Another Near Miss

Tropical Storm Imelda decided to come visit us last Wednesday. Slow moving tropical storms and hurricanes tend to be the bane of my existence and Imelda was not different.

Wednesday, the day she came ashore was fairly uneventful on the side of town I live on but Thursday? Oh brother!

Most businesses and schools remained open that day which turned out to be a huge mistake. Fortunately, I cancelled my appointment downtown and decided to stick close to home around 7:00 AM. By 9:00 AM the roads out of my neighborhood were impassible for all but specialized vehicles. The drainage systems were overloaded as we received over 20 inches of rain in just a few hours. By comparison, Hurricane Harvey dumped about twice as much rain but over the course of several days.

We were on edge all morning but the rains finally let up around 12:30 or 1:00 and we seemed to be in the clear. Unfortunately, as the rains moved north and kept dumping water the drainage systems were completely overloaded and the waters began to rise. We moved everything we could up to the second floor and spent the next half of the day measuring the speed the waters were and calculating that against the expected times the rivers and creeks were to crest. About 1:30 AM on Friday morning we finally saw the water start to recede and we were able to grab a few hours sleep.

Not everyone in our neighborhood was so lucky. In fact a few dozen homes flooded. It was not as bad as Harvey but…

We spent the rest of the weekend helping those we could and putting our own house back together (no it is not easier taking furniture and everything back down the stairs).

I plan to stock a few more tools for next time something like this happens. I think a cordless circular saw would help make short work of taking out sheet rock/drywall (seems like it would be much easier/faster than utility knives and small hand saws although it may generate more dust). They are not that expensive and I could find a few uses for it at other times as well so I will probably pick one up. I found that there are never enough pry bars or hammers (especially heavier hand sledges) to go around when doing tear out on a house. Longer, flatter pry bars are better for pulling up flooring so I will add a few extras of this type as well. I would like to add one of the power tools for taking up tile and wood floors (like a small jack hammer) but those are probably too pricey for now.

It was another near miss, but by God’s grace it was a miss (for our family anyway). The folks over east of us in Beaumont and Winnie were hit even harder than we were so there may be more opportunity to help those folks out next weekend.

In the meantime keep them all in your thoughts and prayers.

Take care and God Bless.

2019 Preparedness Assessment (Part 1: Overview)

Once again this year (as I try and do every year) I am reassessing my preparedness plans and goals. Dollars, time and other resources are limited so I need to make sure I am still on track and prioritizing my efforts as efficiently as possible. Last year this assessment turned into a four part series. Let’s see how many posts I can milk this for this year…

The process is pretty straightforward.

1. Re-evaluate what scenarios or situations I am trying to be prepared for.

2. Assess what I need to do to prepare for these scenarios.

3. Identify any gaps I have in being prepared for those scenarios.

4. Work to close those gaps during the year.

Sounds pretty easy and straightforward right? Yeah well, actually it is. Being more prepared is not rocket science. In fact, for the most part, it is just basic, good old fashioned common sense. Our parents and grandparents would probably have laughed at us for making such a big deal about “prepping.” For them it just have just been a logical part of their everyday life. In fact, based on Aesop’s fable “The Ant And The Grasshopper” we can pretty well assume that being prepared for adversity has been a part of the human good sense for at least the last several thousand years. It is only in modern times that the majority of people scoff at the idea.

The situations/scenarios I am preparing for have not changed. Flood remains on the list this year. Despite our home not having been threatened by a flood nearly 20 years, Hurricane Harvey proved that the past, in some cases, is not a good indicator of the future. Despite billions being spent by several different government entities several heavy rains in the last few months have shown that we definitely seem to be more at risk than we have been previously so it remains on the list.

So what’s actually on my list?

Here it is:

1. Death

Man born of woman is short of days and full of trouble.

He blossoms like a flower, then withers; he flees like a shadow and does not last.

Job 4:1-2

While it may come as a surprise to some of you, we are all mortal. We will all shuffle off this mortal coil at some point. For those who do not believe in a higher power, I guess that means that we will just cease to exist and become worm food. As a Christian, my views are a little different than that and so the most important preparations I can make are for where I will spend eternity. That is why my I include my “Walk With God” as my most important preparation of all. Regardless of what you believe, death comes to us all and we need to be prepared for that fact.

