7:59:00 PM EDT
Storm Stories - Friday of the Big Night
Friday was just another hot/humid Southeast Texas day. Everywhere there were updates on Rita. Updates on evacuation routes, school closings, etc. Our own children had been released from school on Wednesday, as we lie along the evacuation route for Jefferson County and they didn't want the buses cutting back and forth through that mess. And of course there was always the possibility we'd get a mandatory evacuation order. And we did. But sorry Charlie, this is a day late and a dollar short! Absolutely no funds for motel rooms. All our friends and family either were also in the path or lived so far away we'd never be able to buy the gas to get there.
So, we made plans. Smart plans we thought. I put changes of clothing for everyone in three separate locations outside the main house. I put boxes of canned food and a jug of water in each of these also. Surely at least one would survive. We filled jugs with water and both bathtubs.
We saw that we might run out of a few things before places opened back up. We expected everything to be down and at a standstill for 3-5 days. (Yeah, that's the Lord you hear laughing.) So, thankfully we had backroads we could run to the closest feed store where I got extra milk, bread, feed, canned drinks, etc. I started supper and we began to turn the kitchen into our "safe place." We chose the kitchen as it is part of the main house, not the trailer add on. There would be three ways to get out of it if we needed to. Also, we have a solid wood dining table there with a top that is about 1 1/2" thick. We would put pallets under there to sleep. Our heads and torsos would have that extra layer of protection.
Pete and Bubba turned all the horses loose and put the gaps up across the road and the pipeline. He figured they would cause damage and hurt themselves if they were trapped in a pen or stall when things got spooky.
Well, wouldn't you know it, we lost our phone and electricity around 9:00 pm! Before anything to speak of had started ! That's what happens when your lines run through a pipeline in the midst of the Piney Woods. All it takes is one large tree limb to give way. So we lit the hurricane lamp and finished our supper.
The rough stuff seemed to begin around midnight. We all sat on our porch which opens into the kitchen with the door open. Wondered what the night would bring. The winds steadily increased. It drove the rain parallel to the ground. With no artificial light, it was next to impossible to see what was going on. But from the glow of the oil lamp you could tell the large cedar tree by the house was bending nearly double and slapping the tin roof of the porch.
This was solid, steady wind....ever increasing from midnight on. The kids finally gave in and lay down. Managed to "catnap." We heard the tin on Pete's shop shudder and rumble, like it was about to leave.....but it never did.
I finally was exhausted and lay down. Nothing approaching real sleep. Each time things sounded really bad, I sang a verse of "Put your hand in the hand of the man from Galilee." and reflected on the prayer Trish had sent. It brought instant relief. Bug seemed to appreciate it. And maybe even Pete did, as he didn't tell me to hush! lol (Don't judge him harshly if you've never heard me sing!)
From 2:00 am on things really intensified. Occasionally you could smell the scent of pine strong in the air and you knew a tree had given way and breathed a sigh of relief it wasn't on the house. There were sounds of things bouncing off the walls outside. Even sounds like things blowing through underneath as the home sits up on blocks! Twice we heard the "train" sound of a tornado. But you could just barely make it out over the sound of the constant, steady pounding winds! As 5:00 am rolled around you could tell that things were abating and we began to give a sigh of relief through thankful hearts.
Pete said he prayed that night like he never had before. I never had the fear I thought I would have. But each hug, from each dear one in our home that morning did seem extra special.