Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Hip Hip Hurrah for Grandparents!

An Australian study has shown something that does not surprise me one bit - that grandparents boost childhood development.

My grandparents played important roles in my life - my maternal grandmother was the sweetest and most helpful person. Not only did she babysit, she ironed my clothes, mended my clothes, and made the very best cream of wheat (no, my mother's cream of wheat never tasted as good as Grandma's.) My grandad took me with him to the postoffice and to his furniture store. From the time I was very young, he took me with him to the farm, the ranchland, and even his rental business. I learned so much from being with hi. He taught me to drive. He "doctored" my cuts. And he always told me he would "fight like a tiger" for me.

My paternal grandmother was soft and gentle. She always told me I was her only granddaughter . . . she always made me feel special. I have a lot of memories of the Amarillo bus station, because frequently I would have my visit with her as she was riding the bus between Lubbock (where she lived) and Borger where her grandsons lived. They got to spend more time with her because my parents were divorced and sometimes my Grandma Marshall lived with my cousins. Even though I never saw her teach Ladies' Bible Class, I feel that the Bible teaching I have done is one of her legacies to me somehow. She was one special lady.

My children grew up far away geographically from their grandparents, but I made sure their grandparents were a part of their lives. Each summer we spent almost 2 weeks in Amarillo. Grandma Melton always had ice cream and ice cream cones for the kids. Grandpa Melton taught them a love of fishing. My mother instilled in them a love of the land, a background in agriculture, and she tried ever so hard to teach them the importance of taking care of your financial business. Both sets of grandparents remembered birthdays and sent cards on all those special occasions. Phone calls were also an important part of our lives in maintaining this special relationship with the grandparents.

Henry's Grandmother Wheeler always had a pumpkin pie ready for us when we came back to Amarillo to visit. Henry has memories of the gardens that Grandpa Wheeler had at their Arden Road House.

I don't have grandchildren yet - and I refuse to put that kind of pressure on my kids. But I've been watching the people around me who have grandchildren for many years. If I'm ever lucky enough to become a grandmother, I want to be one of the people that is important in their lives.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

An advertisement worth watching

Most of the time, I just fast forward through advertising on television. Henry found this one at YouTube. An amazing bread company advertisement takes you through British history. Worth the time to see:
Hova Bread

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Galveston's Gaido's Seafood

I am glad to say that Gaido's Seafood Restaurant and Casey's Restaurants fared pretty well during Hurricane Ike. While Gaido's Seaside Inn had significant roof damage, the restaurants escaped with only minor damage. Even the giant crab clung tightly to its perch.

Gaido's was able to host a shrimp boil for the emergency responders last week. Their goal: " to boost morale one plate at a time." From firefighters, policemen, electricians, soldiers from the National Guard and city officials, they all enjoyed music, spicy shrimp, potatoes, and corn-a blessed respite from the hard work of cleaning up and caring for Galveston. I hear that they even served with all their white tablecloths!

We first learned about Gaido's from one of Debra's riding teachers. It has become one of our "must" restaurants when we go to Galveston. I love the menu that gives you automatic multiple course menus with your choice of fish or shrimp. We have salad, gumbo, fish (of our choice of type and preparation) with crab meat sauce, and chocolate mouse. They even have two portion size choices!

Gaido's first opened in 1911 at Murdoch's Bathhouse. Still family owned, the recipes are family recipes. Today, beautiful tables with white tablecloths set formally give you great views of the gulf while you dine.

Casey's Seafood Cafe boasts a 50 year history. Less formal, but still great food.

Casey's is already back open with a limited menu. Gaido's reports that it will reopen on Saturday!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Galveston - Why They stayed?

There seem to be about 15,000 people still on Galveston Island. The numbers have shifted as to what percentage stayed. At one point I heard there were 2,000 people left on the island. A native (BOI - born on the island) thought that 80% had stayed. I talked with quite a few people before and during the hurricane. We have also been asked several times why we were in Galveston.

The morning before the hurricane came in, I talked with a man who was enjoying the sunrise at the east end of the island where I was doing sunrise photos. He had lived along the coast all his life, weathering Carla and Alicia. He and his wife evacuated for Rita. He lived in a neighborhood near the causeway and believed that his home sat high enough to be out of danger from rising water. When I talked with him he was not planning to evacuate for several reasons. First and foremost, the miserable experience he remembered from evacuating from Rita. His wife is handicapped and he felt that the evacuation would be hard on her. I mentioned that they were doing a lot better with the evacuation this time. Fuel trucks were providing fuel. We had been through Biloxi, Mississippi in the spring. I told him about the mansions that had been entirely demolished by the storm. His last comments were that he would ask his wife, and if she wanted to evacuate he would take her.