2. Retirement

Some folks look forward to retirement. They can do that because the properly prepared for it ahead of time. For others retirement sneaks up behind them and bites them on one of any number of body parts and they end up as a burden on their families or eating dog food (cat food is way too expensive). I don’t think counting on Social Security counts as being prepared so we are doing what we can to prepare for retirement. Because we were poor for much of our marriage, Wonderful Wife and I are off to a late start on this. Recent expenditures to recover from the flood have been a setback to being more prepared in this area (our saving took a hit and we had to finance about $50K in home repairs).

3. Hurricane

I was arrogant and overconfident that I was prepared and ready when Hurricane Harvey blew through. I will be taking this much more seriously in 2019 and reassessing what I have prepared, where the gaps are and what I can do to be better prepared moving forward.

4. Flood

When the rain stopped from Hurricane Harvey I though we were good to go. Then I noticed the rising waters at the end of my street. The water rose for almost a day AFTER the rains stopped. Short of building a dam around my lot (the neighborhood association would NOT be pleased) and hoping I can pump water out faster than it comes down there is not much I can do to keep the waters out. The best we can do is make sure we protect what is most valuable and what cannot be replaced and have a plan for how to escape. We can also plan to make the recovery easier and quicker.

5. Financial Disruption

Things, like floods, happen and it takes money to recover. Four and a half years ago I was laid off and our savings carried us through. Personal financial disruptions happen everyday around this nation so we need to be prepared for them.

Those entrusted with spending other people’s money (our money) continue to be horrible stewards spending us further and further into debt. That will, at some point, cause some very serious economic impacts on the rest of us.  It is important to be prepared for if and when any of these begin to affect us.

We have seen a couple of years of strong economic growth over the last couple of years but that won’t continue. At some point that will start to swing the opposite way and I want to make sure we are prepared when it happens.

5. Social Disruption

For several years I have been talking about the potential of civil unrest or even another civil war. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that we are still headed down that path. Being aware of the probability of such occurrences and being ready for them remains a top goal for us.

Those are the scenarios we are preparing for. Next we’ll start looking at each of these scenarios in more detail and begin to share our plans for dealing with them.

Take care and God bless.

 

One Year Later…

Hurricane Harvey poured unprecedented amounts of rain down on to the Texas Gulf coast a year ago and the creeks did indeed rise, as did the rivers, lakes drainage ditches and everything else that held water. Our home became a part of the San Jacinto River, the closest branch of which is over two miles from us.

Last trip in before the water entered the house
Walls, we don’t need no stinking walls!

It has been a long road to repair the damage a couple of feet of water did to the house.We are still not one hundred percent there but we reached a major milestone on the one year mark. For the first time in a year we were able to sleep in our own bed in our own room!

Home…

We still have a lot more work to do. We still need to buy new furniture for several rooms but this is a huge milestone for us.

We could not have made it this far without the help of God and a lot of good folks who were trying do do His will. I say a prayer of thanks for them all the time. I also want to thank you all for your well wishes and especially for your prayers. Every one has been appreciated and uplifting.

Take care and God bless.

2018 Preparedness Assessment (Part 1: Overview)

Every year I try and reassess my preparedness plans and goals to make sure I am still on track and prioritizing my efforts and dollars appropriately. Last year I turned this assessment into a six part series. We’ll see how many posts I need this year…

The process is fairly straightforward.

1. Re-evaluate what scenarios or situations I am trying to be prepared for.

2. Assess what I need to do to prepare for these scenarios.

3. Identify any gaps I have in being prepared for those scenarios.

4. Work to close those gaps during the year.

Sounds pretty easy and straightforward right? Yeah well, actually it is. Being more prepared is not rocket science. In fact, for the most part, it is just basic, good old fashioned common sense. Our parents and grandparents would probably have laughed that we make such a big deal about “prepping.” For most of them it just would have been a logical part of their everyday life. In fact, based on Aesop’s fable “The Ant And The Grasshopper” we can pretty well assume that being prepared for adversity has been a part of the human good sense for at least the last several thousand years. It is only in modern times that the majority of people scoff at the idea.

For the most part the situations/scenarios I am preparing for have not changed. The one big addition for this year is flooding. This part of Houston has not flooded for over 20 years but this year we did…in a big way. Whether that was a complete a once in a lifetime event or a result of changing flood areas to to continued development is up to the engineers, meteorologists and lawyers to determine. For me, I am just going to add it to the list and see what I can do to be more prepared should it happen again.

