Post Harvey Update (5)

I wanted to provide a quick update on where we stand almost two months after Hurricane Harvey and the associated flooding.

We finished the last of the deconstruction, removing the tile out from around the fireplace and in the bathroom. This wasn’t ruined by the flood but all the flooring will be replaced down the road so we just wanted to get a head start on it.

The drywall was installed courtesy of the same local church that assisted with the tear out. In this case the labor was still free but I paid for the drywall. Even after cutting the contractor’s estimate by 20% I still had some left over to donate to the church for folks who couldn’t afford drywall.

We selected the contractor we want to use for the next phase of the reconstruction and his crews started last week. The drywall has been taped, floated and sanded. The texture has been reapplied to the walls and they have been primed.

At this point if already feels more like a house instead of a disaster zone but we still have a long way to go.

Just this phase will take everything e received from FEMA and most of what my company raised to assist us. At which point we will still need to rebuild the cabinets, install flooring and then replace the furniture we lost. We’re submitting the bids we received to FEMA to see if we can get them to give me a little more of my tax money back. Hopefully that will take care of at least the cabinets. If so we are continuing to save so that maybe, just maybe, we will be able to pay for the flooring without having to dip into savings. There is also the possibility of taking out a loan through the SBA (Small Business Administration) at a very low rate to cover the remainder. We’ll see…

It’s been almost two months and we are still living between two houses. Especially now that they are working on the walls and such the drywall dust is really bad again. The refrigerator is disconnected so they can get to the walls behind and beside it. All electronics needed to be moved to prevent damage from the dust and other contaminants which means no InterWeb access other than through the hotspot feature of my phone. No fun for someone who works from home and likes blogging.

Lot’s of stuff has turned up missing like my Bible, Wonderful Wife’s laptop, and my daughter’s charm bracelet. I don’t think they were stolen. I think it is more a matter of they ended up somewhere in one of the houses and we have no idea where that somewhere might be. I am sure they will turn up when we finally start moving back into the downstairs although it is possible that they were, mistakenly, thrown away. Again, we’ll see…

More clothes and shoes had to be thrown away. Both of us ended up with fungal infections probably from clothes and, in Wonderful Wife’s case, shoes exposed to the flood waters. We were careful to disinfect everything and wash it thoroughly but I guess we were not as thorough as we had thought we were.

That’s it for this update.

God bless.

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Lessons Learned From Hurricane Harvey: Go To Guns

I have been spending some time since Hurricane Harvey and the subsequent flooding thinking about my reactions and actions before and during the disaster. I am trying to identify things that went well and things that didn’t work as well.  Or, in this case just an interesting observation.

I generally consider myself to be a pistol guy. Within the practical limitations of an ageing set of eyeballs I generally shoot pistols better than the average bear or even human. I train with rifles primarily for hunting but take them very seriously as part of my self-defense strategy as well. Shotguns are about me least favorite firearm. I rarely hunt with them (although I do enjoy dove hunting) and almost never think of one for self-defense. I don’t think they are a bad choice for self-defense I just never really spent much time with them and don’t really enjoy shooting them.

However…

As the water was rising I was making trips back and forth between my house and my daughter’s house to try and save as much as I could. On one of my last trips in before the water got too high I found a group of guys on my porch. I didn’t recognize them and couldn’t tell what they were doing huddled on my small front porch. Were they trying to stay out of the rain? Silly, when the water between them and anywhere else was several feet deep. Were they breaking in? Maybe they were thinking about it. There had already been several reports of looters in the area.

I avoided them and approached the house from around back. Once in the house I turned the power back on and made a point making sure the house appeared as occupied as possible; turning on lights, making noise, talking on the phone, etc. I also headed to the location where I had secured the firearms that couldn’t be moved. Just in case they decided to try something.

I keep a go back with a loaded Glock 19, extra magazines and a med kit ready at all times. I didn’t grab that. I have a nice AR set up for home defense and spare magazines. I didn’t grab that.