I hope he lived here:

rather than a block away here:

The area where he described where his house was was on Offut Bayou which was certainly hit hard. I find myself hoping that he and his wife did evacuate.

While waiting in line at the Subway for lunch, I overheard a young woman talk about why she wasn't evacuating. She felt that she could not afford to do so. I knew there were buses taking people who could not afford to evacuate, but I don't know why she did not consider this an option. To evacuate, you have to put gas in your car, figure out where you're going to go, where you're going to stay, and look at how much it is going to cost. If you have family in an area that is out of harm's way, then you're just looking at gas. However, you may have to find a hotel. Those get booked up fast, so you may have to drive for a long way just to find an available hotel. For lower middle income families this is a real issue. Depending upon how long they will have to stay gone, an evacuation can easily chew up 300-500 or more. Small price to pay if your home is going to be wiped out and a death trap. But if you have already weathered several storms in your location safely, then the costs of evacuation are going to be very real.

These houses behind the seawall probably had water in them, but people probably survived in houses like these. There is probably mud and silt in these homes and mildew and mold will be issues. It was difficult in many places to find a high water line. However, had Ike hit Galveston differently these houses would have had more damage from the water.

People who have already lived through hurricanes have an idea how to prepare. They fill their tubs with water. They stock up on non perishable food items and water. Some had generators ready to power their refrigerators and freezers. Their houses are well boarded up with plywood or storm shutters. Some of these hardy souls stayed behind so that they could begin the clean up immediately after the storm - minimizing the damage to their homes and businesses. Within a couple of days, they had the carpets and padding out on the street ready for trash and debris pickup. They were helping their neighbors remove trees and tree branches. They were cooking outside on their grills the food that would soon go bad without electricity. I saw men checking the historic boats in the port for damage and others inspecting some of the large historic houses. I hate to say it, but some stayed behind to protect their property from looters. We saw a few signs on garage doors: "Looters will be shot!"

I heard one lady interviewed on TV who seemed to believe that the storm would not come in. She believed that prayers would keep the storm from hitting Galveston. I have to say I do believe that God heard prayers because this storm could have done so much more damage behind the seawall. But the storm did come in, many people's homes and businesses were destroyed. The coastal areas without a seawall for protection had areas of total destruction. I hope she was in a safe place.

Some people tried to ride out the storm in places that had survived other hurricanes. The 91st street fishing pier was higher than the projected storm surge. It had survived other hurricanes. Three people "thought" this would be a safe place to take shelter.

It was a two story building, the bottom story is gone. Yes, these people survived the storm. I understand they were rescued the next morning. But I know the emergency workers had to make tough decisions during the storm. Was there a safe way to rescue these people without putting other lives at risk? I can not imagine hearing the building being ripped apart and hanging on upstairs, knowing I had made a mistake in my choice of shelters. The reports say these people were rescued the next day after the hurrincane had past. I don't think anyone died, but what an ordeal to live through.

All of the pier structures were severely damaged. The Flagship Hotel was badly damaged but survived. This fishing pier only partially survived the storm.

Some people stayed behind to do their jobs. A newspaper reporter stayed behind in her 2nd story apartment in the Strand. The story below them was flooded, but their apartment was not.

One block still looks "normal;"

A block or so over shows debris from the flood waters:

I know that some of the people who stayed behind got scared as the waters began to rise in their homes. Some were able to ride out the storm in their second floor rooms or their attics. Some had to call for help and faithfully, police and firemen risked their lives to bring these folks to safety.

City workers stayed at the San Luis to be ready to start the clean up. Firemen, policemen, paramedics and life guards stayed behind to rescue people in distress, deal with emergency issues, patrol the streets, etc. A small number of employees of hotels like the San Luis stayed behind to serve - their few guests and the police and emergency workers. Reporters and other journalists flocked to the island to report the story for the national news media. Scientists who research these cyclonic storms came to take measurements to understand these gigantic storms better.

There were many rescues the morning after the storm. Ambulances and fire trucks kept coming and going along the seawall. So far the death count is low - more people seem to have died after the storm from such things as running a generator indoors. But in the worst hit parts of the Galveston area - the West End and Point Bolivar, it is too early to know what the truth death count is. They have completed the search for survivors.

There were many reasons people stayed on the island. Some seem more valid than others. Some regretted their decision to stay and will probably choose to evacuate the next time. Some who evacuated are regretting their decision because they have not been allowed back on the island to see what happened to their home and business or to start the cleanup.

