September 30, 2005

Death in the Afternoon

Death stinks.

No, no – I mean it. Death really stinks. Last weekend, as we were congratulating ourselves over our near miss with Hurricane Rita, our sweet pooch found a playmate under the house. Unfortunately, Blaze doesn’t play well with others.

Monday afternoon we came home from our first day of work post-Rita, and noticed an odd smell in the house. I thought it was a dead mouse in the wall. We had a dead raccoon in the yard a while pack, and the smell was reminiscent of that poor thing. Another one of Blaze’s playmates.

We didn’t think too much of it, and went to bed. The next morning the smell didn’t seem so bad, so I thought it was going away.

That night when we got home, however, it was worse. We sniffed and searched, trying to find out the source of the stench. No avail, so we burned some candles.

The next morning, again, the smell was almost gone. Hmm. Seems like we need a problem solver on this case. Doreen crawled under the house to try and find the problem, but she could smell nothing there. (Doreen is the small one in the family, you see, so she is the one who goes under the house. I am the one who puts things on shelves and carries things around)

That night (Wednesday) again, the smell was back. Now Doreen had a theory – it was coming from the Air Conditioner. Yipes! We turned it off, and let it sit a while. We then turned it back on, and yes indeed! Death from the Air Conditioner vents! It was too late to go under the house, so we skedaddled upstairs to get away from the smell.

The next morning the smell was gone until the AC kicked in again. Then it was worse than ever. Doreen crawls under the house again to see if there was a break in the duct work. Yes, she said, from under the house, a break in the duct work indeed. She was looking to see if a small animal had crawled into the duct, when she spotted the four day dead opossum, looking like four day dead mammal would look. And she didn’t vomit! I was really proud of her.

So I volunteered to go to the hardware store and buy some lime to cover up the carcass. I got to Southland Hardware, and they told me that they had run out of 10 lb bags of lime. So I opted for a 50 lb bag. (it was only $8.00)

I got home with the lime, and Doreen (bless her soul!) when under the house AGAIN! She is too good for words. She covered the thing with lime, and we called the AC folks to come and fix their error. By the time we got home that evening, the stench was completely gone!

That lime is something.

September 25, 2005

This is a Post Oak that was blown down in Hermann Park. You can see that the roots are not very deep. They are fragile trees and not many left in the city. I am surprised that it was blown down with so little wind. Posted by Picasa

September 24, 2005

Back to normal

She’s gone.

For us in Houston, she was a flirtation. The bat of an eye, a smile, maybe one close slow dance. But then she ran off with that Beautiful Hill, Beaumont.

No hard feelings, of course. No hearts here were broken. We knew that she would leave us at some point anyway.

We now have sunny skies, and almost no wind. We took a nice bike ride this afternoon, and saw a lot of leaves blown down. A few big branches down, mostly from the brittle trees – Pecan, Chinese Tallow, maybe a Water Oak or two. Everyone is in a very talkative mood. It reminds me of that Churchill quote “There is nothing so exhilarating as being shot without result” We have been shot at, and missed.

Many folks boarded up windows and did other serious hurricane preparation. They were all taking their plywood down today. One couple asked us why we didn’t do anything, as “You live in a glass house!” Just playing the odds, I guess.

Now I just hope that our local NPR station gets back to their regular programming in time for Garrison Keilor.

We lost our cable modem for about five hours. That I can live with. A couple of plants got beaten down. And now we get back to our normal lives.

After 9-24-05 about 10:00 AM Posted by Picasa

Cable modem out.

But we have power and not too much rain. I wonder how long my network will be down.

Now it's raining hard

We are just now starting to see winds and rain. From the radar it looks like the bands will continue hitting us for a while. As I mention below, I hope she moves fast and gets out of the area. That would mean less rain, and less wind. We still have a lot of trees around, and I don’t want them breaking power lines or windows.

We are not out of the woods yet, but it looks better now than it did twelve hours ago.

More later.

Rita Hits

She’s on shore near Beaumont.

We are getting some strong gusts of wind, but not much rain.

I hope it moves fast and doesn’t drop much rain.

September 23, 2005

She keeps moving east

Looks like the storm has continued to move east. We have seen nothing but light rain and constant winds. It is getting late, and I think we will go to bed.

Good luck again to all in Louisiana, especially my family.

More later.

Escape From Houston - How I fled Rita. By Mimi�Swartz

Escape From Houston - How I fled Rita. By Mimi�Swartz

Since it is still light, I am still taking pictures Posted by Picasa

More Rita coming in Posted by Picasa

Leading edge of Rita Posted by Picasa

It is a little fuzzy, but this is a photo of a Ruby Throated Hummingbird in our front yard. Posted by Picasa

Google Map Plot of Rita (2005) Google Maps Hurricane Track Overlay Google Map Plot of Rita (2005) Google Maps Hurricane Track Overlay

First Signs of Rita in Houston

First the wind, and now the clouds. We are starting to see constant northerly winds of about 10 MPH – the trees bow, light litter is being blown down the streets.

Bands of clouds are starting to sail across the sky.

So it begins

Waiting for Rita

Now we are just waiting. We have moved everything inside, we have stocked up on provisions, we have assembled our disaster kit. The weather is still fine, but it feels ominous. (That is probably projection) The storm is still coming into the east of us, for which we are thankful.

We have a small pond with fish in it, and we are debating whether or not to put them into a bucket. I think not, Doreen thinks so. We’ll see how the rain comes.

