Yesterday I wrote about the aftermath of Hurricane Ike and the effects it had in the Houston area and other states as the storm traveled north. I called my parents yesterday, and they made it home safely. Thankfully their house wasn’t too damaged by Hurricane Ike. Their fence was destroyed, their house experienced roof damage (it appears to be mostly cosmetic, not structural), and there was some water damage around the windows and on some of the floors.
Even though they have double paned storm windows, the force of the winds caused water to leak around the edges of the windows. They may have to replace several window sills and possibly a few windows. They called their insurance agent and filed a claim and are now waiting for the claims adjuster to come out. Hurricane and storm insurance is a tricky beast, and there are certain limitations to the kinds of damage the insurance will cover. Hopefully they won’t be left to foot the majority of the bill themselves.
Federal Disaster Areas and FEMA
My parents’ home is located about 16 miles inland, so there was still plenty of force when the hurricane made landfall. Their house was located in a mandatory evacuation zone, and the area has been declared a federal disaster area. This could be an important factor when determining what, if any, federal aid they may receive from FEMA.
The good news is that their house is well built and it weathered the storm well. Their neighbor’s house a few blocks over didn’t fare as well. He had major roof damage and the rainfall caused several ceilings to cave in, and caused major water damage to the floors and walls. His house is in the same subdivision, but was built by a different home builder. Many of the houses built by the same builder experienced similar roof damage. Of course, it may not be the builder’s fault, it could be a result of the storm’s path.
Gas, food, and other supplies are tight
Most places are still without power, including grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and other businesses. There are a few gas stations with power, but the lines are several blocks long as people are trying to fuel their cars and generators. There are several distribution points for food, water, and ice, all of which are being trucked into the area and are being distributed to residents in need.
Still no power
My parents are still without electricity, and they may be without it for another 2-3 weeks. They are lucky though, because they have a gas stove and a gas water heater, so they can cook and take warm showers. The boil water advisory was lifted yesterday, so they can drink the tap water again. They just won’t have refrigeration or lights for a couple weeks.
They are using hurricane lamps (oil lamps) for lighting and have a cooler set up to keep food cool, but right now they are having a hard time finding ice. Ice is being trucked in from all over the state, but it is a matter of finding it. So for now they are eating small meals like canned chicken or tuna, which won’t leave much in the line of leftovers.
FEMA reimburses some generator costs
My parents are looking into buying a generator, but again, they are difficult to find, prices are at a premium, and obtaining fuel is test in patience. FEMA will reimburse generator costs for some people, but not in all cases.
From the FEMA FAQ page:
I was told that FEMA would reimburse me up to $800 for the purchase of generator, is that true?
FEMA reviews requests for reimbursement of the cost of a generator on a case-by-case basis. The maximum eligible reimbursable amount is based on a determination of the median cost of a generator sufficient to power an average-sized home. You will not be eligible for reimbursement if you purchased the generator after your power was restored.
I need to call them today and let them know the situation, because they heard this from a rumor, and there wasn’t any qualifying information given – the rumor simply stated that FEMA would reimburse people up to $800 for a generator.
Don’t buy a generator for the sole reason that you think FEMA will reimburse you. You may not be reimbursed and you may be taking a generator someone else may need for medical conditions such as respirators, dialysis machines, and more. If you need the generator you should certainly buy it, just be aware that a reimbursement is not automatic. Here is more information about how to file a FEMA disaster assistance claim.
Life will return to normal
…it will just take awhile. My parents are looking at 2-3 weeks without power, and minor repairs to their home. Others have more major repairs to face, and still others, such as my best friend, lost everything. Still, I have a feeling that for most people, life will return to normal. Most people will rebuild if possible, and some will move away never to return. But I think it will take a much stronger storm than Ike to break the spirit of a city that is as proud as Houston.
A thousand miles to the north and east, things are also returning to normal. My wife and I got power again last night after 24 hours without electricity, but about half the area is still without power. There are a few places where it is not expected back until Friday or so. Many of the gas stations and restaurants are coming back to life, but about half are still closed. It is an eerie sensation to drive along unlit roads and stop at every stoplight and treat it like a 4 way stop sign because the stop lights are without power. The schools are still closed and may be throughout the week. For us, the cleanup is much easier, and the talk around the water cooler a little lighter. We have it easy compared to those in the Houston and Galveston area, and for this we are blessed.