P.S. I've been reading the descriptions of the areas on the West End of Galveston Island and Bolivar Penninsula and High Island. These are areas that did not have a protective seawall to protect against the tremendous storm surge. The debris piles from Bolivar are inland and have yet to be searched for human remains. We saw the large numbers of dump trucks and front end loaders of all sizes that were headed to the West End. While I do have a better understanding of why people stay for some of these hurricanes, not all locations are equally "safe." My hope and prayer is that the final death count for Hurricane Ike does not rise dramatically from people who stayed in locations that were truly in harms way.

In the News: A 12 Year Old's Science Projecgt

12 Year Old's Science Project sounds very promising for new technology for generating power from solar cells. I sure hope he is successful. Plus I applaud his parents and his teachers for what they have provided that has given him the skills and motivation to do this kind of research. I hop there are a lot more like him out there growing up to be our future research scientists.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Hurricane Ike's Aftermath

I've been mainly focused on the Galveston area because that is where I have the most intimate knowledge - we've spent time there regularly over the last 30 years But Hurricane Ike hit far more than just Galveston. There was storm surge as far south as Corpus Christi and as far east as Louisiana. The storm surge around Galveston Bay did a lot of damage. In the news this morning are complaints because there is still no electricity after 5 days in a community in Ohio!

Hurricane Ike is going to have some long term economic impact on the Gulf Coast. Half of Galveston's tax base was wiped out in this storm. Because most of the damage was caused by the storm surge, much of the damage will not be insured. Windstorm policies do not cover damage from the storm surge and flooding. Many property owners who were closest to the beach will have other issues. Depending upon how much sand is redeposited over the next 12 months, many land owners will lose their land as well without compensation because of the 1959 Texas Open Beaches Act.

It may be easy to say things like: They should not build next to the ocean anyway . . . they're rich, they'll rebuild anyway . . .
The reality is that these are resources that are permanently lost. Economic wealth provides jobs, spends money that support local small business companies. I suspect that more mortgages that will not be repaid adding to another national crisis.

In the affected coastal communities, each day that businesses must stay closed removes dollars from the economy.

Farm and grazing land near the coast will be impacted in addition to the fishing and shrimp industry.

The Dillards at the Mall of the Mainland is already reporting that it will not reopen that store which sustained millions of dollars of uninsured damage.

Far too many people will have lost everything they own. It may take months before their jobs are restored or before their business can reopen. I hope and pray that in spite of the national financial crisis, that we as a nation will find ways to support these people until they can get on their feet again.

I truly believe that humans are resilient. I do believe that these coastal communities will rebuild. But this is a blow that will take years to recover from.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Hurricane Ike Photos

I don't normally do this, but I set up a website with most of the photos I took. It is set up so you can pick from a gallery of images or you can see it as a slide show. When I have time later, I may set up a video presentation of it. I have it set up over 6 pages, so it will be easy to see the images you are most interested in.

I started with images from Thursday, the day before the storm hit. I have dawn and wave images from Friday morning. I have to say watching the waves come in at the seawall made me feel as though the gulf was filling up and sloshing over. As the water got deeper on the other side of the seawall, the swells looked like what you would see when you are out in the deep sea.

My better images I am posting at Digital Railroad. I've got several stitched panoramas in this collection. So if you want to see a more condensed version check there over the next few days. It takes awhile to get all the digital images free from sensor dust and the levels/curves adjustments made, plus captioning and keywording.

Perhaps I should have edited more, but especially with the storm damage photographs, perhaps someone can identify their property since they are not allowing residents in yet to assess the damage.

United Way's After the Storm

The Greater Houston Area United Way has put together an excellent After the Storm Resource Guide.

I went through it and think it has some excellent information. It includes how to deal with the emotional aftermath as well as how to get the physcial resources - food, shelter, etc if your home was damaged or destroyed.

If you or your loved ones went through this storm, evacuated, or had homes destroyed, this is an excellent resource.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ways to Help Ike Evacuees in the Austin Area

From the Austin American Statesman

How to Help in the Austin Area

Volunteer Opportunities Austin Area

Houston Chronicle's After the Storm

The Houston Chronicle" has a great webpage for those that live in the Houston area. It lists places to get aid, places to make cash donations, and where you can volunteer.

They are also going to publish an "After the Storm Guide."

