Into the Disaster Zone
I'm back at the shelter in Tyler after making a quick trip down into the disaster zone to check on my house. Troy took some pictures of my yard, and I've posted a few of them here.
I met Troy at his home in Spring (just north of Houston), and together we drove to Lumberton. Spot the dog came with us. On our way through Beaumont we saw storm damage everywhere - windows blown out, signs torn down, buildings with their fronts sheered off. Ford Park was being used as a staging area for the relief effort, with tents, military vehicles, and helicopters in the parking lot. Offramps were closed and guarded, and we had to show I.D. to get onto Highway 69 northbound. We were prepared for the worst, and sure enough, an ugly scene awaited us at my place.
Miraculously our house had been spared. Part of a tree had fallen on a corner of the roof, but it caused no structural damage, only broken shingles. The garage was surrounded by fallen trees, but also emerged relatively unscathed. Some of my neighbors were not so lucky. A big pine had uprooted and fallen on one house, smashing its roof in. Considering how many trees we lost, we were very fortunate that the storm had left our home intact.
The rest of my property is a total disaster area, with trees and branches down everywhere. We had to park at the road because the driveway was impassable. Several big trees uprooted and toppled over, wrecking fences and pulling down powerlines. I found my carport crushed under a fallen cedar. It was heartbreaking to see our garden in shambles after all the hard work we put into it. Amidst the destruction I was amazed to see that our martin house was still sitting atop its pole in the backyard.
We arrived in the "cool of the morning," but it was already miserably hot and humid, and only got worse once we started working. Our plan was to survey the damage, cover any broken windows or holes in the roof, and leave before the heat became too intense. Quick in, quick out. Using chainsaws we cut away the branches that had fallen onto the house. Troy got up on the roof, where he encountered swarms of biting ants. The heat and humidity were almost unbearable. I really owe him one for the pain he endured in helping me out.
We cleared all the branches from the roof and backside of the house, but hardly made a dent in the mess. Cleanup is gonna take a lot of hard work over many days. I'll need to hire somone to remove the big trees that have fallen. After emptying the refrigerator (yuck) and grabbing some items that Michelle & I wanted, we secured the house and left.
Michelle & I have been truly fortunate during this disaster. Fortunate to evacuate to Tyler Junior College, fortunate not to lose our home, and fortunate to have each other. I'll probably be returning to Lumberton soon to get back to work and start clearing the wreckage. I'm expecting a hard time ahead, and I'm not looking forward to it. Living conditions won't be pleasant without electricity, and the county is still discouraging residents from coming back. Most of all I'll miss Michelle, who will have to stay here to care for her patients.
It may be several weeks before power is restored in my neighborhood, and this will probably be the last update to my blog until that happens. I'd like to thank all of you who have written or called to express concern during this difficult time. Just know that we are fine and everything is gonna be all right.