Monday, September 18, 2017

Being Texan: A Hurricane Story

Hey, all, it’s mid-September, and you know what that means: pumpkin-flavored edibles, back-to-school, football, and also, um, the hurricane season. Or rather, the downhill slide into the end of it. I live in Texas, grew up in Houston, and hurricanes are kind of baked into who I am. Actually, they’re part of my whole family. As a young man, my dad was one of those crazy dudes who drove against the evacuation traffic down to the Galveston seawall to watch Carla come in. As this was before I was born, I’m so very pleased he survived to pass along the crazy genes. Thanks, Dad.

My kids made Sharpie marks on the
storm glass barometer as Harvey was
coming in. It's kind of a family tradition.
I remember being a little kid and learning about barometric pressure and watching our little pressure gauge on the wall in the living room when the scratchy-sounding weather radio gave the update on the storm coordinates. My sister and I routinely placed bets on whether we’d get a direct hit. I cleaned up in frosted Pop-Tarts and near misses.

When Hurricane Alicia roared through in ’83, we had the funnest ever almost-like-camping party in the bathroom. The whole family squished in there for hours listening to the weather band while the storm wrenched the metal carport outside until it screamed like a B-horror slasher victim. Alicia went right over us, and I remember zipping out on my bike, up and down the block during the ceasefire of the hurricane’s eye, collecting a zillion pine cones and stacking them in the plastic basket on my handlebars. Doubtless I had big plans for crafts that I never got around to doing.

Momma hollered down the road for me to come back in, and I wondered why but went anyhow. And then the back half of Alicia blew in, and we retreated to the bathroom fortress, to stare at the mattress Dad had pressed up against the lone window and hope none of the giant pecan trees fell on our house.

In Austin, about four hours inland of
where Harvey made landfall, we got
4.5 inches of rain in around 15 hours.

Most of my childhood hurricane memories are washed in sepia tones of anticipation and school-free days and time spent with my family. In short, good times, good memories. Even evacuating out of Galveston as an adult with Ike on our tail was kind of fun, in that wow-that’s-a-lot-of-traffic way.

What happened recently in Texas and the Caribbean and Florida and Mexico wasn’t fun.

Not even to me.

Most of my family still lives in Houston, and texting with them through Harvey and the days of rain afterward was terrifying and frustrating, worse this time because I was hours away and had no way of getting there to help. All I could do was monitor the weather service and thumb-type feverishly and...donate.

So I donated a lot. And it felt like I was actually, you know doing something. If you also have felt helpless watching strangers on television who have lost everything they own and look sort of shell-shocked, here are the places I liked enough to send money to (my research into these places was not super in-depth, but they all offer updates on how the money is being used, which I appreciate):

J.J. Watt’s OneCaring Houston Flood Relief Fund:

Austin Pets Alive! (a no-kill animal shelter in Austin that took in hundreds of displaced pets from the Gulf Coast):

Tim Duncan’s US Virgin Islands Hurricane Relief YouCaring fund:

GlobalGiving Fund for Hurricane Irma relief in Florida:

 And, Maria? You stay away from the islands and Florida, y'hear? They've been through enough. If only I knew of a super villain with weather control technology who could make you just go away. But that's just fiction. 

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