The WaterBOB

I've been trying to follow Laura Elder's BuzzBlog. She is a reporter with the Galveston County Daily News. She mentioned a device that I think people who live in areas that can get hit with extended power outages and loss of water seriously ought to consider, the WaterBOB. This device stores neatly and compactly in your kitchen cabinet. When an emergency threatens such as the Hurricane Ike that just went through, you pull it out, unfold it, and put it in your bath tub. They say it takes about 20 minutes to fill with water, but I suspect I would be sure to allow plenty of time to fill it before I might need it. It holds 100 gallons of water in a plastic container that is FDA approved for food. It comes with a handy hand pump. You don't want to be using your bottled water for flushing - way expensive. The WaterBOB seems to me to be a better way to store vital water rather than open in a tub or tubbies. It won't solve the problem of what the city will do with the raw sewage when it goes to the treatment plants that have no electricity, but it will help you keep the toilets flushed until service is restored.

Galveston's Murdoch Bathhouse

People who live and work in coastal cities along the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic know that hurricanes and hurricane damage are just part of life there.

The history of one of the structures totally destroyed by Ike is testimony to the tenacity of coastal dwellers. The first Murdoch's Bathhouse was constructed in the late 1800's dirctly on the sand. The famous 1900 hurricane totally destroyed the first one. Quickly rebuilt in 1901, it provided rental bathing suits and showers for the tourists. However, storms in 1909 and 1915 necessitated rebuilding each time.

William J. Guyette Sr. began his business, the Guyette Gift Shop in 1910 inside Murdoch's providing souvenirs. The original Guido's Seafood started in the 1910 Murdoch's Bathhouse building.

Fifty one years later, Hurricane Carla struck the Texas coast between Port O'Conor and Port Lavaca. Carla was classified as an unusually large Category 4 hurricane, the largest hurricane on recored in the Atlantic basin. Port Lavaca had 170 mph wind gusts. Of the 26 tornados spawned, an F4 tornado ripped through downtown Galveston. Even though the eye of the storm was 100 miles away from Galveston, buildings unprotected by the seawall were severely damaged by the storm surge. Near the heads of the bays the storm surge was measured at 22 feet and in places penetrated 10 miles inland. Murdoch's Bathhouse was demolished. When rebuilt, it was raised several feet above the seawall and moved over the Gulf of Mexico on sturdy wood pilings.

1983's Hurricane Alicia caused minor repairs to the pier, but Murdoch's continued operating by members of the extended Guyette family. It was enlarged in 2005 using original piling that once held Murdoch's Bathhouse following State of Texas rules that do no allow new piers to be built in Texas.

From the Murdoch's Pier website you can get an idea of what was destroyed in only a moment of time. I talked with someone who had actually witnessed the destruction. He lives a block away from the seawall. He heard a noise and looked out the window to see the Balinese room rise off its pilings and roll over onto Murdoch's and the Hooter's Restaurant. Apparently Hooter's exploded because he saw a blue glow as it was demolished.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

IKE - Integrated Kinetic Energy

I find it to be almost spooky that a new system of rating the strength of hurricanes has the acronym "IKE" Integrated Kinetic Energy, Dr. Mark Powells measuring system. When you read the Wunderground's Jeff Masters blog about Hurricane Ike, this system that measures the energy of the storm beyond just the wind speed would have been a better predictor of the damage that was likely from Hurricane Ike. Under the Category 1-5 Saffir-Simpson Scale, Hurricane Ike was only a strong Category 2, but the damage was much worse than a "normal" Category 2 storm would produce. Plus the damage area is much larger geographically than a "normal" Category 2 storm.

The weather forecasters issued good warnings about what this storm could do. But I bet that this new "IKE" system will gain popularity for more reasons than one after the passage of Hurricane Ike.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Neither Henry or I have gone to bed. I'm ready the stories of the people on the Bolivar Penninsula. Henry is trying to post his pictures - I think so that maybe some people who have evacuated can get a better idea what happened in their part of town.

The hurricane came in quicker than expected - and Bolivar is devastated. People who were planning to evacuate waited too long. The people in small towns in Texas tend to be really close to each other. When an entire community loses their homes - it amplifies the grief.

Being insulated from the news, I had not heard the stories. I'm just now reading them. Most people in Galveston don't have a way to find out what has happened much beyond their own block or neighborhood.

Henry and I were truly in a "safe" place. But so many others weathered a night of terror from the high winds, the rising waters, and the force of the storm surge.

But we have heard the stories of rescues made during the storm.

I so hope the death count does not rise over the course of the next few days.

Hurricane Ike - disconnection between what I saw and the reports

As I read the news reports and hear what the officials are saying - some things are not making sense to me.

It concerns me that the City of Galveston has decided that only 2 people can talk with reporters - and they are not saying much. Is there something they don't want people to know?

And communication in Galveston is horrible right now. Cell phones don't work - no TV - no local Galveston station - so all the news is about Houston not Galveston - no internet either.

Yes, water is a huge issue . . . They are already distributing drinking water and ice along with meals ready to eat. But you do need have to have water for flushing and bathing - sanitation. Small water bottles don't go far to fill a toilet.

