Hurricane Ike Journal
September 12 – October 15, 2008
Hurricane Ike is my
first hurricane as an adult. I’ve been through many tropical storms over the
years including Tropical Storm Allison, one of the most costly storms in US
history. I have been through several typhoons, the Eastern hemisphere equivalent
of hurricanes, but as a teenager. None of them had the same effect on me as
Hurricane Ike. I knew I would get through Ike but I didn’t know what I would
have to go through to get through it and I was a little hesitant to find out.
What was the worst part of Hurricane Ike? The wind. It was
nerve wrenching and extremely stressful to experience Category 2 hurricane winds
(95 to 110 mph). The low level winds would whip the rain and leaves and sticks
and branches and limbs and fling them at the roof and walls and windows of the
house in short bursts of fury. I would hear the wind build up for its next
assault before the last one even finished. Far in the background was the deep
and constant roar of the upper level winds high above us. I didn’t know if the
roof and walls and windows would hold. I didn’t know if the trees in the yard
were going to fall on the house or, if they did, from which direction. My
stomach was churning while the worst of the winds assaulted us and they seemed
as if they would never stop or move on. We were still getting tropical storm
force winds (39 to 73 mph) more than 12 hours after the storm started. Having
experienced a category 2 storm I would not want to experience a 3 and certainly
not a 4 or 5. Even a Category 2 storm plastered torn leaves against windows and
walls, thinned out trees considerably, blew the
basketball standard backwards
at an 85o angle and caused a very
tall pine tree to lean so much
that we will have to get it cut down before it falls and damages house and
The wind also seemed very indiscriminate in its destruction.
A seemingly healthy tree would be uprooted or the top broken off while a dead
one next to it would remain standing. Small trees and bushes would be blown
over, their stabilizing wires snapped, while taller trees stood. Some streets in
our neighborhood were turned into a maze of downed trees while others remained
free and clear. We were all blessed, though, as most fallen trees seemed to miss
the houses and buildings around them. Most landed in yards, in streets, on
fences and, unfortunately, on power lines.
Preparations for Ike began several days before it made
landfall. I ran errands and did a little shopping on Wednesday, September 10.
All was normal. By the next morning, the grocery store shelves were quickly
emptying and people were buying plywood for their windows. We already had food,
water, cash, batteries, a blue roof tarp and 72-hour kits and our cars’ gas
tanks were full or almost full. We are in a constant state of preparedness
especially during hurricane season (June 1 to November 30). There are things
that need to be done a day or 2 before landfall, though. We have a tree by
our front walk that is starting to raise the sidewalk, again, and cause water to
back up to the front door. Allan, my husband, felt strongly that he should dig a
trench that would eventually be a French drain and dig it before the hurricane
hit. He spent half of Thursday doing that while I made other preparations. I
took down wind chimes and other outdoor decorations. I brought stored water into
the house, took our 72-hour kits out of the closet, brought in the tool box, and
brought in the coolers. On Friday, I made bread, did laundry, took care of
important internet and computer work, and consolidated food in the freezer. I
had already put gallon jugs of water in the chest freezer to freeze and help
during a power outage when it looked like Hurricane Gustav might hit us two
weeks earlier. I took food out of the refrigerator freezer and put it in the
chest freezer. I took food out of the hanging baskets in the chest freezer and
put it in the bottom so that all the frozen food was in one freezer and with as
little air between the food items as possible. I made a concentrated effort
Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday to use up leftovers and highly perishable foods
then made the decision ahead of time on Friday which foods would go into the
coolers when the power went out. While I took care of the food, Allan mowed the
lawn. We consolidated yard items under a small covered back patio – wheelbarrow,
extra garbage cans, gas grill – and then laid the wrought iron patio table on
it’s side against and around the grill and took in all the chairs. We took the
iron and wood gates that close across our driveway off the posts and secured
them at the side of the house. We took doormats and garbage cans into the
garage. I filled bathtubs with water in case the water was disrupted and turned
the refrigerator to its coldest setting to prolong the coolness when the power
went off. I also went to my storage unit and consolidated all the cases of books
and other items into one pile and covered it with plastic in case the roof came
off the storage unit.
Flashlights and lanterns were the first equipment we needed.
