I was going to write this particular entry after Dolly did her thing a week ago. However, Edouard made for a more relevant and interesting subject. I’ve lived in Houston for my entire life, excluding the four years I spent in Fort Worth going to TCU. Go Frogs!
In that time, I have only experienced one legitimate hurricane, Alicia. In fact, Houston doesn’t REALLY have a lot of hurricane lore that you can hold onto. Most of the stories you hear are about hurricanes (1900, Carla, Katrina, Rita) that never even hit Houston.
I’ve been thinking these past few days how interesting Hurricane Culture is here in Houston. I mean, look at any particular area in the country. In California, there is something about earthquakes, and the locals all have their own personal anecdotes and feelings. Move into the Midwest, and the notions of farming and tornadoes will be the fun topic. Or maybe you want to go all the way up north to the chilly fields of Minnesota. “Hey Carl, it’s gonna be a cold one tonight, eh? Grab me a SO-da why dontcha?”
There are a few constants when it comes to hurricanes in Houston.
1. Wet Reporters
There is always a mass panic that is actively egged on by local media. You know some reporter is going to be outside wearing a windbreaker and a ballcap with the stations logo emblazoned across the front. They will be squinting their eyes as they are lashed by wind and rain. I saw ol’ Wayne Dulcefino doing that today. Oh, and don’t forget when they pan out to show you how windy it is, and how the rain is blowing this way and that. Wayne even parked his car near the tallest building he could find to brace the satellite truck from the terrible wind.
2. Stalled vehicles
This is like one of those comedy bits that never seems to get old. I mean, it’s not just a hurricane that causes flooding in these parts. We see a good flood about once a year. It’s nothing new, it’s a regular thing. I’m not even going to say anything about what you should do, because you already know that by now. You do, right? Nevertheless, there will be a slew of nimrods who plow their two-door sedans right into a body of water, only to have the car stall out in the middle. They then have to get out of the flooded car, and wade to the shore where, inevitably, there is a reporter waiting to ask, “Why did you do it?” You can’t write shit that good. I mean, you just can’t! And it never fails. Watch the evening news tonight, you’ll see it. I guarantee it!
For every one person that shows the slightest bit of alarm about the storm, there are ten more that will scoff at the notion; being sure to invoke the name of some other storm from the past. “I remember when Alicia hit . . .” My favorite has always been, “Oh, it’s just a tropical storm.” Or, even better, “Oh, it’s just a Category 1.” Guess what, bullets are just pieces of metal until you get hit by one.
4. Hurricane Parties
Definitely my favorite part of the whole celebration. If there isn’t going to be an evacuation, and there is good drinking to be had before landfall. You’ll find us having some fun at the bars. I have heard many a great tale of the Night Allison Hit. It probably will go down as one of the single best nights to be out in the bars in Houston ever. Bars started serving drinks for free, people were sleeping on the floors. People walked home in the rain because their cars were either flooded out or trapped. Some good partying was had that night. Me? Well, I was out in Sugar Land, not really giving it a second thought. I ended up going to a friend’s house for dinner, and didn’t really stay all that long. I went to bed thinking about nothing more than what I would want to do in the morning. The next day, I come walking down the stairs, and see trucks floating down a freeway. I asked my dad where that was, and he said, “Houston.” WHAT?!
Allison was just a tropical storm. Actually, as you may know, when a hurricane makes landfall, and causes a good deal of damage, they retire the name from the lists. I’ve heard someone tell me that it is also an insurance thing. In any case, Houston campaigned to get Allison taken off future lists. Today, she is the only storm to have its name retired without reaching hurricane strength.
Dolly really had me thinking last week. I mean, here was a storm hitting the southern tip of Texas, and it goes and dumps a few inches of rain on us over the course of two days. That is real power ladies and gentleman. Again, that was just a dinky little Cat 1. Then we get Edouard, a piddly little swirl of gulf moisture that simply made up its mind to be something, and run straight for us. I suppose the naming of storms is supposed to add some kind of personality to the storm. Oftentimes, the storms fail to produce the fear. Take Edouard for example. I mean, who is Edouard, really? Is he some flaming queen named Edward who changes the spelling of his name to stand out? Is he a greasy thug with a waxed moustache and a Italian cigarette dangling from his lips? Someone said to be last night that they think of a Tango instruction. I suppose that is appropriate. I mean, he does like to twirl the night away, right?
Inevitably, the next storm to come through here is going to be met with a ample amount of skepticism. We’ve been hearing about the BIG ONE for years now. Oh, add that to the list of things to expect. “Houston is overdo for a big storm.” Alicia was in 1983, and apparently conventional wisdom says that we are supposed to get a storm every 10 years or so. I’m starting to think that is all just a bunch of hooey.
Every year, we face the threat of a powerful storm plowing into the Houston area. So does everyone else on the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts. Californians live with the threat of an earthquake everyday. Hell, Hawaii has volcanoes oozing lava all over the place. No matter where you live, there is a specter of Mother Natures fury waiting in the wings to surprise you. We lucked out today, hell, I got a free day of vacation out of the deal. Still, flooding is happening around Houston as I write this. Some people are going to lose their cars, personal belongings will be damaged and ruined, and a few Hurricane parties will be popping up around town tonight; I got invited to one at So Vino on Facebook this morning. I’d like to go, but I also have to work tomorrow. Hurricane Parties are best when you know you’re staying home the next day.
I hope you aren’t one of the victims of today’s weather. I hope you are smart enough to keep your car out of a flooded street. In any case, there doesn’t appear to be anything of interest in the Atlantic to watch for now. The next name on the list is Fay. After that we have Gustav. I’m pulling for an angry German hurricane, how about you?