So my question: Why are they wanting most of the people to leave the island now? Is it water issues or is it the mosquitoes? Is it that the water treatment plants were badly damaged (I think that is possible given their location and where the damage was greatest on the island.)

The cool front has provided a respite from typical September heat - which has been a blessing since no one has electricity. But when it heats up again (which will happen) then lack of electricity and water issues also magnify.

Although I saw some people out swimming in the waves - there seems to be issues with contamination even in the ocean.

I can really understand why many people would want to stay - get the carpet pads out - start drying out and recovering their belongings. Tear out the wet damaged sheetrock to minimize mold. Clean out the refrigerators and leave them open so they don't get ruined. People want to get on with their lives.

But if there are valid reasons people still need to leave the island . . . the officials had better be candid and open. People are more willing to cooperate if they understand why something is necessary.

More damage info

I found a much more detailed set of information about damage around Galveston: Leigh Jones from the Galveston County News.

Since most of the country is going to be focused on financial news this week, The Galveston County News will be a good place to visit to keep up with what is happening and how the people are faring.

Back from Galveston

We are back from Galveston - and i have much to blog.

Being a nature photographer, I spent time going around the city photographing and documenting what I could see. I spent yesterday and today driving around. I am NOT a building inspector, I can only gauge damage by what I see on the outside.

There is truly a lot of damage throughout Galveston. Behind the seawall going toward downtown homes appear structurally sound for the most part - but downed trees roof damage, damage to the sides of buildings, broken glass, etc are common. Down town was heavily flooded, but the waters receded pretty quickly. Still, floodwaters leave mucky mud, mildew, etc. Boats - big boats and little boats are found in many unexpected places. And some boats seem to have ridden through the storm in their berths with minimal damage.

In the older parts of town, I thought the damage was MUCH less than I was expecting giving the severity of the storm surge that was expected. However, many places had water - and I could not see good definable water lines on buildings. However, the parking garage at the white bank building show that water was a good 8 -10 feet above street level in the Strand. Some buildings look better than others, But most are going to be structurally sound. Willie G's had water in it, but only one set of broken doors.

The area around 61st where it crosses the lagoon was pretty badly hit. Homes and business both pretty badly damaged. The Offats Bayou had a substantial surge with a lot of damage to buildings on it. Homes along Teichman drive are heavily damaged, with a few that stood up better than others. Many will be repairable, but expensive. Some are totaled.

There is a lot of damage to businesses on Harborside Drive east of 51st street. However, the car dealerships look pretty good. The cars were parked on high ground and there is a little debris, but only a few looked damaged.

The biggest casualties on Seawall Blvd were the Hooters, Balinese Room and Murdochs. They are just gone.

The Flagship Hotel has damage to its walls, but the driveways are also heavily damaged. Any cars parked at the hotel will be there awhile.

The MacDonalds on the east end of Seawal Blvd looked pretty good.

Most of the businesses along Seawall blvd are still there, the plywood boards held. The highwater line went up the San Luis driveway just past the shrubs. Most of the apartment buildings along seawall have damage, but appear structurally sound and most windows were intact.

The newer, more eastern Holiday Inn has extensive roof damage. The older Holiday Inn near the San Luis has wall damage on the western side - a big batch of bricks are down.

The Victorian and the Casa del Mar look in pretty good shape as well as the others around them. Some roof damage and siding damage. I did not get a good look at the large white condos at the west end of the seawall, but they were still standing. The police were turning people away at the west end of the seawall.

There is a lot of aid flowing into Galveston - there are MRA, Water, Ice - Buses still evacuating people. Water for flushing is a big issue - but we had planned for that. The port-a-potties were rolling into town today.

I keep asking about death counts - so far it is low for such a big storm I hope it does not go higher . . . My thoughts and prayers go out to the people whose homes have sustained damage - whether they lost it all or just have major repairs. Even in homes where damage seems minor, I'm sure there will be precious possessions damaged or destroyed.

When we left the water was beginning to flow from the taps where we were - I hope that will be true for the entire city. Water is probably more critical than electricity. I don't expect electricity to be city wide for a long time. But there are a lot of big generators coming in.

More later . . .


Friday, September 12, 2008

Evacution Situation

The Galveston police chief is telling reporters that perhaps 50% of Galveston's population did not evacuate. That concerns me . . .

They have opened up a shelter of "last resort" in one of the high schools - bare bones - no cot, no supplies really, but better than being in a structure that won't survive.

There are buildings that survived the 1900 Hurricane. The seawall will help.

