HERE COMES CLAUDETTE

You know, I have a great respect for technology and science, but I have to laugh at the predictions that Tropical Storm Claudette would “absolutely make an abrupt turn westward,” and make landfall on the border between Texas and Mexico. “Don’t worry, Houston,” they said. “You won’t even know Claudette was here,” they assured. Well, I’ll give them a little credit, Claudette did turn west as predicted… then she thumbed her nose at the entire world of meteorology and said, “I’ll show you and your (bleepin’) computers!” Claudette then turned back east… then west, as if to tease… then north… then northwest… then she stalled, gained momentum, looked about 200 miles north of South Padre’ Island, and said, “Ooh, let’s go play there!” The eye is now predicted to make landfall in Matagorda Bay, about 82 miles southwest of Houston (if that’s what Claudette decides to do. After all, she could just be playing with us).

Claudette’s eye will most likely not pass over Houston, nor will we get much wind and damage from this storm. Houston is on the east side of this tropical storm (that wants to be a small Category 1 hurricane so bad it can taste it) — the side of the storm that nets all the RAIN. The hurricane expert was just asked, “People in Houston are nervous… should they be?” He skirted around the issue and wouldn’t commit, only saying that it will be windy and rainy right now.

Ah, you might sigh, that can’t be all that bad, can’t it? Um… yes it can… and hurricane expert knows this, which is why he won’t commit on how bad it will be because…

Let me introduce you to Tropical Storm Allison (http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/2001allison.html#FIG5) who wreaked havoc in Houston for about ten days in early June, 2001. Allison was a supposedly a relatively harmless tropical storm, and it was supposed to sweep through, bring a little rain, knock down a tree or two, and be gone. If only Allison had been that kind.

Allison attacked on a Tuesday, flooded a good portion of southern Houston (including my friend Ginger’s parent’s house), left and came back that Friday… (flooding Ginger’s parent’s house again) dumping up to 38 inches of rain in East Houston and 20 inches downtown for the week… but a big bucket of that rain came in less than 24 hours. I was in my apartment (on the third floor) that Friday night, watching the radar and wondering how bad things would get. I have never heard it rain so hard. (Ginger, who was on her way back from helping her parents carry all their valuables to the second floor of their house, was caught on the freeway in traffic, which had no place to go because all the access roads and low parts of the freeway were under water. She and her dog, Chloe, spent the night in the car).

Anyway, It was about 10 p.m. when it started raining so hard I couldn’t hear my TV at full volume over the torrential downpour, so I went to bed. At 3:45 a.m., I awoke to people running down the hallways, cussing, screaming, and more than a dozen car alarms. I sleepily pulled on a flannel shirt over my pj’s and stumbled out into the hallway. My neighbor, was on the phone with her son, crying. I walked to the end of the hall and looked down. Every car on the first floor of the parking garage was under water, which was why the car alarms were going off. It was odd, hearing all those alarms and seeing the headlights blinking under the muddy water. My car, thankfully, was on the second floor, nice and dry. I felt sorry for the lady in the next building who had just bought her PT Cruiser. I met several of my neighbors that night, most lamenting parking on the first floor.

The oddest thing about Allison was that several people I knew who lived on the West side of town… got about 1-5″ of rain and they had no flooding at all. The closer into town you got, the higher the rain total. People lost everything they owned, and it took months to clean up. Mosquitoes, a usual problem in Houston, were so thick after this that you couldn’t be outside very long, even with repellent sprayed everywhere. I was proud of how the city banded together to help each other, too. All in all, it was a horrorific experience, though. Not something I want to go through again.

Now back to Claudette. Today at work, several people were talking nervously, wondering if we are going to get flooded again. Granted, in 2001, it was one of the wettest springs ever, and the water had nowhere to go, and this year, though it’s rained nearly every day for 40 days, we are still in a deficit and it would take quite a bit of rain to flood like Allison again.

And… the reason I laugh at the technology is… this is nature for goodness sake! A storm… an entity with a mind of its own that has just made a joke of the hurricane experts…again. Granted, in the past five years, the hurricane gurus have been fairly accurate about strike possibilities, etc., but this time, Claudette giggled, did her own thing, and is about to flex her muscles on the western Gulf coast.

I’ll keep you posted! Don’t worry, if you live on the Gulf Coast, you always have water and food stored for such a time as this… if indeed it becomes such a time as this…

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