A hurricane is definitely an experience. The winds began howling here in Houston’s southwest suburbs by the time it got dark on Friday. We were experiencing sustained winds at 50 mph, and gusts up to 70, by 10:00 p.m. The rain began around 11:00. The eye crossed the coast at about 1:30 a.m. right over Galveston, which is 60 miles to the east of my house. We missed the experience of actually going through the eye wall, our winds came out of the northeast most of the evening, shifting to the north, and then gradually to the west and southwest by early morning.
“Howling” is not really an adequate term to describe the wind. The house creaks and cracks, you can hear the trees straining and bending, and you wince every time, waiting for that one big gust that will blow in your windows or rip something off the house, or bring down a tree. Multiply that experience, and those feelings by about eight hours. Sleep doesn’t come easily, and once the power is out, and the room warms up, it is even more difficult. The rain, when the main bands come through, is driven sideways. It comes, not in drops, but in sheets. It pounds against the windows, seeps under the door, and adds to the other worries. It rained like that for five hours.
One of the more “surreal” experiences occurred after our power went out. As the eye wall moved northward, the number of people without power grew exponentially. When ours went out, you could still see the glow of lights on the clouds of other places in the area where there was still electricity. But every now and then, a blue-green flash could be seen, some brighter than others, not lightning, but transformers blowing out. In about a two hour period of time, between 11:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m., electrical power serving 90% of the Houston area’s 5.5 million people was out. And if the transformers popping isn’t surreal enough, a city at night without electricity will do the trick.
We are counting our blessings. First of all, we are safe. Material possessions can be rebuilt or replaced. On Saturday morning, we were shaken, tired, perhaps a little dazed, but we were alive. Our house sustained little damage, other than losing a few pieces of decorative flashing. Our trees, battered, and missing a lot of limbs, are also still standing. We were prepared with food and water, flashlights and batteries, and a full tank of gas. Our power was restored this morning. We couldn’t be more fortunate, and we are now in a position to help others who have not been as fortunate.
Our church worshipped together this morning. Out of a congregation of 250 active members, there were 15 people who made it. We sang, shared blessings and thanksgiving, and let God speak. The shingles were torn off the back of our sanctuary’s roof, and water poured in, flooding the foyer and back. A three inch rain from a thunderstorm this morning came pouring in as well. There was no power, so we met on the porch of our fellowship hall. We were joined by a gentleman from Georgia who has been in Louisiana with his chainsaws and heavy equipment helping residents there for the past week, and decided to come over to Houston for a while before heading home. He’s here to help clean up debris, at his own expense and in exchange for nothing but gratitude. I am sure there are hundreds of others like him that are now descending on our area.
Monday morning, we will begin checking on our senior adults and our church members, and assessing needs and finding help where it is needed. It is a job that I am looking forward to doing. I am also hoping that our church can be used by the Lord during this time. The work is going to take a while. We hope to offer at the very least a warm meal, a shower, and perhaps even a bed or an air mattress for those who are responding to the needs here in Houston.
There are many people who need our prayers. There is damage all over Houston, pockets of it are devastating. This storm’s wind fields, and the heavy rain, spread out over a two hundred mile radius, from west of Columbus, Texas all the way into Calcasieu and Cameron Parishes in Louisiana. Galveston, and the lower bay area, have been devastated. The destruction in the city of Galveston is on the scale of that which occurred in New Orleans during Katrina. Estimates are that the storm surge caused the flooding of upwards of 150,000 homes. Just remember, prayer is not the very least you can do. It is a lot.