The power went out at 10 PM on Friday, September 12, hours before Ike made
landfall. Flashlights are good for individual use but lanterns are
much better for groups around a table or for tasks that need a little more light
such as cooking or washing dishes. Carefully monitored candles and
olive oil lamps also provide a good amount of light and save batteries (but
have lots of matches stored). Batteries also get used up faster
than you expect, so be sure to have plenty. Take advantage of natural light
when you can, even if it’s less light than you are accustomed to. Save
batteries and fuel for the dark or windowless rooms and closets.
The next things we needed were the coolers. They were
already in the kitchen waiting to be put to use and the “blue” ice was in
the refrigerator freezer ready to be used. Knowing what I wanted in the coolers,
I quickly moved ice and food into them and draped blankets over them for
With the power out, we only knew what time it was because we
had battery operated clocks or had our watches on. It’s a good time to
use a travel alarm clock.
We got up on Saturday, September 13, when there was light
coming into the house. My nervous stomach was very glad I had Cheerios on hand
and milk in the cooler. Cold cereal with milk, bread and fresh or
dried fruit were the breakfast of choice each day the power was out. When
the refrigerated milk ran out, we started using boxed milk.
For hurricane survival food I would recommend cold
cereal, boxed milk, fruit (fresh, canned and dried), bread, peanut butter or
cheese for sandwiches (cheese is not nearly as perishable as meat), cookies,
individual pudding cups, and food to cook a hot meal for dinner. Potato chips
were a nice treat, and for me, comfort food.
A battery operated radio kept us informed of what was
going on, where flooding was occurring and the situation regarding electrical
power restoration, gasoline, road conditions, airport conditions, and weather
reports. Without it, we would have had no clue except from outside phone calls.
It also provided soothing music when KUHF FM radio came back on the air.
At first, we used disposable plates, cups, bowls, and
silverware. When we realized our water was safe and that we had hot water,
thanks to gas water heaters, we went back to using regular dishes. It not only
saved the paper and cut down on trash but gave me something to do. We still kept
the bottled water close by, though. Drinking water was extremely
important in the heat, especially during clean up and I wanted it readily
Even though I had tried to use up the perishable foods before
Ike hit, some still remained when the power went out. Our portable butane
stove was a great piece of equipment to have at that point. To begin with,
the weather did not permit cooking outdoors easily (rain continued to come with
a cold front). The stove allowed us to cook indoors with regular pots and pans
and use up the rest of the highly perishable foods put in the cooler with the
exception of the mayonnaise and salad dressing, which had to be thrown out after
a day. We made omelets, quesadillas, scrambled eggs, and a skillet meal and
heated soups on it. We used one canister of butane for 12 meals and still have a
small amount left in the canister.
When the power went out, we put blankets over the chest
freezer to help insulate it. Towards the end of the first 24 hours without
power, our neighbor offered the use of his generator. We ran the refrigerator
and freezer for an hour that evening (Day 1, Saturday, September 13) and for an
hour and a half the next day (Day 2, Sunday, September 14). That is not long
enough for a refrigerator or a freezer. The bottom of the freezer was still
frozen or partially frozen but the top layer was thawing, partly because it was
not full. The top food in the freezer was still colder than a refrigerator but
not frozen. Those were our next meals. We ran the generator twice the
next day (Day 3, Monday, September 15). Two times a day is much preferable. I
think if we had run it twice a day from the beginning the food would have stayed
frozen even though it was only a third full. The recommended generator time is
30-60 minutes every 4 hours for a refrigerator and 30-60 minutes twice a day for
a freezer. I would recommend forming a generator co-op with 2 or 3 other
neighbors if you don’t want to buy your own generator and each of you store some
gasoline (that should be rotated). A 5500 watt generator can burn 2 gallons of
gasoline per hour. You would also want to have some heavy duty outdoor
extension cords to connect multiple appliances to the generator. Remember
that generators need to be run every few months to keep them lubricated and
We were fortunate to never lose our phone lines. Our cell
phones, on the other hand, had intermittent or non-existent service. Most people
have only electricity dependent cordless phones so we lent out some of our
corded phones to neighbors without.
