There are bread lines in Houston. Last night the bread aisle at the Midtown Randalls at Milam and Hadley streets was picked bare. The truck showed up around 7:45 a.m. today, and people stood in line to grab loaves as they were unloaded. It was a friendly crowd this is Houston, after all, Hurricane Ike or no Hurricane Ike. My dad bought three loaves of bread and a couple of bags of rolls. The water was gone.
My husband, my 4-year-old daughter and I are back in my hometown from the Midwest for my brother's wedding. It was supposed to be a grand one, with dinner and dancing under a canopy of old oak trees in Brazoria County. But the county's been evacuated, and the bride's parents have fled to Hempstead, a small town northwest of Houston. The three of us are going to ride out the storm in downtown Houston with my parents.
It's a little after 10 a.m. on Friday, and the skies are still blue and the sun is shining. I'm sitting at the kitchen bar in my parents' condo on Main Street, looking out at the city. The palm trees and crepe myrtles are still showing no wind, and there's hardly any traffic. Everyone was told to stay home. The grocery stores and some restaurants are still open, at least until 3 p.m. But the banks closed at 10 a.m., which reminds me: I forgot to get money. Here's hoping I can find an ATM that still has cash. I had to wait in line yesterday to fill up the gas tank, and several of the pumps were dry.
Thursday we bought tons of water, peanut butter, canned beans, tuna and fruit. And ice. Mom boiled a couple dozen eggs. This ain't our first rodeo, as we say here in Texas. My family lived through Hurricane Alicia in 1983, when I was just a kid. But Ike seems bigger and a bit scarier. Maybe because I'm older and know better?
The storm surge hasn't started yet, but Galveston is starting to take on water. I worked on the island as a reporter for the Galveston County Daily News in the mid-1990s, and I recognize a lot of the places they're showing on TV. It's hard to believe how fast the water is rising. The waves already have started crashing over the seawall. They closed it a few minutes ago.
People in Houston are in a pretty good mood. There's a definite "we're all in this together" spirit. Out on the street, everyone's talking about their own preparations, who they know who's evacuated. I ran into a couple that evacuated from Surfside in Freeport. They'd planned to stay there through it all, then got nervous.
The Texas Medical Center is under some kind of a lockdown. Workers who came on duty last night arrived with suitcases. They'll stay until Sunday. My 80-year-old godmother has been a patient at Methodist Hospital for five days. Her doctor told me yesterday that if she wasn't released by noon today, she's staying until Monday. She's eager to go home, but he wants her to stay. "We know you'll have food and water and someone to take care of you here," he said. After Tropical Storm Allison flooded generators in 2001, the Med Center redesigned its emergency operations, so they're confident they can withstand Ike.
My sister Kerry is at the bark park near the West Loop, letting her dog run wild in preparation for 24 hours or more of enforced confinement. She said it was crazy busy. Obviously a lot of dog owners had the same idea.
Matt and Holly, my brother and his fiancée, are hoping the worst will be over by 6 p.m. tomorrow. They've called the wedding guests who are in town and invited them to a chapel in northwest Houston for their marriage ceremony. Matt is optimistic and determined. "If it's just us, the priest and a tugboat, we're getting married," he says. I hope they can.
Meanwhile, in the time it's taken me to write this, the sky has clouded over.