September 18, 2008

Gilchrist and Jamestown Roanoke County

Being the weather wonk that I am in the summer and early fall, I spend a lot of time on the various weather sites as well as reading a guy named Dr. Jeff Masters. He's got the 'wunderblog'.

That's where I got the link to the before and after pix of Ike along the hardest hit areas of TX.

Yesterdays' post was on a little town called Gilchrist, TX. It is absolutely a fascinating read and should be required reading for anyone who wants to try to ride out a 'cane in a mandatory evac area.

You see... Gilchrist ain't there no more.

Of 1000 buildings, five made it through. Perhaps my saying, 'made it through' is overstating. Five had structure left. There is this little blue house that remains alone amidst... well... amidst nothing. It may as well be on the moon as there is no debris left.

Gilchrist is literally... gone. Washed away. Wiped clean.

In the comment section of the blog, someone had a zoom in of the little blue house. From more of an arial view it appears as one of those odd tornado scenarios. The "Look, one house is perfectly fine while the home right next door is absolute rubble" scenario.

But with the one picture someone posted in the comments (page 9, item 424), you get more of a 'look see' and realize, it is a shell. Why that shell remained standing is amazing. But... there's nothing in that house.

Read Dr. Jeff's blog and you'll see what I've been saying here to my co-workers... they won't find survivors in debris. There is 1) no debris and 2) the waters were too strong and folks couldn't fight it.

Both lend itself to the completely awful, but the reality, that folks got washed away.

Gilchrist is gone and so are its inhabitants that refused to evac. It's like a modern day Jamestown Roanoke County, except... well there are no structures left, but the people have *Poof* disappeared. The other big difference is... we know what caused it. (If my memory served me right, the disappearance of the colonists was a mystery. Perhaps it has been solved?)

So we had big discussion over this at work and I was saying, "Do you think they went door to door and catalogued who said they weren't leaving?" Upon reading the blog, I think the answer is NO. So nobody really knows how many people are missing. Families outside of TX are frantic, but nobody can give answers because... nobody knows.

There has been much debate about 'making' people leave. I am of two minds, but mostly feel like its part of Darwin's Theory. If they want to take their chances and die, so be it. (This is outside of the folks who were handicapped or felt too poor to leave. I'm aghast at those situations and it can make me physically sick to dwell upon.)

But this was the other discussion that came up at work... people who don't evac and have children. As much as I can be the 'no nanny state' citizen, I have issues with people who put their children in harm's way.

At what point does government step in?

I think thats something that needs to be addressed. 'If you want to stay, fine, but we're taking your children', seems rather logical. We'd not allow parents to offer their children up for sacrifice, would we?

We would never allow a parent to play chicken on the interstate going 90 MPH with all occupants not wearing seatbelts, in particular if those occupants were children. We file charges against parents who get in wrecks and their unrestrained children...die.

At some point a line must be drawn, and in my mind, telling people with children that their children are going, but they can choose to stay put, and 'by the way, who gets your children when you get wiped away?' seems not too harsh. I think we'd be amazed at how many families, with the threat of being pulled apart, would rethink their, 'We're ISLAND people! We're the survivors! We don't run!' mentality.

I don't know how many children stayed. But that thought too... makes me rather sick.

Posted by Boudicca at September 18, 2008 06:34 AM | TrackBack

I, too, am sick about parents who choose to stay when they have children. What possibly could they be thinking ? Let's show Junior how to be a REAL man ?

I was also quite upset to read 2 different stories of owners that left their pets behind because they had to be evacuated at the last minute. One was a 61 year old woman with 6 Aussies and she could only take 4; leaving 2 behind to drown. The other was a woman with 2 Lab puppies who left them in their crate. When she returned she found them drowned. At the least she could have left them free on the CHANCE they MIGHT have been able to save themselves. The choices people make at these times are inconceivable to me.

Posted by: Kelsey at September 18, 2008 07:29 AM

I have been reading a lot of survivor stories and almost everyone has said they stayed because it was only a Cat 2 (it was only 1mph from a Cat 3, but splitting hairs I guess).

While watching the Weather Channel, their expert guy said he wished they did away with Catagories because people don't realize a Cat 2 like Ike is just as dangerous as a Cat 4. It wasnt the actual hurricane winds themself that were dangerous in Ike, it was the storm surge that was deadly.

But I guess like you said, hurricanes can tend to be Darwin pool cleaning storms.

Posted by: Quality Weenie at September 18, 2008 07:57 AM

I heard that same thing, about taking away the Categories. There is SO much more to these storms than just wind speed.

My boss made the comment yesterday about not knowing the true death toll for weeks because of the "washed away" scenario. Sick to my stomach on that for sure; how can people think they can ride out something like that? Houses and most possessions can be replaced.

During Katrina, I had a coworker whose Aunt lived in MS. She was older and flatly refused to leave her house - her family came to get her and even packed things up, but in the end the lady would not leave. Retreated to her upstairs bedroom and told the family to go to hell. So they left her as she wanted.

She died; her entire house was washed away and they never found her.

I don't understand that; she left her family to kick themselves with guilt for not bundling her up and forcefully taking her out of the house. It's just not right.

Posted by: Kris, in New England at September 18, 2008 08:23 AM

Kelsey: Here in Florida, they've had to create special shelters in which pets are allowed because lots of folks refuse to evacuate to a shelter if they'll have to leave their pets behind. They'd rather die with their pets than leave them.
There are other options. Some vets will shelter pets during storms. And you can always sneak them into a motel out of the evacuation zone.

Posted by: George at September 18, 2008 09:49 AM

While I am sickened by the thought of parents intentionally putting their children in the path of a hurricane just because they think they can ride it out, I'm having trouble seeing how it might be possible to go around collecting the kids.