When the power is out, there are no movies, television,
computers or internet after the batteries die. Entertainment must be self
made. Games, books, magazines, musical instruments, phone calls and visiting
neighbors helped fill the time. There were also a lot more families doing things
outside together especially after the cold front pushed through.
One of the biggest concerns we had when the power went out
was the lack of air conditioning. We had already learned some techniques
to keep our house cooler and bills down which proved very valuable in the
situation. We kept blinds closed during the day and limited the amount of
outside air into the house until the cold front moved in (Day 2). When it did,
we kept windows open at night and closed them mid-morning when the day started
to heat up. We also have bushes and trees around the house and a heat reflective
coating on the plywood base of our roof as well as ridge vents and soffit vents.
All combined kept us from suffering too much in the heat.
We spent Sunday morning (Day 2, September 14) cleaning up our
yard and helping neighbors. After a cool shower, we readied ourselves for a
small church meeting. All church meetings had been cancelled on Thursday before
Ike hit. My sister-in-law, nephew and two young men we knew, joined us (my
brother was stuck in London due to flight cancellations). We sang hymns, prayed
and gave thanks for our safety and relative good fortunes in the storm and
partook of the sacrament under the bishop’s (my husband) direction. It was good
to take time for spiritual reflection the rest of the day.
There was so much
debris all over our yard that the outside
cleanup took two of us about 5 hours of pretty constant work. Some important
supplies and tools were: LOTS of garbage bags (although we found out later
that we could have piled everything into a big pile for pickup); twine for
bundling branches; heavy work gloves; leaf rakes; a chain saw; a tree saw;
loppers; a wheelbarrow; drinking water; and pain relievers!
I made a loaf of bread the day before Ike made landfall. When
we started to run out of bread, rather than digging through the freezer for the
bread in the bottom, Allan made more in the solar oven (Day 3). It was
nice to have that option. We also heated up an individual size pizza for lunch
on Day 4, Tuesday, September 16 in the oven. He could use the solar oven because
he had already practiced using it and was confident in how to use it in our
area. Learn to use your survival equipment before the need arises. At
least familiarize yourself with it.
One nice aspect of being without power is the quiet.
Without the buzz of the fluorescent lights, the hum of the refrigerator, the
whirring of the air conditioner and the whish of the ceiling fans, the house
gets very quiet, especially at night. Then the birds chirping and squawking, the
squirrels barking and chattering and the geckos squeaking and peeping are much
easier to hear.
Gasoline was in short supply due to the electrical outages.
What gas stations were able to open when the power started coming back on were
swamped with customers – more for their generators than for their cars. When we
did venture out on essential trips to check the church building, my storage unit
and neighbors, I was amazed at the teenagers foolishly joy riding and the cars
lined up at drive through windows at fast food places. We also heard on the
radio and from neighbors about people who would spend 2, 4, 6 hours driving
around looking for gasoline, using up what they had and not finding any to
replace it. If everyone were to stay home and eat the food they should
have stored and keep their families in their neighborhoods, think of all the
gasoline that could have been saved for generators, chainsaws, and essential
travel to help others.
Day 4, Tuesday, September 16 – We are running low on
gasoline for the generator. We had neighbors and friends over for Dutch oven
chicken tonight. We used up the chicken and bacon, which were the majority of
the meats in the freezer. We made baked beans in the solar oven, served solar
oven bread, thawed freezer jam, and a canned fruit salad. Everyone enjoyed
getting together, sharing storm experiences, and also talking about something
other than the storm. Take time to be with others in a social setting.
Wednesday, September 17 – We prepared to stop running the freezer on the
generator. We had more friends and neighbors over for grilled pork and beef,
solar oven bread, solar oven chocolate cake, Three Bean Salad and Cranberry
Applesauce. Day 6 I will clean out the freezer.
Don’t live in a
“disaster” situation if you don’t need to. Put order into your life. Keep
clutter down. Sweep floors. Empty trash. Keep your environment as clean and
orderly as possible under the circumstances. Resume a normal schedule as much as
possible. Serve meals at normal times. Remember to keep up habits of family
prayer, scripture reading and family home evening. They will promote family
unity under difficult circumstances. Use dishes instead of paper plates if you
have water to wash them. Use a tablecloth or placemats on the table and use real
silverware. Take care of personal hygiene needs, especially if you have water.
