The balance of power shifted just before midnight, when the wind began to blow in earnest. Around 11:30 pm, the double glass front doors blew open: I'd unlatched the right hand door a week or so previously to give us room to move some furniture out and forgot to relatch it. I held the left door to keep it from blowing and EM relatched the right door. We closed and locked them, then moved a large chaise against them as insurance; they continued to creak throughout the night. EM moved a dresser in front of our bedroom door, since it's been known to blow open in much less windy circumstances. After making sure there were flashlights at hand if needed , we went to bed and slept until about 3:30 am. When I woke, the blinking of the digital clock told me that there had been at least one power surge. Unable to sleep, I got up to look around and discovered that the latched double front gates had blown open and were swinging wildly in the wind. I might have ventured out to relatch them, had the chair not been in front of the doors and had I not been more than a little afraid of going out.
Around 4:00 am, I heard the boom of a transformer blowing and our power flickered off, then returned. At 4:30 am, the power went off for the duration, not with a bang or even a whimper. In a weird way, it was a relief to have it over and done with. Proof: I went back to bed and slept surprisingly soundly. It was after 8 am when we finally rose and began to survey the damage. Although it was raining, it was not the torrential rain we'd been warned to expect, only a moderate steady rainfall. The winds had died down by then, but they left behind evidence of their ferocity. The front gate and its hinges were blown off the wall, taking several chunks of brick with them.
Here's what I saw when I looked out the door.
Here's the view from just outside the front gates. I just now noticed that dark spot above the front door, a brass sign that I forgot to remove pre-Ike. I can't believe it wasn't blown down.
A close-up of the sign taken this morning. I'd been debating whether the garden should be known as Wits' End or Coneflower Corner. I think this settles it.
Many thanks to brickmason Greg Oertli for his prompt and careful attention to rebuilding the brick wall! The left panel of the gate is propped up to look as normal as possible.
By-mid morning, the rain had stopped and it was safe to venture outside again. The gate wasn't the only casualty of the storm. The wood trellis outside our breakfast room windows fell over, bringing with it most of the angel wing jasmines that were planted against it.
The trellis on Saturday afternoon
Happily, the root systems all remained in the ground. Since the trellis was built over 15 years ago of untreated wood, I'm not surprised it didn't hold up to the wind & the weight of a wet vine. At my request, EM demolished the trellis, working around the vines so we could save as much of them as possible. With any luck, my contractor will be able to get a new trellis and gate built next week. I hadn't realized how much privacy that trellis afforded us: with no coverings on those breakfast room windows, I'm feeling a wee bit exposed. The silver lining to this cloud: I'm finally able to reach the dead wood that was under the vines' top growth. I'm hoping the vines will be healthier and more vigorous than ever after I finish pruning them. Here's how they looked this morning.Although numerous fences in the area, including some on our alley, were demolished by the storm, our longest stretch of fence was untouched, a big disappointment to me. The fence is starting to show its age and will need replacement for aesthetic reasons soon. I was hoping it was just frail enough that a hurricane would do it in and our insurance would cover a new one. It didn't budge so much as a fraction of an inch (not even when I gave it a good hard kick). EM says if it's strong enough to withstand Ike, we don't need a new fence!
Like most of our neighbors, we spent Saturday afternoon outside, beginning the long and tedious task of post-hurricane cleanup. Unlike most of our neighbors, we continue to slog our way through post-hurricane cleanup here on my corner of Katy. (This is the only instance in which you'll ever hear me say I wish I had less garden and more lawn!) The large limbs and smaller branches have been cleared from where they landed, and three large piles await pickup by the contractors hired by city & county to haul the debris.
This pile of debris in our yard is just of many throughout the neighborhood.Crews were out yesterday picking up bagged debris. There are still leaves, clumps of leaves, twigs, etc. all over the back beds and paths. Since I don't know how reasonable the yard police will be about a timetable for cleaning up, I've concentrated my efforts on the front gardens. I've taken the time to do some fall pruning as I work on clearing the beds. Wind damage isn't just about split limbs and broken stems: on some plants, the foliage was really affected by the sustained winds.
The willow oak still awaits the attentions of my arborist. His helper came by today to assess the damage and agreed that it will indeed need ladders, chain saws and stronger, younger men than he to deal with it. It was difficult to get a picture that showed both the snapped off limb and the crown of the tree hanging upside down, caught in the tree (picture is of the latter).
As we've been out and about in the Katy area since last weekend, we've seen ample evidence of Ike's visit. Neighbors lost a pine tree that toppled into the street and had to be cut up in order for traffic to proceed. There are numerous smaller and/or younger trees that were uprooted by the storm. Many businesses lost their signs or marquees; lettering on buildings was ripped off. The plant center down the street had the top ripped off a greenhouse. We feel very fortunate overall. A fieldhouse was destroyed at Taylor High School just blocks away from us: as one friend said, it looked like a giant had stepped on it.
May I just say for the record that I love electricity? I absolutely adore it, truly I do. We were only without power for 18 hours and I was already starting to get cranky by the time it came back on. I'd turned the thermostat down to the low 60s earlier in the evening, hoping it would take the house that much longer to warm up to uncomfortable temperatures. It did seem to help. The cool front that blew through late Sunday/early Monday was a real blessing to those without power but even so, I can imagine how miserable the many people who are still without electricity must feel. My son was one of those have-nots until early this morning; he's been camping out in the air-conditioned comfort of friends' apartments. He did spend Monday night here with us, and spent most of the afternoon helping his dad with clean-up. His downtown office has been closed all week due to the power outage. There's not much that IT guys can do if the computers are down. Throughout the greater Houston area, there has probably been a marked increase in the number of books read, cards and board games played, and conversations held this week. I'd imagine there were a few more marital arguments than usual, too. In the interest of neighbors' marital harmony, we invited the couple across the street to spend time here as needed, since they were without electricity until Wednesday afternoon. He came over to watch TV and use the computer; she stayed home and enjoyed the time alone!
Rather than include all of them in this post, I've uploaded my before and after pictures to Picasa. Use this link to view them. You'll see several of the red bauhinia (hey, I'm struggling to cope with its dramatically altered appearance). I've been assured by others who have suffered through wind storms that trees will reshape themselves without help, and I think I see signs that it's already doing so.
Happily, the Turk's Caps fared much better and have been the subject of territory wars amongst the hummingbirds. I could hear them as I took this final shot but they evidently didn't wish to be photographed!