Friday, July 22, 2005

Hurry Back

Then we got called back to Florida. Really it's so different from earthquakes. I am amazed what strong enough winds are capable of.

This tree narrowly missed the room that I am staying in:
The backyard

And this one fell in the backyard. You can see me standing in there somewheres.
Fallen tree
I know I'm small but still- that tree was BIG.

We had no power the first day or so:
We didn't have any power.
Yes, that place in the background is called "Badcock's" but we're not going to address poor marketing schemes here, this is about the hurricane.

Having no power was sort of like camping in a house. We took our cold showers and lit candles and went out to eat. The restaurant we chose is really popular with locals in Pensacola and has a tradition of stapling dollar bills with messages to the walls and ceiling:
Dollars on the ceiling at MacGuire's

And it was in through this medium that I discovered Floridians' secret inner feelings:
Pensacola's true inner feelings

In the morning, we used the truck's built-in power outlet:
Step 1
Dragged the extension cord through the garage:
Step 2
Through the laundry room:
Step 3
And into the kitchen for life's most important necessity:
The most important thing!

We headed out to rustle up some gas and food and see what damage had been done.
Huge trees snapped in half:
Broken Tree
Or fell over completely:
Tree down

Some beautiful things didn't survive, but some ugly things did:
Looks like intolerance has the fortitude to withstand hurricanes.

McDonald's, however, didn't fare so well. I found this on the ground:
This is part of an McDonald's sign!

And then looked across the four-lane road to see where it came from:
McDonald's sign
Unfortunately I didn't find the O, it might have made a cool hat or something. If anyone finds a big O, call me and let me know.

Big Kmart took a hit:

And FEMA came in to provide assistance:
Disaster recovery center

Individuals can apply at FEMA assistance center for aid, including emergency housing. This sometimes comes in the form of FEMA trailers:
FEMA housing

This was one of the FEMA sites that has been here since the wake of hurricane Ivan last year which means they made it through Dennis unscathed. That's a relief because their sign out front doesn't inspire a sense of well-being and safety:
Fema signs don't hold up to hurricanes

Some of the FEMA trailers didn't survive Dennis and people were relocated to hotels. North Florida still hadn't recovered fully from the wrath of Ivan last year, which was terrible. Hurricanes generally hit once every five years, so the four last year and then one already so early in the season has been frustrating at best, and devastating at worst. Some mobile homes were destroyed:
From the other side:
Trailers don't hold up so good against falling trees

This gas station was brand new before Dennis hit:
This was a brand new gas station before Dennis
You can see how they felt about it on their sign:
Go away Dennis!

Many citizens who boarded up their homes and businesses used the opportunity to tell Dennis how they felt. This gas station had a sign reading "We stayed for Ivan, that was enough!!! We're gone for Dennis, it's too much":
Gas Station
And their business was indeed destroyed:
Gas Station

This citizen has strong feelings about something. I suspect it's in reference to looters, but some clarity is lost in the presentation.

With power out in so many areas and so much damage done, those businesses which were open hastily notified the public:
They R open
Even if they didn't look so good from the outside:

Luckily, the bowling alley was still open for blacklight bowling night so locals could blow off some steam in style:
Blacklight Bowling in full effect

Allstate Insurance should get a pluckiness award for being open:
Allstate is open! Have no fear!
Although I have to wonder how they will serve any clients over two feet tall.

On the other hand, there are still some bad feelings about State Farm left over from Ivan:
State Farm

Some enterprising individuals sought to make a buck in the post-disaster economy:
Make some cash off a natural disaster...

You could also purchase a generator at special extra-high hurricane prices:
Enterprising generator salesmen

It's kind of sad but mostly funny that this RV is called "Four Winds":
Four winds didn't treat you so good after all

Finally, crews came to restore power in our neighborhood:

Everyone in town chopped and stacked their fallen trees and debris by the side of the road for collection. Trucks and forklifts come by to carry it away:
Heading off to be mulched
To big collection areas where it is chipped into mulch:
Chipping the vegetative debris from Dennis
The piles are like 30 feet high. Ivan yielded something like two and a half million tons of mulch. That's way more wood than a woodchuck would chuck if a woodchuck could chuck... oh, sorry. That was really bad.

