Thursday, September 11, 2008

The News About Ike Just Gets Worse

I guess tonight's blog will again be about Ike, the hurricane heading our way. It seems only fair, since all our waking moments today and into the weekend will be consumed by Ike -- a name we will not soon forget.

I have lived in hurricane prone regions before. I am not unfamiliar with hurricanes. In 1983, I was living in the Houston area when Hurricane Alicia struck. It was not pretty, it was not fun, but we survived and went on with our lives.

We get a lot of hurricane "scares" in these parts. By that I mean, media like The Weather Channel always dramatize hurricanes and this season alone, we have been told more than once, already, that we were in dire danger and we better pull up all the stops and get out of harm's way. Up until now, we have not had so much as a rainy day from Dolly or Eduard or Gustav.

I watched Ike with some detachment a week or so ago when we were all worried over Gustav, which ultimately ended up in Louisiana. At that time, the computer models showed Ike as far more likely to go up the East Coast.

But as time has passed, Ike has continued to confound the models. It dropped down further south than anticipated, and then spun out into the Gulf. Early models which showed Ike heading due west toward Northern Mexico were then abandoned for the more northerly path. For a while it looked like Corpus Christi was in the center of the targeted landfall possibilities.

But as the predictions have crept slowly, inexorably up the coast, Ike has gotten closer and closer to us. As it stands now, I expect by morning The Weather Channel will be predicting that the hurricane will make landfall at Matagorda Bay and then make a bee-line up Hwy 60, where it will culminate at 6915 S State Hwy 60! (That is our address!!)

This thing is aimed right at us, now.

People have been asking me for the past day and a half, "Can we help you evacuate?". Sadly, evacuation is just impossible for us. We have far too many animals. Over 300 dogs. 18 horses, 3 donkeys, 2 sheep, 4 pigs, 12 cats, assorted chickens, ducks and geese and Alma cow.

IF there were enough places to take them all (and there are not)... IF there were enough volunteers to take them there (and there are not)... IF we had enough money to pay for all this transport (and we don't)... it still would not matter because there is not enough time to move that many animals!

Ricky and our team spent today securing the property... moving into the garage and storage barns anything that could turn into a missile in a storm. We are double checking on every dog's housing unit to make sure it is secure and at least 8" above grade level.

Ricky has corralled a bunch of crates and arranged them in the pool house and our living room, for dogs who need to be moved during the storm, or for dogs who escape their yards. (Some of our babies are afraid of storms and will escape and run to our house.)

We have the generator tank filled with 100 gallons of diesel and another 25 gal in yellow cans, should we use up all 100 gallons in the tank.

We have commitments from our team that they will be staying in town and not evacuating, so they will be available to help. One of our team members has agreed to stay at the house with us through the storm!

I think we have done all we can to prepare, and yet it is still frightening -- because we just don't know how strong and how damaging this storm will be, and we have all viewed the grim scenes on television of hurricanes' aftermath.

We know there will be no storm surge here. We are way too far inland for that. But I am less confident about wind damage today than I was yesterday. If the hurricane turns into a Category 4, our 50 mile security blanket from shore may not be sufficient to blunt the damage from the winds. That is the big question mark at this stage -- how much wind damage can we anticipate?

The greatest damage will probably still come from the rains. Hurricanes bring prodigious amounts of rain. Our Texas gumbo soil does not absorb water like normal soil. Water accumulates on top of it. A hurricane that dumps 18" of rain will leave more or less 18" of rain on the ground in these parts. And that would be the ultimate catastrophe for us. Flooding is a far more likely and more formidable nemesis here than even wind damage.

But we will not know how bad it will be until the storm has come and gone.

Our farm is too rural for cable TV or DSL lines. So we count on satellites for both high speed internet access through Hughes Net and satellite television through Direct TV. The only real downside to satellite providers is that when it rains, you do not have reception. Our internet access and our television both disappear in a heavy rain storm.

So if you email and do not hear back from me, it does not necessarily mean that a tree fell through the bathroom ceiling while I was brushing my teeth and took me out! It probably means that we do not have internet access because the satellite is not receiving through the rain.

I will continue to write the blog and answer email as I am able over the next few days.

Meanwhile, pray that the storm goes somewhere, anywhere else but here!

Post Script

It is approximately 3:00 AM, Central Daylight Time, as I am finishing up today's blog when Ricky informs me that our dryer nearly caught itself -- and the house -- on fire! He is not sure what is ailing it, but the utility room was filled with smoke and the back of the drier was dangerously hot!

We depend on that dryer for drying our dog towels. It runs pretty much 8 hours, give or take, per day. Ironically, Coin Mach, Inc. of Houston is generously donating a commercial grade dryer that they even converted to propane gas, since we do not have natural gas out here in the country. We just have not been able to go pick it up, and there will be no time tomorrow as we prepare for the onslought of Ike Friday night or Saturday morning. We will have to come up with some kind of stop gap dryer tomorrow, to get through the weekend with dog towels.

It is not bad enough we have a Category 4 hurricane hurtling toward us at Mach speed, for which we will be fortunate if we have one more day to prepare, because Friday will undoubtedly be non-stop rain until Ike's arrival. No, that is not quite enough to fret over. Let's throw in a near-house fire, and the incapacitation of the dog towel dryer, one of the most important appliances in the house.

I am beginning to feel like Job.

Jay Hellerich, executive director
smiling dog farms
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wharton, texas

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