Shower or take sponge baths. Appropriate makeup, hair ribbons, earrings, and
aftershave can also help you and those who are with you mentally cope with a
less than ideal situation. Keep as much as possible of that which is normal
in your habits and lifestyle then that which is missing will not affect you as
The first few days after the hurricane were manageable as we
focused on clean-up and essential needs. When it became more than a few days and
it became apparent that there was no immediate return to normalcy, the
emotions of the situation started to catch up with me. The stress of an
unpredictable situation, the destruction that little or nothing could have
prevented, the stress of dealing with the refrigerator and freezer and the loss
of the food in them all started to take their toll. Tears would just come and it
was made worse by my father’s death just 4 weeks before. Be aware that it will
come, keep the tissue close by and find positive ways to deal with it rather
than taking it out on yourself and others.
Day 6, Thursday,
September 18 – I decided I needed to get back into my walking routine. On my
walk, I saw destruction to my neighborhood that made me grateful for the little
damage we suffered and made me sorrowful for my neighbors.
We got the clothesline down from the attic and I wiped
it down in preparation to do laundry in the Wonder Washer.
I emptied the freezer, throwing away what had been there a
long time, taking a few items to a neighbor who has power and putting what
little was left in coolers to use over the next couple of days. I cleaned and
wiped out the freezer, put in a bowl of baking soda to keep odors down and left
the 7 gallons of frozen water in there to use in our coolers over the next few
days since we still have many days to go before we get power again. Before I
freeze jugs of water again, I will make sure I have several inches of
headspace in the bottle. One or two inches is not enough. Several jugs had
popped their lids and spilled water into the freezer before they were completely
Allan and a neighbor have been out checking powerlines in the
neighborhood in preparation for a homeowner’s meeting at noon. They found many
downed wires and trees on wires throughout the subdivision. We haven’t seen any
repair crews yet and the newspaper says it will be after Monday (the 10th day)
before we get power. Until we see tree cutting crews we have no immediate hope
I cleaned out the refrigerator this afternoon. I kept foods
preserved by vinegar and/or sugar but not all of them. I also kept foods that
didn’t absolutely need refrigeration like yeast. The inside of the refrigerator
got washed out and both the refrigerator and the refrigerator freezer have bowls
of baking soda in them. I now have a bunch of clean empty canning jars from the
refrigerator and clean empty plastic containers from the freezer and the
opportunity for a new start on both. Washing the refrigerator shelves and
drawers in the sink today made me grateful for a window over the sink that gave
enough light to see what I was doing.
Tonight I went to the church while Allan had a meeting to see
if I could get an internet connection (no) and to charge my cell phone.
Day 7, Friday,
September 19 – I did laundry today. A neighbor who has electricity offered to
let me do laundry at her house so I took two loads over. I had a small load that
needed to be done so I tried my Wonder Washer for the first time. It was
very fast and I know my clothes got clean because two items had spots on them
that came right out. I did use prewash spray and I used my regular homemade
powdered laundry detergent. The Zote soap did have trouble dissolving so it took
longer to rinse out the clothes until I found the clumps of soap in a t-shirt.
It probably would have taken less time to rinse if all the soap had dissolved. I
also used lukewarm water instead of hot which would have dissolved the soap
We ventured out beyond our immediate neighborhood this
afternoon and went to Costco. I wouldn’t do that again unless I had to until all
the power is back on. Major intersections without lights are dangerous
and people get impatient waiting in line at 4-way stops. Gasoline is more
available, though, and more stores are opening up.
We went to the church tonight where there is power and watched a movie on a
widescreen laptop computer. Much better than sitting in the dark without air
Saturday, September 20 - I got up at 6 AM to leave for New Mexico and a new
grandbaby born yesterday. It’s a lot easier to get ready for the day in a
roomful of natural light than in the dark by lantern light.
Center Point Energy has finally been able to survey our
neighborhood for downed power lines and trees. We’ll still be lucky to have
power in a week, though.
Not all butane stoves are created equal. Allan
switched stoves today and our other one (Greatland) works much better than the
one we’ve used all week (Pit Bull). It’s much easier to control the flame on
this one and have it stay where you set it.