So here is the list:

1. Death

Man born of woman is short of days and full of trouble.

He blossoms like a flower, then withers; he flees like a shadow and does not last.

Job 4:1-2

While it may come as a surprise to some of you, we are all mortal. We will all shuffle off this mortal coil at some point. For those who do not believe in a higher power, I guess that means that we will just cease to exist and become worm food. As a Christian, my views are a little different than that and so the most important preparations I can make are for where I will spend eternity. That is why my I include my “Walk With God” as my most important preparation of all. Regardless of which one you believe, death comes to us all and we need to be prepared for that fact.

2. Retirement

Some folks look forward to retirement. They can do that because the properly prepared for it ahead of time. For others retirement sneaks up behind them and bites them on one of any number of body parts and they end up as a burden on their families or eating dog food (cat food is way too expensive). I don’t think counting on Social Security counts as being prepared and we are doing what we can to prepare for retirement. Because we were poor for much of our marriage, Wonderful Wife and I are off to a late start on this.

3. Hurricane

I was arrogant and overconfident that I was prepared when Harvey blew through. I will be taking this much more seriously in 2018 and reassessing what I have prepared, where the gaps are and what I can do to be better prepared moving forward.

4. Flood

When the rain stopped from Hurricane Harvey I though we were good to go. Then I noticed the rising waters at the end of my street. The water rose for almost a day AFTER the rains stopped. Short of building a dam around my lot (the neighborhood association would NOT be pleased) and hoping I can pump water out faster than it comes down there is not much I can do to keep the waters out. The best we can do is make sure we protect what is most valuable and what cannot be replaced and have a plan for how to escape. We can also plan to make the recovery easier and quicker.

5. Financial Disruption

Three and a half years ago I was laid off. Wonderful Wife and I delayed our wedding several times over the span of a couple of years because stuff happened and what we had saved for the wedding needed to be used for something else. Personal financial disruptions happen everyday around this nation. Those entrusted with spending other people’s money (our money) are not being very good stewards these days and that will, at some point, cause some very serious economic impacts on the rest of us.  It is important to be prepared for if and when any of these begin to affect us.

5. Social Disruption

A quick glance at social media, the “real” news media, or the “peaceful” protests around our nation should be able to see why this one is important. Those caught unaware and unprepared will, like Reginald Denny, pay the price. We plan to do everything possible to see that we do not face his (or a worse) fate.

Those are the scenarios we are preparing for. Next week we’ll start looking at each of these scenarios in more detail and begin to share our plans for dealing with them.

God bless.

 

That Stung A Little…

So, my tax dollars the federal government returned to me are gone and the donations from friends, family and coworkers is gone. They started laying the tile floors today. On the one hand I am excited to have something nicer than drywall dust covered concrete to live on I have to say writing that check hurt a bit.

What stung a little more was going to the bank to put money from our savings into the checking account to cover the check I wrote. When it is all a bunch on ones and zeros that just appeared in my account one day it was one thing but counting out the $9,000 in cash…

that stings a little…

God bless.

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.

Lessons Learned From Hurricane Harvey: Preparedness

Based on my experiences during Hurricane Harvey I have identified a good bit of stuff (gear) that I wish I had, had more of, or lost. I thought I would share it with you to help you in your preparedness planning.

Good Raingear – I do believe I was wet for about five days straight. Most of that time I wasn’t just wet, I was soaked. Being wet all the time really drained me. I had a cheap set of raingear in my emergency supplies and I did end up pulling it out only to find that it really didn’t fit and wasn’t durable. It was coming apart by day two. I did (finally) drag out my rain boots and they helped a lot but they were a little snug. They survived the flood but I will be replacing them with a pair that fit a little better. Of course, even the best raingear is useless in water up to your chest…

Electric Pump – I borrowed one from a friend after my pool pump failed at the most inopportune time. Now, I want my own. It can be used for the pool but could also be used for siphoning fuel or other drainage needs.

