Friday, September 19, 2008

Cherry Pickers

When the cherry pickers arrived, it was a cause for some excitement -- as excitement goes. Three utility trucks came down the street, the first one snagging on a low hanging cable and yanking the poles something awful with a craaack that made you think Oak Street was doomed to darkness for a month.

They started at the far end of the block, working back our way one pole at a time, one transformer at a time. When they stopped in front of the house, I got four cans of soda from the ice chest and walked out to them, handing a cold can (Dr. Pepper or Pepsi) to each of the four orange-clad men.

One asked how we were coming along. Ok, I said, no power and fallen trees and a lot of debris to clean up, but no water in the house, and the trees had mostly fallen away from Bert's roof, which was saying something.

I asked him where they came from. "Washington," he said. And then he looked at me and said, "You know, Texas is supposed to be desert!" I chuckled. The street was lined on both sides with six foot piles of cut tree trunks and raked and piled limbs that had fallen from what used to be a dense canopy over the neighborhood.

When I left Houston a day later with dusk settling on the city, more utility trucks were arriving. They were coming from all over the country, driving toward Galveston. In the evening light, you could see their twinkling yellow lights from a distance -- a group of three or four, followed a mile or so later by several more, and a mile or so later by yet more, a steady stream of flashing help-on-the-way.

There was plenty of work for them to do.

after Ike
Dickinson, TX

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Leaving for Houston

On the outskirts of Austin, the traffic stopped. Barely outside the city. With hours of driving ahead. For no obvious reason. All three lanes of the highway came to a dead stop.

I prepared to turn back. If all these people were returning to Houston after the storm, then this was not a good idea. Leave aside the time, the gas stations would be mobbed in every town between here and there, and I'd be lucky to get there.

I decided to wait until the tollway, hoping that some of these folks might be going north or south. (Right.) Bert's power in Dickinson was out, and he thought he could use a generator. And he had a lot of trees down and only one barely functional chainsaw, so he needed chainsaws. And he needed batteries. And stuff to drink. And a broom. And rakes. And bleach. And soap. And paper towels. And toilet paper.

I had all these things packed in the car around me. I could barely see out the rear view mirror, and I had to lean forward to see the right side view mirror. The traffic inched along. Cars around me were packed with supplies. Trucks pulling trailers with heavy equipment.

As we got to the tollway, I could see that it was the stoplight at the underpass that caused all this fuss. So I didn't turn around. Instead, I set the cruise control on 60 (to conserve gas) and headed out of town to Houston.

taking supplies to Dickinson
after Hurricane Ike

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