I grabbed a 12 gauge shotgun. A gun I almost never use. I loaded it with buckshot and one round of birdshot so that would be the first round in the chamber if I cycled the action. I kept it “cruiser ready” with a full magazine tube but no rounds in the chamber. That’s what I kept with me during the time I was back in the house. I also took it with me and kept it close through much of the flood until I got too sidetracked working on the house and forgot about personal safety.

I wish I could say that I had clear tactical reasons for grabbing the shotty instead of the guns I am generally more comfortable with. I didn’t. It just “felt right” at the time. It is just a little strange how the shotgun was my “go to” in this situation.

God Bless

Freedom Of Speech: I do not think it means what you think it means…

There is a lot of talk in my country these days about freedom of speech and I really don’t think a lot of people really understand what that actually means…

The First Amendment to the US Constitution states:

Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech…or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

(Note: Yes, I excluded the clauses on religion and the press as those would be whole other conversations.)

In very simple terms, the US government is not allowed, by the document that governs it, to make laws to prevent people from speaking their minds. That has happened, historically and recently, in this nation and is a grave concern for those of us who really do care about our freedoms.

There is no law punishing football players from kneeling during the National Anthem or preventing them from doing so. There has been no violation of their Constitutional rights. The National Football League has rules and regulations in place (but not enforced) that prohibit this. If they did so that would not be a violation of the First Amendment because the players voluntarily joined the organization and have agreed, by signing contracts, to abide by those rules. The only twist on that is that the NFL has been granted immunity from anti-trust laws, creating a monopoly, but that too is another topic of discussion.

What the First Amendment does not do (although many think it does) is protect us from the consequences of exercising the right to free speech. If a player or team decides to exercise their rights and kneel during the National Anthem and other people also exercise their rights by criticizing them or making fun of them no one’s rights have been violated. If Americans, offended by the kneeling, refuse to watch the games, buy merchandise, burn merchandise, etc. are not infringing on the rights of the players and coaches. They are exercising their own freedom of speech.

Unless the government passes a law or uses its existing authority to stifle freedom of speech no violation of the Constitution has occurred.

This example goes both ways folks.

If pro-racist, Pro-Trump or Pro-Conservative expressions of free speech create a backlash from the Left it is not a violation of the First Amendment.

God bless.

Post-Harvey Update (4): Quick Update

Just a quick update on our post-Harvey efforts.

There is still some clean up to be done related to the tear out after the flood. We still have have a lot of exposed nails and screws that need to be removed before someone hurts themselves (most especially a grand baby). Some the drywall still has ragged edges from the rushed removal and I would like to clean those up. There is also a lot of drywall pieces and dust in cracks and joints in the wall and I would like these removed.

The drywall dust is getting better. We have changed the air filters a few times already as they get clogged pretty quickly. I have ordered a number of extras so I can keep changing them out as needed. We also scrubbed the floors to get as much dust abated as we can. The drywall dust is the biggest challenge we face in terms of moving back into the house. It is really hard on Wonderful Wife’s respiratory system (any suggestions on this would be appreciated on this).

Health concerns after a flood are very real. I developed a bit of a rash on my legs and called the doctor for an appointment. Knowing their offices were flooded I expected to wait at least a week or two for an appointment. When the heard rash and flood waters they arranged an immediate appointment at a different office. It turned out to be nothing but they are not taking any chances with people who were in the floodwaters and develop rashes, infections and respiratory issues. They also gave me a tetanus shot. Something I should have thought of weeks ago.

Finding a contractor to repair/replace the drywall and doors has been a challenge. They all have more work to do than time and the prices are starting rise for materials as well as labor. The lead time for contractors at this point is 9-12 weeks so it will be around Thanksgiving or Christmas before they can even get started.

We are still waiting on the FEMA inspector to contact us and do a walk through to see if we can get any of our money back from the federal government to fix our home. They are supposed to be in contact within 21 days, so they should be coming out before the 19th. We hope.

It was much easier to get the work done on the pool than in the house so we have a torn up house but a beautiful pool in the backyard.