There are some unhappy Farmer’s Insurance customers. Their
agent left a sign on his office door with his cell phone number on it. The only
problem is, it was MY cell phone number and no one is answering his office
Sunday, September 21 – This is the first times in nine days I had light to put
on more makeup than just foundation and was able to blow dry and curl my hair.
It’s great! I had to leave town to do it, though.
Not all of the meetinghouses in our stake have power so we
are sharing buildings and meetings today. The Fallbrook Branch (deaf)
will meet with our ward and we will have only Sacrament Meeting.
There are tree removal crews in the neighborhood today. Yay!
Monday, September 22 – I had stressful dreams last night including having the
power come back on but when it did, having the house and roof start leaking!
Allan started back to work today. He took a box of cereal and
a quart of boxed milk with him to have for breakfast the rest of the week. He
will eat lunch out or in the cafeteria each day and either eat something easy at
home or pick something up on the way home.
Allan consolidated two coolers into one tonight.
We’ve had an unexpected side effect of Ike. Shortly after Ike
left we saw three squirrels on the top ridge of our roof. They were surveying
the damage and looking a little lost. At least one had resided in our yard but
now all the squirrel nests were gone. They had been blown away in the storm. A
few days later we started hearing noises in the walls and in the kitchen and
study ceilings. We didn’t know if it was rats or squirrels. We didn’t hear the
noises every day and weren’t sure what was going on. Well, tonight there was
lots of noise in the main attic. Allan got a flashlight, pulled down the attic
door and there was a squirrel looking down at him with his beady little eyes!
Allan went up into the attic and found a second squirrel and both squirrels
appeared to resent the invasion of their home, my home, in which they had set up
residence! Time for the squirrel trap! Allan is threatening capital punishment!
Tuesday, September 23 – I keep hearing and reading about other areas of the
country that have fuel shortages because of Ike, not just Texas and Louisiana.
It reemphasizes to me the need for food storage and provident living no
matter where you live. If we have supplies on hand and are self-reliant in
many ways, we will suffer little or not at all when we have to limit even local
travel due to gasoline shortages.
Allan gave up on the coolers and took what was left up to the
office to put in the refrigerator there. He’ll take home what he needs each day.
It has become much warmer and doesn’t cool down as much at
night. Allan is finding it harder to sleep in the heat. The neighbor across the
street has moved his generator to the back of his house to run fans at night.
It’s good Allan can spend the days at work and evenings at the church where
there is air conditioning.
Wednesday, September 24 – Power is on all around our house. We will be the last,
as usual. It’s very depressing for Allan to be in an island of darkness. He did
get a hot meal in air conditioning at my brother’s house, though.
School finally started back up today.
Thursday, September 25 – The mosquitoes are getting really bad now. We’re hoping
the subdivision gets sprayed this weekend. It makes it hard to leave windows
open if there are any holes in the screens.
Now that most of our part of Houston is getting back to
normal, work crews are being organized to go to the coastal areas to muck out
flooded homes and clear trees. Our ward will send two crews of 10 to 12 men each
to Galveston this weekend. There will be another crew going to Livingston to
help a ward member with his rental property there and they will help the
neighbor while they are there, too.
Friday, September 26 – Allan went to my brother’s this afternoon to do laundry.
There was a Pot Luck dinner at the church tonight. Those with
power brought main dishes. Those without power brought what they could to go
with it. It went very well and was enjoyed very much.
Saturday, September 27 – Allan decided to run an extension cord from the
neighbor’s house to ours and plug in the refrigerator and a fan or lamp in the
kitchen. He may even run a line into the bedroom to plug in a fan at night.
Trees are still on the power lines at the end of our street.
That may be why we don’t have power yet.
Sunday, September 28 – We are now powered and squirrel free. We got power
mid-morning and both squirrels were captured and freed in the local park. Allan’s comment: “Whoa! Has that light always been that bright?”
What helped us survive without power for
1. Potable running water and sewer - our
situation would have been much harder to cope with without water, but we were
prepared with stored water, a water purifier and a portable toilet.
