Our trip began Thursday morning when we pulled out of town with Victoria, TX in our sights. Ike would be our cherry popper hurricane chase. With our rookie status, we were both excited about the upcoming experience and the associated unknown. Loaded with 17 extra gallons of gas, enough food to sustain us for a week and enough equipment to run the launch of the space shuttle, we pulled into our hotel in Victoria around 6pm Thursday and began to go over data. We learned quickly that we would be adjusting for the new track the next morning. Houston was in Ike’s path now.
Friday morning we awoke to the sound of Duct tape being stretched and patted down against our outside window. Hotel maintenance was preparing for the wind and potential flying debris. Another hotel hurricane tip we observed was the tossing of outdoor furniture into the pool to keep it from becoming airborne in the wind.
We repacked the vehicle and hit the road to the coast with plans to visit Freeport for Gulf shots and then make a decision on where we would ride out the storm based on the latest info available. This was an interesting trip in itself…
We drove and drove Friday morning and only saw a handful of people on the road. Like Thursday evening when we were approaching Victoria, the only vehicles still out were towing RV’s and boats away from the coast. What an eerie feeling it was to not see anyone around and everything boarded up while listening to what could quite possibly be the most excruciating liberal AM radio show in the world (740am) tell us the world will end in 12 hours.
Upon arrival in the Freeport / Surfside area and after not seeing anyone but law enforcement for the previous 30 miles, we were happy to see a horde of media cars and police congregating at the top of a levee running live shots and generally awaiting Ike as a group.
Bob and I took advantage of this opportunity to shoot some stock and get it uploaded to those who we had agreements with. It was here that I realized that I wouldn’t be working much through Severe Studios because my live streaming video set-up had a weak link – my laptop wouldn’t hold a solid device connection between the camera and the software. My apologies to those who were looking for my stream throughout the event.
From Freeport it was time to make a series of decisions regarding our placement for landfall. Because the news was consistent in reporting storm surge levels up to 20ft and we were driving around in areas only 10’ above sea level, we knew inland would be the mode. Houston was a possibility as we were only about 65 miles out and had plenty of time to get situated but the thought of being in, or even near, a major metro during a hurricane landfall didn’t seem practical considering our plan was to get the hell out of the area post storm, in order to chase severe weather related to an inland version of Ike back in Oklahoma. Of course Ike ended up taking off after landfall so the post chase we looked forward to turned out to be simply a rainy drive home. I digress.
We drove inland about 40 miles to a little town called Wharton. We were lucky enough to not only find a hotel room, but a suite, at the Holiday Inn Express – which of course, fueled many jokes about the fact that we “stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night”.
Once we set up our “base”, we headed out for more stock shots. By this time we were beginning to experience a little precip and wind associated with the more dense outer bands. Again I tried the live stream to no avail so I was back to just uploading files. We were in a unique situation because we were somewhere the general media was not. Everyone flocked to Galveston, Houston and points between. No one was covering small town preparation and endurance. Well, we were…
We headed back to the hotel for some data and naps to prepare for getting out around 2am to shake hands with Ike.
By the time Ike winds and rain made it to our location, power was out and without light (or even lightning), documenting this nighttime event on film was a lost cause. It was a very interesting experience though. Being on the west side of the storm, our wind was from the north and northeast. The palm trees in our area were all wet on one side only; showing just how much the wind was blowing. Rain hit everything horizontally. Visibility was zero much of the time.
Saturday morning we ran into town to look for shots and then jetted north to get out of the area before traffic picked up post-storm. Damage was limited to large tree limbs, signage and loose items from yards and trash cans. The town was back to life too as residents came out of hiding to see what Ike left for them to clean up.
As I mentioned above, the system picked up major speed and jetted a little more to the east than we had originally forecasted. This made the chance of getting back to Oklahoma to chase impossible. Fortunately for OKLA residents there was nothing to chase anyhow as the severe weather producing portion of the now tropical storm was over LA and ARK, not Oklahoma.
General opinions about Ike:
My thoughts are with those less fortunate who were too stubborn to leave their homes to escape the wrath of Ike. I think if you choose to live in a coastal area, you should commit to be responsible and get the hell out if told to do so. On the flip side of that coin, if I knew when I leave my home, I face the potential of theft or authorities telling me when I can go back, I might be stubborn too!
As I write this I am listening to a FEMA/local govt press conference. The two are working together to deliver food, water and ice to those who chose not to go. Since I mentioned that flip-side in my coin analogy above, I should elaborate and say that I would personally stay put if I lived in a coastal area under evacuation order. I would have the correct amenities and provisions to ride out the storm and resulting days or weeks cut off from modern comforts. I believe everyone has the right to do the same thing as a citizen of a free country. That said, those who stayed during Ike and didn’t properly prepare are the ones who seem to be pointing fingers and asking the most questions right now. Where’s my food? Where’s my water and ice? There’s a sense of entitlement that is simply disturbing. Why should someone who didn’t perform due diligence to ensure they would be provided for still be stranded when shelters were provided? Why should they expect provisions to be practically delivered to their door? I would like to hear the stories from the countless individuals and families who rode out the storm properly prepared. Wait! You won’t hear from them because they don’t need handouts and knew exactly what they were getting in to and will ultimately pull through just fine. I like to call these people “republicans”.
The LOCAL television media handled things as expected with doom and gloom reports and forecasts that modern news is forced to project for the purpose of entertainment. Generally I’m pretty hard on TV media but from what I was able to see and hear, I was pretty impressed with the coverage. Embellishment was minimal and facts were delivered ASAP. Yes, there were some glaring errors between report and verification but that’s to be expected in an emergency situation.
Since arriving back home I’ve been continuing to follow the KHOU local news on the internet and you can tell the anchors are exhausted. One anchor got into an on-air argument a few minutes ago with a big wig at the CenterTech power company. I can only imagine how sick of all this the media has become.
One thing I would like to have seen more of is coverage of where the worst part of the storm actually hit. East of Houston was what I consider to be ground zero as they experienced the NE quadrant rains, surge, winds and potential tornadoes. Where was everyone? Galveston, of course…
I WILL be critical of the government. Scare tactics by a government agency is unwarranted in most situations. It started with “PDS watches” and “tornado emergencies” and has now extended to hurricanes with NWS wording like “certain death” in referencing a product placed for public consumption regarding Ike’s affect on Galveston Island.
I think we should leave the super ultra mega jumbo mammoth wording to those who interpret the products and disperse them to the public. The fact that government agencies feel they need to embellish to this point is disturbing. Especially a “certain death” statement regarding a CAT2 storm. And don’t comment and argue with me that it was because of the storm surge, etc. The surge was consistent with that of a CAT2 storm…
I guess my overall concern is the eventual complacency based on the type of warning the public is getting. Maybe next time people won’t seek shelter unless a tornado warning is a “tornado emergency” or a hurricane product says the words “certain death” in it.
Chasing a hurricane was on my list of things to do before I die. This is a long list so getting the hurricane out of the way was nice. Now I have room to add something new!
I love every aspect of the weather and can now say I’ve experienced most weather. This was my goal. I will probably never chase another hurricane and be perfectly happy. I think they are fairly boring and miserable beasts. They take a lot of time and effort. They take logistical genius from the forecast to packing the proper gear to finding a way out after the storm. I’ll leave this to those who love doing this type of chase. Judging by the interest in video from buyers, or lack thereof, the traditional hurricane chasers would probably prefer the tornado chasers stay the hell away anyhow!
Regardless of the negative, this was a fun road trip where we met some nice folks, saw some beautiful country and enjoyed life away from the daily grind. Oh, and we played around in a hurricane!