I also set up a “new” living room set where Wonderful Wife and my grandson could take a break.

There is still a lot to do and it is somewhat overwhelming at times but God will provide and give us strength. We had a couple from church come by this week and deliver a hot meal (and a wonderful dessert). Then they grabbed mops and buckets and helped us scrub the floors. It is amazing how a little extra help and a home cooked meal can brighten your outlook. He offered to come back Saturday and help again!

Life is good and God is great, so we are doing just fine. After all…

I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.

Philippians 4:13

There are a lot of folks out there that have it a lot tougher than we do. Please keep them in your prayers.

I have been heads down on all this so I have no idea how the folks hard the folks in Florida were hit by Irma. Keep them in your prayers as well.

God Bless.

Post-Harvey Update (3): Normalcy

It is amazing how adaptable the human mind can be. It has been a little over a week since the flood waters receded. I have been living in my daughter’s guestroom for almost two weeks and back at work for three days. In those three days I have developed a bit of a routine.

I wake up around 7:00 AM and slip out of the house as quietly as possible, trying not to wake Wonderful Wife, my daughter or her kids. Head to my house and get a few things done before work (checking the moisture levels, adjusting fans, washing clothes, etc.). Although I am back at work and contacting customers and working with prospects I my breaks are a bit different than they used to be. Now I grab my gloves, safety glasses and tools to keep working on things that still need to be done.

Mostly this is cleaning up after the quick tear out we did so it is little things like removing nails, cleaning up drywall chunks (and dust) and trimming some of the rougher drywall edges. I am also calling contractors to arrange for bids. Sometime I forget and find myself back behind the computer or on a conference call still wearing work gloves or safety glasses. I bet I am one of the few tech guys wearing safety glasses at work!

After the (figurative) work bell rings it back to clean up and tear out duty. We are also busy sorting through the boxes and piles of stuff stacked everywhere to find what was saved and, occasionally, something that should have been tossed. We both have tons of stuff that we know made it through the flood we just have no idea where it is. Keys, phone/tablet chargers, documents, books (including my Bible) are all here…someplace.

We work until the sun goes down and then grab a quick bite to eat, shower, grab our clothes for the next day and head back to my daughter’s house. A night’s sleep and the cycle starts again.

In just the last few days this has become the new normal. We don’t really think about it it’s just how our life works these days. As I said at the beginning, it is amazing how quickly we can adapt.

We have each other. We have our home (although it is currently a mess). We have jobs. We have the strength and support of God and a bunch of awesome neighbors and family.

Life is good.

God bless!

Post-Harvey Update (2): Blessings

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world

-Teresa of Avila (1515-82)

I was alone in the house when the flood waters began to rise in our neighborhood. Wonderful Wife was on the other side of an already flooded river taking care of folks who can’t take care of themselves. My kids were scattered around the state and all were high and dry.

Even after evacuating to my daughter’s house a couple of miles away, a house filled with he small family, myself and another refugee of the flooding I still felt very alone. That could have just been me wallowing in my own self-pity or the shock of a home I was sure wouldn’t flood being flooded but that’s how I felt.

When I got the call that the waters were receding that changed…fast.

The call came from the owner of the house next door, a house that didn’t flood, and he was there waiting for me. My fellow flood refugee who was staying with my daughter as well was there too. We opened the house while there was still several inches of water in the house and started removing the door sills to help the water drain faster, removing carpet and personal items that had been contaminated. As I looked around another neighbor, a man I had never met before, was in the house helping as well. The son in law I was staying with showed up a short time later and was soon hard at work as well. We did what we could in the remaining daylight and then decided to hit it again the next morning.

As we started the first full day of cleanup, the enormity of the task at hand finally started to sink in. Even with the crew from the night before this would take days to finish ripping out the carpet, rip out the damaged drywall and worst of all the wood flooring. There was no more room upstairs to put what wasn’t damaged and the hopelessness began to settle in again.

