9:00 AM rolls around, and it’s so dark that it appears to be just before dawn instead. The wind is still blowing, but the temperature has dropped–it’s probably in the 70′s at this point. We’re told that we’re in the eye of the storm, and that there will be Round 2 of the storm after the eye passes, bringing with it 80-mile-an-hour winds. The Coast Guard permits us to go outside and start to survey the damage. The brand-new sign that the church had just installed is missing, much to the chagrin of Pastor Lisa. Three of the vehicles in the parking lot and under the awning have broken windows, but none were flipped or destroyed. I breathe a great sigh of relief that my CR-V is ok and that all of my business computer equipment is intact.
Amazingly enough, cell phone service through Cingular is working. The one service I would have bet would’ve never survived hurricane-force winds is the only service that’s working. I’m able to call my mom and discovered that she has trees down all around her house, one on her house, and a strip of the roof that has been ripped off. Other family members aren’t so fortunate. They have more extensive tree damage, but the homes are livable at this point, although it’s hotter than hell without any electricity. And, the temperature is slated to return to our normal 100 degree days by Sunday.
We cobble together a cold lunch from the leftovers from the day before. We’re still waiting to get out of the eye of the storm, and by 3 PM or so one of the Coasties has called his parents in NY, who report that the Weather Channels said the eye of the storm was at the TX-AR border. All but about 4 of the Coasties are then called back to the Beaumont area and to see what remains of their station in Sabine Pass, but they leave their families at the shelter. The remaining Coasties give us permission to return to our rooms. Eric and I sacked out for the rest of the afternoon, although I don’t sleep too well in the muggy weather.
We get up around 6 PM, and I wanted to go scout the damage in Jasper and see if anything (particularly gas stations) might be open. We go north, south, east, and west of the center of town, and are amazed at the damage we see. Nothing at all is open, and no one is out. It’s rather eerie.
Early in the evening, the owners of the Poco Cafe, located next to the church, start to bring over sandwich fixings that need to be used ASAP before they spoil. I volunteered to be on supper detail, as I was very restless and had too much time on my hands. We had extra mouths to feed, as a large search and rescue dive team had just arrived from the Austin area, and they were being deployed to the Beaumont area early the next morning to do search and rescue in the flooded areas.
In the middle of serving supper, Eric tells me that he’s been in touch with friends in Houston who didn’t evacuate (and who never lost power) and that he’s headed to Houston that night. He asks if I want to go, too, and I refuse, saying that it’s silly to try and navigate at night with all the downed trees and power lines. However, he’s adamant about going, and departs around 7 PM.
I spend the rest of the evening making sandwiches for various emergency crews and talking to them as they drop into the kitchen. By 11 PM or so, I’m dead tired and head to bed. Eric calls to tell me he arrived safely in Houston, and wants to know if I’ll join him on Sunday. I’m still undecided, as all that is familiar to me is in Jasper, and all my family is here. He tells me that I’m welcome at the home of his friends and that I should call if I change my mind.
After he hangs up, I think about what he’s said and realize that I’ve been listening to the radio all day for news of Beaumont, and none is forthcoming. The Houston TV stations are sending reporter crews to Beaumont, as all of the Beaumont media vacated for the hurricane and none of the TV or radio stations or newspapers were back up and running. I’ve got more than enough Jasper information, as my brother is on the radio several times that night talking about what’s going on and what people need to do if they need help. However comforting that might be to me, it’s not helping me move on with my life in Beaumont, and I have a business that I need to get up and running ASAP. I decide then and there that I need to join Eric in Houston on Sunday.
Note–All the photos in the hurricane section of this blog are courtesy of KJAS Radio, www.kjas.com in Jasper. While I didn’t take them, I’m using them to illustrate the kinds of things I saw during Hurricane Rita.
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