However, I have a hard time believing that the people who live on the east and west ends of the island with no seawall did not evacuate.

People who live in buildings downtown are a different issue. Many of the downtown buildings are old and sturdy. The surge there is likely to be bad, but not like it is on the actual coast-beach.

Hurricane Rita was both a blessing and a curse. On the blessing side, our country and state learned some valuable lessons about how to conduct this kind of large scale evacuation. This time around, they issued the mandatory evacuation orders in shifts of priority of danger to people. The coastal areas were evacuated first and then they moved up into the bay areas all the way into Houston proper. They had fuel tanks ready to refuel the gas stations - so fuel has not been an issue. The TV news had good information as to which routes were clogged and which were running smoothly. We've learned how to evacuate people who can't evacuate themselves - the buses were there and ready. No one had a good excuse not to leave - the buses were taking everyone that showed up. This morning people in Galveston could call 311 and emergency personel would help them get out of town.

However, on the curse side, when Rita came calling people took it very seriously because it followed so closely behind Katrina. However, Rita shifted course abruptly coming in at a best case scenario. So many people decided that they did not need to leave- that leaving for Rita had been a futile exercise. They thought they would have been better off at home. So many people who did evacuate for Rita may have chosen to shelter at home from Ike. It is still not too late for them to go to the high school.

The Beginning of the Storm Surge

Galveston County Daily News is reporting that the storm surge is already beginning to flood downtown Galveston. There are buldings that survived the 1900 hurricane flood down there. Let's hope they survive this one as well.

Ike's Morning Waves

I'll be posting some sunrise shots later. These are photos I took as I walked around the building while ago. The biggest waves are already splashing over the seawall covering it with the debris you usually see on the beaches below. The workers are trying to scrape it up, I'm sure that won't last much past early afternoon. All the TV trucks are away from the sea wall. Most are now hunkered in front of the building at the highest point a vehicle can park in this area.

Our protection

Most of you know that I'm normally very afraid of storms - tornadoes to be specific. I have to KNOW that I am in a safe place or I won't feel comfortable.

So, in the thought of making sure we know exactly where we are going to be and how well fortified it is, I made the rounds this morning.

This is the side view of the portion of the building where the City of Galveston rescue workers, news crews and hotel staff, etc will weather the worst parts of the storm. The parking lot is a little above the seawall, but you can see what a big mound of dirt and fortifications protect the foundations from the surge.

The front area has those concrete fortifications from old fort Crocket.

Even from this angle you can see how high this barricade is - we will be behind this in the conference center.

In the Girl Scout tradition of being prepared, I have also made sure I know the exact route from our room to this location and I know that I can get from our room to there even if the power has failed.

Friday morning

I've got a lot to blog about later today . . .

I got out at sunrise . . . but it took the sun awhile to rise above the distant clouds.

The wind was blowing parallel to the seawall and the waves were still hitting right up to the seawall, sometimes splashing over.

Henry had almost not gone with me, but I told him I wanted him with me. While on the seawall, I kept telling him to watch my back. When my eye is in the viewfinder, I am oblivious to where the big waves are crashing behind me. i wanted him to let me know if one of the big splash lines was headed my way so I could at least brace and get the camera out of the splash zone. At this point it would have soaked me, but it would not have washed me out to sea.

A news cameraman came over and starting filming us and then interviewed us. To look my best, I need to get up, wash my hair blow it dry, style it and spray it. When I get up for a dawn shoot, I don't do that. So my thin, fine straight hair doesn't look its best. Add to that the wind is blowing - so I expect I look like some wild haired lady. I had taken a cap, but it kept blowing off. I asked Henry later if I answered his questions coherently and intelligently . . . who knows - I just hope I don't come off looking like an idiot.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Today's Photos from Galveston

I'll be blogging more details about today later, but here are some of the photos I took today. As far as the weather there was very little that would let you know that a big storm was coming in.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Reflections on Rita and Katrina

I'm listening to the Houston news stations. While I wish ever so much that Hurricane Katrina had not devasted New Orleans three years ago, I think that it taught our country some valuable lessons. We weren't prepared when Katrina hit. We learned more with the mass evacuations for Hurricane Rita.

For Hurricane Gustav and now for Hurricane Ike, we, as a nation, have much better plans in place. The buses and ambulances are already transporting special needs patients and people who can't get themselves out of harms way. The teams are already in place to begin the rescue operations after the hurricane strikes.

I've also been glad to hear that fuel trucks are standing by to avoid the problems encountered with the evacuation for Rita!

I wish that we were not getting hit by so many storms this year, but I'm glad to see that we're doing a better job protecting our citizens.

