Saturday, September 20, 2008

Post Hurricane Ike

On Saturday, September 12th I was asked to show up at the EOC to input data regarding evacuees who were already in the 2 then-open shelters in Arlington. I got there about 8:30 and left at 1:30 in the morning. Around noon on Sunday the CERT coordinator called to say Arlington was opening 2 more shelters and to see if I could help register Beaumont evacuees who were in transit from Tyler. Their previous shelter had been an abandoned Wal-Mart crammed with almost 1,500 evacuees, limited rest room facilities, no showers, mold & mildew, an unscreened criminal element and fights aplenty. We were really concerned a second move would be too much for some of them. Instead, many said they felt blessed to get out of there and find themselves in a large Lifestyle Center at Lake Arlington Baptist Church. The first thing many did was shower! And say repeated "Thank You" 's. I am scheduled to volunteer on Monday, provided that a shelter has a need. Some will be open through next week. After that those that are unable to return home will likely be moved to a long-term shelter or find a FEMA approved hotel or motel room. Unfortunately, even if they get free housing for a month, they lose the benefit of free medical care and dinners available at the shelters.

UPDATE on Sonnenfield House: My daughter was told the owner was evacuating ahead of the storm, but when I was looking at the after-Ike satellite photos, I spotted what had to be a red vehicle in the drive way. Unfortunately, he stayed one night too long and woke to find his truck already flooded and ended up having to ride it out. The house sits 6 blocks from The Strand. The Strand was flooded and impassable on Thursday. While the huge storm surge created by winds and a monster-sized storm crashed against the Seawall everyone expected to protect them (to a certain point, anyway), the surge itself flowed into Galveston Bay, around the island and flooded the unprotected harborside - something apparently unexpected, particularly that far in advance of the storm itself. Flooding caused a backup in the storm sewer system and it was bubbling up through the neighborhood storm drains, which caused a good part of the mid-island flooding. Further, the waves crashing against the seawall dumped tons of water on the roadway which then flowed down and into the neighborhoods as well. The first floor of the carriage house (garage with apartment on top) was destroyed. The house, despite sitting up several feet above ground level, had 2' of water in it. Needless to say furniture, carpet, equipment, drapes were all damaged as it had not been moved upstairs. Owner believes since the water went down almost as quickly as it came up, some of that can be salvaged. The original hand-laid parquet flooring buckled from the water in the wood. It can be salvaged and relaid. Wall covering on the first floor will likely have to be replaced. I'm not sure whether current owner replaced the original lathing and plaster with sheet rock when he remodled, but in any event lower portions of the walls will likely have to be cut out and replaced. The house has huge storm shutters. Because the winds were less than expected and it has weathered much higher wind speeds, it is likely none of the glazing nor stained glass was damaged. I have no information what damage was done to the filigree/gingerbread that covers the exterior of the house. One tree fell but missed the house. Owner's wife was somehow able to get on the island on Monday, 9/15, and evacuated owner and 2 neighbor families. He apparently has already returned to the island to assist in debris removal and clean-up.

Link to photos of Sonnetheil House:

This satellite photo taken 9/17 shows the location of the Sonnentheil House. For a larger image click on the photo. To see a large 1.4MG .jpg of this entire area of Galveston, including part of the Cruise Terminal, The Strand, and with the neighborhood highlighted (Sonnentheil House and Carriage House is lower left):

Link to NOAH with incredible post-Ike satellite photos of the Texas Gulf coast. Double click image for full-size image. These are 3 to almost 4MG's so may take a while to open. Because the photos are angled you will see all white at fist. Scroll down or all the way right to begin viewing the images.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hurricane Ike

Though I'd been expecting to hear something from the Arlington EOC either for assistance with EMST or CERT, no news at all, other than that the National Preparedness Month push at 3 local superstores had been cancelled. I don't believe that any of the Arlington shelters are being activated. Nor have I heard or seen any requests for volunteers from the Red Cross on this side of the Metroplex. There are calls out from Dallas, who has already found it necessary to add 400 beds to it's 1000 bed shelter at the Convention Center, and from Austin. The City of Fort Worth is accepting evacuees. Because of probably flash floods and potential tornados as it moves through this area (depending on where it makes landfall), RACES is on standby. The latest report is that the line has shifted a bit further west putting Tarrant County closer to the center of circulation means a higher liklihood.

Update: Not 10 minutes after I originally posted this I got a call to see if I am available to monitor the Tarrant County Repeater at 146.94 and/or 442.400. I've been listening off and on and haven't heard any traffic, but I understand buses are headed this way. Update: I listened from home and there was essentially no radio traffic. I never was called to go in.