Wet/Dry Vac – These were essential in both the early stages of cleanup as well as later in the process as well. Initially they were used to help remove water from the house. Later for cleaning up drywall dust and debris. I have already purchased one but my need to replace it before this is all over. I am also thinking about having a spare. If you buy one or have one you might want to think about an extra filter and extra bags. I went though the one bag that came with the unit on day one and we’re waiting on spares to arrive. The filter has been cleaned several times already and is looking a little worse for wear. A spare for that is on order as well.

Shop Broom(s) – Another item that is essential for initial cleanup as well as clean up of the demolition. I had one at the start of this but it has been “donated” to someone else in need. I’ll buy a couple when I get around to replacing it.

Prybars – I had two but one’s gone. They are essential items for tearing out what need to be torn out. I have one in my get home bag that is narrower and better designed to get into things. The ones we found useful are wider and much better suited to this kind of work. I have already ordered a replacement for the one that walked away.

Utility (or drywall) Knives – I had several of these around the house before the flood hit. Couldn’t find but one afterwards. They weren’t swept away they were in boxes and drawers that were moved to the garage or another part of the house and can’t be found. I have bought a couple more and an extra pack of blades. I’ll add a few more when I can as there never seemed to be enough to go around.

Headlamps -Yes, they look goofy but those little headlamps on elastic bands were one of the most useful items I had on hand. Just, please, remember to turn them off when talking to someone. Nothing worse that staring into an “interrogation lamp” when having a chat about what needs to be done next.

Storage Locations

All of our emergency gear and many of our emergency supplies were stored downstairs. Partly this was because I was more concerned about wind damage or a tree falling than flooding and this was also partly due to available storage locations. Regardless this was a bad idea.

All of it was downstairs and at risk of flooding and loss. Although much of it was in waterproof containers, those containers floated around making it hard to locate them. The tubs are black making them difficult to find in the dark or low light. Folks helping us out moved them and re-approprated the tubs for other uses.

The bottom line is that these items should probably be staged in multiple locations and in more visible containers. A lot of what we needed couldn’t be found until days later so really think through where and how you store your gear and supplies.

Although I prepared a get home bag for Wonderful Wife she wasn’t familiar with it or what was in it. She took it with her on her stay at work but didn’t open it. There was a lot that could have made her stay away from home more pleasant and comfortable.

Want To Have Items

Disaster Capable Vehicle – I have a Honda Civic be cause it is cost effective transportation. It it not terribly well suited for getting around during a disaster. I would really like to have a vehicle that is better equipped for high water and rough terrain. Based on what we are currently facing in terms of rebuilding that will NOT be added to the short list of things to buy in the near future.

Better Communications -My cell was soaked on several occasions and started having some serious issues communicating. The cellular network was overloaded and in many cases close to failure. It would be nice to have another communications mechanism for a disaster. I have been meaning to invest in some shortwave walkie talkies but haven’t done so. These would be a very good idea.

A Drone – It would have been nice to be able to scout the level of flooding nearby without risking my vehicle or safety. While the wind and rain were too strong for drones to fly during most of the time. It would still be cool. This is another time that I would like to have but is not high on the old priority list.

I hope my experiences and observations help a little with you preparedness efforts.

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.

Lessons Learned From Hurricane Harvey: The Cost Of Arrogance

The most important takeaway (for me) from Hurricane Harvey is the cost of arrogance. Just a hint, it can be very high.

I did not take Hurricane Harvey seriously. It was initially expected to make landfall as a tropical storm, I have driven to and from work during tropical storms. It was projected to hit well south of us (it did but not as far south as predicted). What’s to worry about?

We have weathered hurricanes in my home with no issue before (Rita and Ike). We have been fine in the worst flooding on record; Tropical Storm Allison and the big flood back in the 1990’s that wasn’t related to any named storm.

On top of all that we are far better prepared than I was for any of those. Food, water, generator, fuel, supplies, equipment that I didn’t have for any of the previous threats. My daughter and son-in-law were “freaking out” about the possibility of their house flooding. “Calm down,” I said, “my house will flood long before yours and we have never flooded…”

Famous last words, eh?

My arrogance has cost me, big time.

Had I taken this seriously I could have moved more stuff up and out of harm’s way. I would have been less likely to overlook important things like shoes, clothes, or irreplaceable photos and mementos. Had I taken the threat of a flood seriously, we could have purchased flood insurance…

When it comes to preparedness, we all have our assumptions and little areas of arrogance. What are yours? It might be a good time to reexamine those.

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!