We've obviously allocated more public money to help prevent loss of life from these terrible storms. This is a good thing. Even so, each family that evacuates has their own set of expenses - gasoline costs, lodging costs, and then potential repair costs or rebuilding costs when they return home. Not to mention the loss of family heirlooms and personal items that people are not able to take with them. I am glad to see the news media, the public officials, and the people who live here take these storms seriously.

I don't like the current projected path. The area between Galveston and Houston is heavily populated. While there are not levees to break, storm surges and flooding can damage and destroy many people's homes. I'm praying tonight that the storm does not reach Category 4 and that it comes in in lesser populated areas. I'm praying that people do heed the warnings and find safe shelters to ride out the storm.

While there are many areas that are already under mandatory evacuation, the city of Galveston behind the seawall is not under mandatory evacuation. The seawall is an impressive structure - that certainly raised all of the land near the coast about 10 feet - enough for many storm surges. Another amazing solution to avoid the disaster that happened here in 1900.

Time for bed - and contemplating whether to take my sunrise shots in the morning, check what we need to do for the condo, and see if we need to head back home and watch the rain and flooding our home area is likely to get.

Hurricane Ike - Part 3

We drove down in really beautiful weather - blue skies, white fluffy clouds, etc.

As we neared Galveston Island, the salt marshes looked normal and beautiful, . The herons and egrets were fishing. Upon reaching the seawall, the waves were pretty, but not angry. The sky was peaceful. There were still people enjoying swimming in the waves, walking the beach, and sitting on the seawall. The restaurants with balconies overlooking the gulf were full.

I've seen the presentation here about the horrible hurricane that hit Galveston on September 8, 1900. Back then there were no satellites, no instant communication worldwide, no planes to fly into storms to determine how bad they were. The people in Galveston had no warning. Being here today, I can understand how this would have happened, there is a huge hurricane brewing in the Gulf of Mexico, but as I looked at the sky out to sea, there is no hint of it this evening. The air is quiet, humid, and peaceful.

As I drove down the streets to one of our favorite restaurants, Willie G's - I noted how many of the Victorian houses have been fixed up, freshly painted - a sign of prosperity. How much damage will this storm do to a place I have grown to love?

Hurricane Ike - Part 2

We finally got off to Galveston this afternoon. I wanted to stock up on food well before we hit the Houston area. If we are truly going to stay in Galveston during the hurricane, we need to have non perishable food on hand - enough to last 3 to 5 days.

Things I bought:
Large package of bottled water.
2 gallon container of bottled water
Cokes, diet Coke and Dr. Pepper
Devilled ham, and a roast beef spread
Tuna ready to eat cans
An assortment of cheese and cracker sandwiches
Cheese whiz
Individual servings of fruit (they come in clear plastic containers)
Milk - the kind that comes in boxes that you don't have to refrigerate
Breakfast Cereal
Granola bars
Ground coffee and creamer (for while we still have electricity)
Matches (for the candles we brought)
Henry added a windup flashlight

If we leave tomorrow, I'll find a place to donate most of this . . .

Wednesday Evening

Well, for several reasons, we've headed down to our condo in Galveston. We have it on the market and when Ike was looking to hit closer to Corpus Christi as a Category 3, we thought it might be interesting to see and photograph. This is one of the few places i know that I would even think of weathering a hurricane in. We're on the 5th floor of a building that was built on top of the old ramparts of Fort Crockett. The base of the building sits up substantially over the seawall which is about 10 feet above sea level. It is a concrete, sturdy structure and is used by the City of Galveston as its emergency headquarters during hurricanes.

However, the news tonight seems to think that it is going to coming in quicker than expected and as a Category 4 and perhaps right over Galveston and Houston!

I am going to go ahead and post some of the things I've seen today, I'm already thinking that we may take sunrise pictures and perhaps head home . . .

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Over the last five years, I've been visiting a lot of wildlife refuges. I have discovered that each one is unique and special. While there are animals that live in each one year round, they are often places of refuge for migratory species.

Almost 20 years ago we visited Alaska and covered a lot of territory. We went before the road to Prudhoe Bay was opened for all traffic. But I was amazed and impressed at how truly Alaska is one of our last truly wilderness areas. We had almost two full weeks in Alaska and we covered a lot of ground.

I received an email recently that seemed to me to be a very simplified explanation of why it would not hurt anything for us to drill at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We've got some relatives up there and I've heard via the grapevine that the drilling along the North Slope is not a problem for the caribou - they come in droves to feed right next to the drilling rigs. I've seen the Alaska pipeline - and while they were building it I'm sure it disrupted some wildlife - it is quiet and has served its purpose to transport oil with a minimal amount of long term disruption to the flora and fauna. But maintaining water quality and wilderness areas are also parts of this equation.