Considering the scope of the area just in this instance, how could it be done? Who does it, where do they take them, how do they take care of them once they get them there, what do they do after the storm, etc etc etc.

As inhumane as it sounds, this is a huge logistical nightmare. It's easy enough to say "take the kids out of there" but in actual fact it requires far far more work than might even be possible in the limited time before a hurricane hits. (If parents don't want to leave and each puts up a fight to keep their kids - it would not be possible to get it all done).

Then once you've rescued them - if the care is substandard and a child is injured, severely hurt, or dies in the care of the state - you'll have even more of a problem. And let's not forget, you'll have very young children not understanding why they are being taken away from their parents... so you're talking about some pretty severe psychological trauma that will have to be addressed. Not to mention - where do we get all the people to watch them - especially infants!

I don't think it could be done logistically speaking - I really don't. Not without the cooperation of the parents. We don't have the resources to do it either people, places, money and most especially time. We also don't have the type of government to allow this - because if you allow it in this case you will introduce the "law of unintended consequences" and it will come back to bite.

Posted by: Teresa at September 18, 2008 12:46 PM

if by jamestown you mean roanoke colony, then it's true; we still don't know why they disappeared.

and yes, the rest of this does just make me feel sick. a goodish plan [[that will probably never be well executed]] would be having a buddy system between people in different target areas. in a hurricane area? buddy with someone in tornado or earthquake areas. keep tabs on each other. invite one another in. take care of each others families during crisis / rebuilding / whatnot. [[granted, some people already have that built in with family across the continent. but for others with regionally located families? oi.]]

Posted by: amelie at September 18, 2008 02:17 PM

First to Amelie, since she is correcting my history- YES! It must've been Roanoke County. All that history was learned the same time, about 30 years ago and it all blends. I'm amazed I don't have the Mayflower disappearing in some storm. Good Grief.

But that story of Roanoke County has always stuck with me. If I can figure out how to change my title with a strike through I will...

OH! It worked! Yahhooo!

As for the rest of the comments...

Yes, Kelsey, we have shelters now for pet owners, but we did not always. It was a learned thing, unfortunately. Why people do not let their animals roam during it, in hopes they can save themselves is absolutely beyond me. Absolutely.

(George would know all these details too since he's a retired newspaperman and was always in the thick of the information.)

QW and Kris- I have heard this too. I guess, my issue with eliminating it is, I hope they come up with something. I just want to know if I'll lose my roof. If its 150 mph +, I'm hosed. Its a brace myself thing.

But it is so much more than wind when you live on the water and I thought after Ivan, people would know that. People stayed on the Bay in Pensacola and their homes were washed away, similar to Gilchrist, but not to that extent. But even seeing what Ivan did, and LISTENING to what the experts were saying about the storm surge, should have made people take notice... yet it did not.

History will continue to repeat itself. Katrina, Ivan... people washed away. Ike... it happens again.

As for the logistics with removing children, that is the biggest issue. And because of this... more children will die.

I can't imagine being related to these children. I can't imagine knowing I have family that dies with... their children... killing their children.

I am wondering if this will come out. If in fact, we find that children were part of the group that got washed away, I wonder if it becomes an issue that gets played out. It really needs to be addressed... even if it becomes an issue of one parent being 'arrested' and carried away with the children to an evac site.

I don't know. But we'll see if we hear anything about it.

Posted by: Bou at September 18, 2008 03:06 PM

I think what will make more impact on these moronic idiots than anything else will be the fact that families died. That might make some of them sit up and take notice.


We aren't dealing with the intellectually gifted here though. So they may see it happen in Galveston and decide - well, it will never happen to me.

Unfortunately, these people should not breed and yet they always manage to. *sigh*

Posted by: Teresa at September 18, 2008 07:47 PM

Galveston County made an effort to get everyone off the island. They provided buses to get off, they provided buses to get to the buses, and all pets were allowed on board.

Oddly, few of the people who were rescued will cop to actually trying to ride it out. Most of them will say "well...we were planning to leave, but the storm surge took us by surprise."


Posted by: Nancy at September 19, 2008 11:03 AM

Saw this on the news: He lived in Galveston, had his kids with him and decided not to leave. The water started to rise. They were listening to the radio and it was mentioned that those that stayed were asked to use a permanent marker to put their social security numbers. At this point the water was getting pretty high. His kids "splashed' over to the kitchen, grabbed markers and started scrawling on their arms. He realized then that he'd made a huge mistake and had put his kids lives in jeopardy and it wasn't the same as gambling with his own. They rode out the storm bobbing around in the water until the eye hit. He took that opportunity to load them up in his ski boat that was tied to his house and high-tailed it over to the San Luis where there is an old bunker in the hillside attached to the hotel. (It was the safe house for all city officials, police, etc.) He saved them all just in time. They would have drowned if they'd waited any longer. They're lucky that the house hadn't already gotten washed away.

Also, the high tide on Friday morning coupled with the vast area of the storm brought in a surge earlier than anyone expected, so there actually were some that got stuck there after going in to secure their property. Not many, but a few. Many thought they could get in on Thursday and out Friday morning. By then some of the roads were impassable.

Posted by: Momotrips at September 19, 2008 11:19 PM

Joyce and I have lots of relatives in Houston (11 if you don't count our son's in-laws), but none of them left town. I just don't get it. As soon as Ike cleared Cuba, I'd have been on the highway to spend some quality time with good old Bob and Joyce in the Dallas area. (But then I guess, given Ike or Bob as your options, ...)

Posted by: Bob at September 20, 2008 06:28 PM