The radar shows the rain starting to come in from the coast. You can see it here, and I will post a snapshot as well.

The strange thing about hurricanes qua natural disasters is that you KNOW they are coming. You may not know exactly where, and you certainly don’t know exactly what trouble they will cause, but you KNOW they are coming and you have a lot of time to think about it. Some take that time to prepare (putting up plywood, buying provisions) others take the time to just wait and watch. We still don’t know what exactly will happen as the storm moves. She could still swing west and nail us, she could keep heading west and threaten Louisiana.

My best to all my relatives in Louisiana. I hope that the storm splits the difference between us.

More later.

September 22, 2005

Rita Heroes

The true heroes of the early Rita panic are not the mayor (though we love him) nor the country commissioners (we like them pretty much, too), and certainly not the feds (though they are trying to avoid the debacle that they stepped into in New Orleans) No, the true heroes of today are the poor services workers who are still doing their jobs.

We don’t want to start cutting into our larder yet, so we have been trying to eat out today, and maybe tomorrow. So at lunch today (Thursday, at least 36 hours before landfall) we thought we would go and have some lunch. We don’t want to drive (saving gas) and walked to a nearby, wonderful Sushi restaurant. We saw people walking into the place, but they were family and carrying food. The funny thing was that the food they were carrying was cans of Spam. Got to wonder what will be in those California rolls next month.

We then walked past Rouge, a fancy place, it was closed. Felix’s, a horrible Mexican place, and it was closed. Taco Cabana, a pretty good (and quite well known Montrose institution, even if it is a chain) and it was closed. But Schlotsky’s, a bankrupt sandwich place was open. Yea! The staff was harried, but pleasant. THEY were working. I wasn’t. It took an hour to get a sandwich, but that was OK.

Then for dinner, we walked to a local fish taco place called Berryhill Taco (it is a local chain), and it was PACKED! The staff was, again, pleasant in the face of less than friendly customers. I tipped big and said they were my heroes for the night.

Don’t forget these folks. They don’t get paid much, but they show up. Not like those losers at the TSA in the Houston Airport!

More later.


Since we are home, we are watching the yard more closely. This is the time of year that hummingbirds come through town, and we are seeing them non-stop in the yard. We have plenty of blooming flowers, and while I sit here I see at least four of the little fellows non-stop. They are very territorial, and are continuously chasing each other. Hummingbirds don’t play well with others.

I hope that this "before" picture is the same as the "after" one I will take Saturday or Sunday. Posted by Picasa

Is she turning?

Keep your fingers crossed, but it looks like Rita is heading east. That would be good for us, but bad for Beaumont, Lake Charles, and those folks. Sorry.

The main story here is traffic. The evacuations are proceeding VERY slowly. From downtown Houston to Barker Cypress in Katy, about 20 miles, it is taking SIX HOURS! Holy Mackerel! The state is going to open the inbound lanes to outbound traffic. I hope that everyone has a full tank of gas.

More later

From phone.

I am going to be able to blog from my phone, so when we lose power I can keep in touch.

Rita is still coming

The story continues.

I left work yesterday, Wednesday, at about 6:00 PM. More of less my usual time. I anticipated a LONG commute home, and so I took one of my standard alternate routes (Freeway mostly, surface streets to avoid congestion at the end). Traffic was a breeze. Of course, I was not heading OUT of town north, nor west, nor northwest. Those are the major routes out of town. I arrived home in about 20 minutes.

I got home about the same time my lovely wife did, and she was bearing goods. She had some water, some peanut butter, and other canned and dry goods. She said that the local Fiesta was crowded, but stuff was available.

We spent the evening believing that Rita would be heading into Matagorda, well south of Houston. Not the best track, as that makes us on the “dirty” side of the storm, but far enough away so that we don’t really need to worry.

We woke up to the National Hurricane Center telling us that Galveston is the most likely landfall. Bummer for us.

The “Strike Possibilities” now show Galveston as 22% (highest) shot at getting a direct hit.

I hope it keeps heading north and east.

More later.

September 21, 2005

Hurricane Rita

Lovely Rita. The hurricane preparedness is proceeding with alacrity as I type these words. I am shutting down my office at 4:00 PM today (Thursday) and it will be closed until Monday at least. Traffic in Houston ins a mess. The main evacuation routes are solid with cars. The mayor (Bill White! Gotta love him) just had a press conference with Judge Eckels (county commissioner) telling people to help their neighbors get out of town. Mandatory evacuation for low lying areas.

So what am I doing for the storm? Well, uh, nothing. We are at 49’ above sea level, about 50 miles from the coast. There will be some wind, there will be some rain. The worst thing will be that I think we will lose power for as long as a week. But maybe not!

I was here in 1983 for Hurricane Alicia. She came straight up the center of town, and we lost power for only an hour or so. I think some parts of town lost more, but we were OK.

Most of the people I know are just about panicking. I think that this is the result of the horrible mess that Katrina caused. Most of the folks in the office are heading inland. I think they are overreacting.

Am I being foolish? Perhaps.

But I doubt it.

Working like a Dog!

I have been inundated with inquiries about where are my blog comments?

Well, work is getting more frenetic, and I have an “employee issue” that I am dealing with. I hope that I will be able to write about that soon.

But I was in New York City last weekend, and I will right about that soon.

So Hold on to your horses!