My DD decided 6:30 this morning would be a good time to call and ask if I had a different phone number for her Dad in Houston to offer a safe place. She's been unable to reach him, which is no surprise - long story. She was able to contact a friend who fully rennovated and restored (a lot of his own carpenter's handiwork) the Sonnentheil House, one of the homes that survived the 1900 hurricane. He had already evacuated. Since the Strand (which is already flooding from the harbor side of the island) and the Gulf are each only 4 or 5 blocks in opposite directions from its location on 21st street, with a 20' storm surge it's probably a given that the lower floor of his home is going to be innundated, which will be a horrible shame. The trees have likely weathered far worse winds. If you'd like to see additional photos, including an outstanding stain glass window on the stair landing:

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Debrief on CERT Shelter activities

Monday, Sept 1st: Gung ho with energetic good intentions and ready to assist, several CERT volunteers rapidly deployed as soon as we got the call to show up at the large Salvation Army facility in Arlington. Living only 5 minutes away, I was the 2nd to show up from CERT about 11:45 noon. Four buses were on their way from some parish south of New Orleans, which would stop in Mesquite for medical attention and to be registered, then sent on to Arlington - or so the story went. In addition to us, there were numerous citizen and other former Salvation Army volunteers. Way too many. The Salvation Army set up cots in their gym for 194 guests. The Guests were to be admitted to the facility through the chapel where they would register, have their ID's checked and be given bracelets to identify them as being an individual allowed to be in the buildings. Following that they were to be taken to the gym where they would be assigned a cot and could take showers. A separate dining room was to feed 50 at a time.

Hours passed and no one knew where the buses even were. In addition to a dozen police officers and some firemen/EMT's, there were news crews from all the major affiliates and a couple of the local channels. One even did a live broadcast at 5. But no Guests had arrived. At 6:30 we were told to stand down and go home. Which is when I discovered I'd locked my keys in the car while juggling McDonald burgers and drinks at lunch. I managed to wave down the last volunteer just before he left the parking lot. He was kind enough to drive me home for the extra set of keys I normally carry in my purse.

I never heard from Tarrant County RACES who had emailed a plea for radio operators to handle shelter communications in the rest of Tarrant County. Arlington decided not to use radio communications after all, but judging by how difficult it was to reach anyone in charge (meaning paid employee) at the Arlington EOC by phone, I think that was a mistake. I would have liked to have been there to see what it is they were doing.

Tuesday: I was up at 6 waiting for email from the Arlington EOC. After 8 I called the CERT coordinator to find out what assistance was needed and was told he would have to call me back because the paid employees were in a meeting. An hour or so later he called to say the buses were in Dallas and soon on their way, and he would let me know. I was thinking maybe an hour. So I did some chores then sat by the phone waiting , and finally just dozed off. When I woke just before noon, I discovered that instead of calling there was yet another email asking who was available. So I called only to find out 2 buses had already arrived and they already had enough CERT volunteers at the Salvation Army. I was told to show up around 4 to relieve them. Ok. I was preparing to leave when I got a call to tell me to wait until 6. I asked about a large church who was expecting 4 buses. I was called back several minutes later and told me to go there instead. When I arrived, I was told I could not enter their shelter area until I had had the Red Cross background check. I showed them my city ID and explained I had already had one. I got a blank stare, so I called the EOC only to find the volunteer coordinator somewhat befuddled and side-tracked. When I was told the background check would only take 2 minutes, I told the EOC volunteer to forget it, Then I discovered background check required personal information typed into a website. As soon as I hit send, I was allowed in to the shelter area. I got an email Friday saying it had been completed and I could view it online. It was, of course clear. I've never even had a traffic ticket. What they are really screening for are persons convicted of crimes against children and violent felons. It was apparent as soon as we walked into the shelter it already had an abundance of volunteers. I asked their shelter manager what specifically I could do. He answered "uhhhhhhh?." So I asked if they really needed additional volunteers. "No." They had in 3 buses and had been told the 4th had already turned around. The coordinator commented he didn't know if they'd even need a shelter more than 1 night. So I left and drove 5 minutes to the Salvation Army to see if anyone needed a break. It was just after 4. There were many people just standing around waiting for something to do. The CERT volunteers had already departed.

As it turned out, my services weren't needed. The shelters closed after 2 nights because all the evacuees were able to go back home. I was disappointed that after all that waiting that I wasn't able to assist anyone, but I grateful that those that needed services were able to return home so quickly.

GRATUITOUS PUPPY UPDATE: Sisal may have found a home - IN QUEBEC!!

Update One year Later: The pups were one year old on April 4th, 2009. They are all still with daughter. With Mom that makes 4 big dogs.

Abbreviation Key

AARC - Arlington Amateur Radio Club
- Amateur Radio Emergency Service
- Community Emergency Response Team
EMST - Emergency Management Support Team
- Emergency Operations Center - part of the OEM
FEMA - Federal Emergency Management Agency
- National Weather Service
NWS FWD - National Weather Service - Fort Worth/Dallas
OEM - Office of Emergency Management
- Public Service Event - ARES Net
RACES - Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services
- TExas Severe Storm Associaton