That’s when I received a call from the pastor of one of the churches nearby. He had heard what happened and would be over in a little while with the team he had put together to help with the floods in Louisiana a while back. What a team it was!

Thirty or so people showed up and started to work. They had trailers already loaded with needed tools and equipment. Everything from wet/dry vacs to drywall knives were there, organized and ready to go. The ladies and kids went upstairs to stack and reorganize what I had moved previously while another group started carrying more up. The men jumped in with knives and started tearing out the drywall. The youth group started ripping out the floors. They spent the rest of the day working on my house and getting 90+% of the tear out done. Work that would have taken us weeks on our own was almost completed and much needed knowledge of what to do next was passed on.

Church Flood Response Team
A Portion Of The Team At Work

Once the team arrived, my neighbors moved onto see if they could help others, of course there were plenty more to help. Once the church team got started on my house the pastor began walking the neighborhood to identify who else needed assistance. By the next day their numbers had doubled and they had two sets of teams working in different areas.

My Mom and daughter showed up partway through the day with pizza for the crew at my house and for our neighbors. They bought out everything the local Domino’s could make and passed it out to those who were helping and those who were flooded in the neighborhood.

Dinner also arrived from a member of our church and it became a community meal (by flashlight) for those flooded and those helping.

Since then meals have been provided from various sources throughout the day so those working to save what they can of their lives and the neighbors who are helping them can be fed and not lose focus on the work. A tent was set up around the corner to provide snacks and drinks for folks, neighbors and church groups have literally been walking the streets passing out food and drinks to any who wanted or needed them. Cleanup supplies (unavailable in the few stores that are still open) are being distributed.

Neighborhood dinner by flashlight

God is good, even in these difficult times.

As much as this storm cost us financially, I will never forget the blessings it has brought. The outpouring of help and caring has been incredible. This disaster has transformed our neighborhood into a community. Folks around here have truly been the “hands and feet of Jesus.”

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these

John 14:12

 

There is still a lot to do. There are still a lot of folks needing help. Not all communities banded together as we did but through it all there have been some amazing blessings. It has also helped restore a bit of my faith in humanity…

God bless

Post-Harvey Update (1)

Good News/Bad News

A little over a week ago I posted about how emotional it is to drive away from your home of 18 years and not know what condition it would be in when you returned or whether it would even be there. Well, at least we know how that it is here and what condition it is in…

My home IN Caney Creek/East San Jacinto River

This was a view of my backyard after the water started to recede (sorry for the poor quality, pretty much all phones/cameras/etc. were wet by this point) that was sent by a neighbor. Based on the water line, we had about a foot of water in the house with a little more outside.

We were the last house to flood and received relatively little water. Those further up the street had water six to ten feet high in their homes. I thought I had rescued critical and irreplaceable items but when we were able to return there were quite a few things that I missed. With Wonderful Wife on the other side of the West San Jacinto River there was no way to get her input so a lot of her important stuff was lost.

For the last week or so we have been working dawn to dusk (no electricity and a curfew in effect for most of the time) to rip out flooring, drywall, cabinets and insulation. Then we had to sort through an throw away furniture, clothes and personal items that could not be saved and wash/sanitize what could. We were also running fans off of generator power to speed the dryout. Once the power was back on the fans and dehumidifiers have been running 24/7 and once the A/C was checked out it has been running 24/7 as well.

All in all, we lost a lot of stuff and are looking at $60,000 to $100,000 in repairs and replacement of lost items.

We don’t have flood insurance. In the 18 years we have lived here there has never even been any water in the street despite record flooding during Tropical Storm Allison. In the 24 years since this neighborhood was built this area has not flooded, even during the worst ever flooding in the Houston area during the mid-90’s.

It could have been much worse…and is for a whole lot of other folks across the tens of thousands of square miles devastated by Hurricane Harvey. While the Houston area may be receiving the majority of the news coverage the damage stretches across a 300 mile long swath of coastline and extends inland over 100 miles in some spots.

Please pray for those affected by Hurricane Harvey, and if you can, consider donating to those in need.

God bless.