Slowly, the community is pulling together after the crisis. Much of the power has now been restored and many of the gas stations are back in (at least partial) operation. The local grocery store now has fresh dairy products again. Even though parts of Pensacola still have a wafting aroma of broken sewer lines, you can tell things are moving forward.

And there has been some victory:
The score!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


(Apologies for the long delay, we just recently got reconnected to the internet after the storm.)

Leaving Florida was really odd, I've been through plenty of earthquakes, but those just sort of hit you and then in a few seconds they're over. There was forewarning for Dennis, and especially in an area so hard-hit by Ivan last year people worked themselves into a frothy hurricane evacuation frenzy. People were busy boarding up houses and businesses:
Boarding up for Dennis

And the few gas stations that hadn't run out yet were a maze of confusion and anxiety that made it look like the cheap gas station in Oakland on a Friday evening, with cars jammed in in all directions:
Gas station mayhem
This station was out of the way enough to have some high-octane gas left by the time we got there (we almost ran out while we passed all of the empty stations). You can see the other two pumps are papered over. The price of gas also jumped a quarter per gallon overnight.

Some forward-thinking souls stocked up:
Stocking up on gas

We hit the side roads to avoid the two hour delays our friends were experiencing on the main highways to areas out of Dennis' path. From there it was about a 24 hour trip to New Mexico, 72 of which we spent driving across Texas. There's some kind of magical time warp in Texas that makes it feel endless. It looks like this:
It is sort of nice at first but after so many hours of the same thing you start to feel like you're watching a Flintstones running sequence where the same rock and two cacti keep passing by over and over again in the background. Rock. Cacti. Rock. Cacti. I assume Flintstones animators did it to save time and money; for the life of me I cannot figure out why Texas does it.

I snapped some photos of local flavor out my window as we caught some radio shows about how little room there is in heaven and how few ways there are to get there.
On the road

This charming fellow was Ridin' on Faith:
Ridin' on Faith
Which I thought was maybe a spiritual thing until I discovered that his other bumper sticker read "Brakes are for Pu***ies." Having slightly less faith in his anti-brake belief system, we quickly passed him.

This is a pretty good summation of what was available on the side of the road:
Texas in a nutshell

Texas does have an awesome town named Bossier:
There's a town called Bossier in Texas
Remind me not to get into a barroom brawl there.

Politically, I'd sort of thought we were in Bush country, but apparently even he's too far left:

We did make an awesome stop at a goat farm in Texas, where I got to feed them live tumbleweeds (how cool is that?):
Goat eating Tumbleweed

And I saw a live mesquite tree- which apparently isn't just for barbecues. You can make jelly out of the beans:
Mesquite Tree

After a few more hours of rock-cacti-rock-cacti, we reached El Paso. I'd known El Paso was on the border near Juarez, but I didn't realize exactly how close.
Juarez, Mexico
The Highway through town runs along the border for a few miles, and it's a pretty stark juxtaposition: one side has a plethora of tin roofs along dirt roads, the other has strip malls with tanning salons.

We finally made it to New Mexico, where we drank a little beer:
A little beer
And ate a LOT of hot green chilies. On the topic of chilies, I will pass along a rule of thumb as explained to me by a born-and-bred New Mexican: "If it's warm going in, it's warm going out. "

Speaking of warm, it was hot hot hot in New Mexico, and beautiful. We were certainly not at risk of being hit by the hurricane.
You can see fields of green chili plants growing for miles in any direction:
On the road

And beautiful desert landscapes surrounding the cities:
In the desert in New Mexico

But the most awesome part is the sky, which looks like it goes on forever:
New Mexico Sunset