures must be taken. Yesterday afternoon I had remedied the problem by just going behind a distant tree and taking some toilet paper with me, but Mom cannot do this. Not believing that the storm was going to be very bad, we had neglected to fill the bathtub with water before the storm hit. However, after thinking of other possible sources of clean water, I quickly remembered our swimming pool. Going “No. 2” now consists of taking a 5-gallon water bucket down to the pool, filling it, and waddling the 80 steps back to the house with it in hand. Once back in the house, one fills the bowl up to the faint water line with water, does his business, and then flushes it, saving the remainder of the water for later or for a toilet in another room. It must be noted here that our toilets are not “normal” and operate by a pump apparatus rather than by filling the tank on the back of the toilet.
In other news, our phone lines are dead. This happened at about 4:00. We are now being told that the lines will not be restored until the 24th or thereabouts and we are now restricted to the use of our cell phones, which have never exhibited good reception during the entire time that we have lived here. This news circulated as a type of dark joke throughout the household, its humor springing from the fact that this calamity did not occur during the hurricane itself. I myself joked–or rightly guessed–that a tree that had been leaning precariously on the wires finally must have given up the ghost and severed the wires.
My brother and his wife are spending the night at Super 8 in Victoria. The hotel has power, but many of the buildings around it do not. The same situation is seen throughout the entirety of Victoria: one pulls up at a working stoplight and then the next one would be dead. It is almost as if the blocks alternate as to whether or not they have power. I am getting along very well with my nephew: my brother and his wide are both are surprised at how much he seems to like me; indeed, how much he seems to enjoy the entire family. After eating at Ryan’s, we drove home down roads normally beaming with lights but now dark as though nothing but trees lurked within their shadows. Indeed, tonight alternates between cloudy and cloudless, and at the cloudless points it is astonishing how dark and clear the sky is and how brilliantly the stars shine without the usual light pollution, even as minimal as it usually is here. I considered pulling out my telescope, but by the time I made it to the front door, a cloud had already marred my view.
At this point I cease my narrative for tonight; I am much too tired to continue. I know I have left some important things out, but perhaps I shall find some time to add them at another time.