Each of the wildlife refuges we visit has been set aside usually for one or more species - many times they are endangered or were when the refuge was established.

Before we get too caught up in the "Drill, baby, drill" hype, I hope that this blog will encourage my readers to explore the website for
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge." Browse through the pages, see what is there, see what is being preserved, see the results of the studies from the seismic testing done in the 1980's. Just the passage of the seismic testing vehicles (not even a road) has left a lasting path in many places. Most of us will not ever get to visit Alaska. I don't know if I'll ever get to go back. But I think those of us in the lower 48 ought to at least understand what we're disturbing and the risks we're taking when we start developing oil rigs in this sensitive habitat.

Perhaps we must drill . . . but I for one hate to lose another roadless, pristine wilderness area when I think we need to be exploring how we're going to meet our energy needs when the world's oil is finally depleted.

Upset Killdeer

I was sitting on the backporch letting my daughter's two small dogs have their time to "do their business" outside. I heard a long string of flutelike bird whistles - not in the normal bird calls I hear every morning. I was sitting under the large life oak tree so my field of vision was impaired. It was not until I got out on the front porch to enjoy breakfast and my daily morning time that I discovered which birds were making those calls. It was two killdeer - two very agitated killdeer.

Usually I see killdeer running along the ground, these were flying patterns over my yard and calling frantically. In the spring I had seen the killdeer parents with their young. I had enjoyed watching the parents fly away with their "broken" wing and then hearing them call to reunite their little family. But today there were only two and they seemed most disturbed. They flew and called and flew and called for 30 minutes to an hour.

I will probably never know exactly the story behind this unusual behavior, but I have my guesses. My dove hunting neighbors had been out shooting the doves. I suspect these killdeer or one of their flock was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Either the noise and the falling buckshot scared them . . . or . . . perhaps one of the killdeer was too close to one of the doves that was the target. Maybe these two were calling for their lost chick or mate, or parent.

On principal I'm not opposed to hunting - if you use the meat and as many other parts of the kill for useful purposes . . . if you follow the rules and adhere to the bag limits. However, I've been feeding doves for several years now. This dove hunting season I'm hearing many more shots being fired from many sources around me. It is a little disconcerting to be sitting on my deck and all of a sudden have buckshot hitting my roof while I'm out in the open with the dogs. I heard shots the other night well after sunset when it was almost dark. I don't know the rules - how early and how late can you shoot, how many can you "bag" each day, etc?

I saw a juvenile white winged dove recently - the first one I'd seen that had the obvious juvenile markings. Will this chick survive the hunt? How many of the doves I feed regularly will survive for next year? Yes, I had more than ever at the feeders this summer. Yes, I don't want them to "over populate." But in so many ways, these are "my" birds - the killdeer that live on MY property, the doves that I feed.

Killdeer are too small to eat and I don't think you're supposed to be hunting them. But I suspect that these killdeer were in the
wrong place at the wrong time. I was distressed to hear them so upset.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Touch of Fall

Living down in Central Texas it usually does not start cooling off until the first part of October. However, it has been such a delight the last couple of mornings to step out on the porch and feel a cool almost crisp breeze. I suspect that the remnants of Hurricane Gustav are pumping some cooler air our way. While I know we will have some more warm and hot days, these cool mornings are a promise of the cool crisp days of fall that are on their way! What a wonderful respite from the hot muggy summer mornings!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Interesting Morning - Hurricanes and Dove Hunting

I woke up early and started my day checking on Hurricane Gustav. I think you can see visibly the power of prayer - Gustav did not progress to a Category 4, it looks to be coming in southwest of New Orleans which may very well spare the city. I know that storm conditions will get worse during the next couple of hours, but after listening to the weather reporters, things were better than expected.

We're sleeping in the RV for a few days because our water bed mattress has finally had one too many leaks - so I enjoyed the sunrise from my RV front window. The cloud banks have a curve to them - after checking the images from the TV, yes we are seeing some of the moisture clouds from the hurricane. No wind, but definitely fingers of clouds from moisture that the hurricane is pulling in.

In looking at the pond, I can't help but hope we do get some good rain. The pond is low, not unusual for this time of year. It would be nice to get enough rain (over several days . . . ) to raise the level three or four feet.

Today is the first day of dove season. As I sat out with the dogs, I could hear the shots all around me. Sigh . . . I've been feeding a lot of doves this summer. I even had an obvious juvenile white winged dove at the feeder in the last few days. I came in when I heard the shot gun pellets hitting my metal roof . . .

Another blessing . . . the morning air was cool. Fall is coming!