2. Alternate light sources – fluorescent lanterns, flashlights, candles, olive
oil lamps, natural light
3. Alternate cooking sources – butane stove, charcoal grill, gas grill, Dutch
oven, solar oven
4. Gas water heater
5. Corded land line telephone – our cell phones didn’t work for about a week.
6. A cold front – it made sleeping bearable and even comfortable for the first
7. A generous neighbor with a generator – it meant not having to clean out the
refrigerator and freezer for several days.
8. Frozen bottles of water in the freezer.
9. Non-electric kitchen tools, especially a can opener.
10. Shelf stable milk, shelf stable food (especially fruit), saved condiment
packets from fast food.
11. Insulated coolers for the small amount of food we kept.
12. Neighbors with power who were willing to share washers, dryers, the
internet, and a place to plug in an extension cord.
13. A Wonder Washer and a clothesline.
14. Not letting it stop us from living as much of a normal life as possible.
15. For Allan, going back to work where there was air conditioning, lights, a
computer, and a refrigerator.
16. Being able to go to the church building where there was power.
17. Not isolating ourselves.
18. Books, games, and socializing with friends and neighbors.
19. A battery operated radio but not listening too often. It became an
irritation to listen to people complain about things they could have prepared
for and things they couldn’t do anything about.
20. Battery operated clocks – you loose your sense of time when routine is
Monday, September 29 – The power is still
not reliable. It went out briefly this morning and again this afternoon.
Tuesday, September 30 – The Houston Texas
Temple reopened today after being closed for 2-1/2 weeks. It has been closed
since noon on September 11.
My emotions got the best of me driving back into Houston this afternoon. There
is still a lot of unrepaired or uncleared storm damage 2-1/2 weeks after the
Now that I’m back and the power is on, I can clean up and put away all the
equipment and other things that helped us get through the storm.
Wednesday, October 1 – They started
removing storm debris from our street today.
I washed blankets that had been used to insulate the coolers and freezer and got
some things put away that were out because of Ike.
Allan has been more conservative with his usage of electricity since the power
came back on. He doesn’t take it for granted like he did before being without
for over two weeks.
Friday, October 3 – I thawed and
dehydrated the chopped green peppers I salvaged from the freezer. They were
unusable in a solid block.
Saturday, October 4
– I finally finished
putting away all our preparedness equipment and jugs of water.
When I go out, I keep seeing hurricane damage I missed before – missing, broken
and toppled signs, holes in roofs or awnings, broken or missing walls.
I thawed and dehydrated some of the roasted Hatch chilies I salvaged from the
freezer. They, also, were unusable in a solid block.
Another work crew was sent out from the ward. This time to Anahuac.
Monday, October 6 – We have had problems
with our internet connection ever since we got power back. A cable repairman
came this morning and made a temporary fix. The problem is actually with the
cable provider, though. Another victim of Ike.
Thursday, October 9 – Four weeks after the
storm and all the broken limbs and branches that are still attached and in the
trees are now obvious and brown. The trees look diseased, there are so many
patches of brown.
Friday, October 10 – All the storm debris
has been picked up in our neighborhood. It’s nice to have it gone.
We lost internet completely yesterday. I was told “24 to 48 hours” from today
but we’ll see.
Wednesday, October 15 –
We finally have internet but the line is only temporary. That's what happens
when they think there is only one problem and there are actually two.
You have to be prepared for anything in a
storm like Ike. We had water, sewer, gas and phone but no electricity. Some
homes are all electric so they had no hot water. Some had water but were under a
“boil order.” Some had water but couldn’t use their sewers. Some had no water.
Some had no water or sewer. Some had no telephone or cell phone. Some had cell
phones but no land line. Some had a land line but no cell coverage. You have to
be prepared to be without any service and for an extended period of time and be
grateful for what you do have. You never expect to be without power for over two
weeks but it is a possibility.
What would I do differently? I don’t think
there is anything I would do differently than I/we did. Everything actually went
pretty well, all things considered.
What equipment or supplies would I add? A MaxCold cooler, extra disposable bowls, more C batteries, and possibly a
headlamp. More equipment required C batteries than we realized.
My conclusion: We can lessen the trauma of
any emergency if we have taken the time to prepare for its eventuality. And, our
Heavenly Father blesses us with tender mercies and small miracles even during a
disaster. (And that is another story.)