At 2 a.m. Sunday morning, I hunched up in front of the big screen television in the hotel lobby watching the projected trail of Hurricane Ike. Good ole’ Ike, it promised to drench nearly every member of our family.
I enjoyed the quiet of the hotel lobby in Longview, Texas where we had held a flashlight celebration of a granddaughter’s birthday the previous evening.
If the conditions did not register as ideal, they would be memorable. Due to scheduling conflicts we celebrated her birthday at the hotel instead of in our home. I whipped up and decorated a birthday cake, wrapped up a few presents, pulled out food for a picnic of sandwiches for Sunday lunch and tucked in odds and ends of things for entertainment.
As we expected, we encountered tropical storm Ike along Interstate 20. My husband turned the wipers on fast, pointed out the trees bending under the wind and continued to drive.
The storm had turned off the electricity out at the birthday girl’s house, but who would have thought it would have darkened the city’s fast food joints, restaurants, department stores and traffic lights along on the five lane highway? A 90 percent loss of electricity has that effect on a city.
Camp lanterns lit the huddles of hotel guests in the darkened lobby. The staff prepared a light supper of sandwiches and fruit and arranged it on the breakfast bar. Later I heard a guest say they had waited 48 minutes in the drive-through line to get sandwiches at the only open fast food place.
With electronic doors and card keys, we could not lock the door behind us when we left the room, but we do not travel with valuables. Grandpa and grandchildren quickly changed clothes to go enjoy the inside pool. While they splashed around, I took a two-minute walk over to the big box lumber yard – the only open business – and bought glow sticks and flashlights. Back in the room, I hid presents around the room, pinned up the happy birthday banner and set out the birthday food.
We had no television to watch after sunset, but the grandkids enjoy when I tell entertaining Bible story.
After everyone settled into a good night’s rest, the electricity returned, triggered the air conditioner and chilled the room.
Unable to sleep, I tip-toed out to the lobby and watched the weather channel project the storm passing over my daughter in the Little Rock area, my son in St. Louis and our sons in northern Indiana and near Detroit – even my sister in Rochester, N.Y.
By the time the remnants of Ike reached those places, it had calmed down considerably, but the downpour in St. Louis wrecked havoc at my son’s house.
He e-mailed a description of his worst Sunday ever: “Our basement flooded yesterday. Since our insurance excluded flood/sewer backup in the coverage, we will be on our own for the cleanup and replacement of anything that was damaged (washer, dryer, furnace and hot water heater). Also the ‘91 Honda Accord died yesterday.”
I asked if his neighbors had been flooded. He said that the ones up the street and hill from him had a few inches less, the ones down the hill had a bit more. The grocery store down in the valley had to close from the flooding.
A couple feet of water in their basement cleared out the stuff they might have eventually winnowed out – including their old hot water heater – but, it also saturated many more items they really needed to stay dry, including their new furnace.
A storm with its wind, rain and inconvenience, left our family with enough stories and damage to last a lifetime. It’s okay, if we miss the next one.