Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Rita vs. the small town

I'm not a beach person. Don't get me wrong, I like visiting the beach every once in a while, but you could not pay me enough to live right against a coast line. So I sit here amazed that my town turned into a coastal village this weekend.

The news coverage is totally consumed with Hurricane Rita coverage. (At least that's what they tell me, becuase my cable is out and we can't pick up regular signal out here.) From what I've heard, towns like Beaumont, Vidor, Orange, and Lake Charles got hit really hard. What a lot of them won't tell you is that this storm was still a hurricane 150 miles inland.

I live 100 miles north of Beaumont, Texas near Nacogdoches and Lufkin. Back starting Wednesday, we started getting people leaving Beaumont, Orange, and the like to get out of the way of what was coming. We took in as many of them as we could in the church, finally peeking out at 215 filling up our gym, activity center, every sunday school room, and even the santuary itself.

Saturday morning, the storm came in so fast and strong that it kept together even as it came into deep east Texas. Our power went out almost immediately. Even the water went out for a while. It's back now, but not drinkable. We're under a boil order until Friday. Some people are beginning to leave and head back to their homes, especially those who came to us from the Houston area.

There are trees down everywhere. This area is full of pine trees and beautiful forests. The Sabine National forest is a mess. In town, almost every house has at least a tree down if not more. There is a historic building by the chamber of commerce building that had the Texas state flag painted on the roof. The roof is almost gone, leaving on slivers of the once large flag that welcomed people. I personally have a very large tree resting gently against my home, but thankfully not in my home. My power and water is on, but that makes me one of the lucky ones in my county. The co-op that runs our power is working so hard to try to get everyone back on as soon as possible, but that may be up to four weeks for some of my students. Who knows when school will be back in for those kids. The school has about 700 people in it. In fact, one person in the city administration told me that as of Friday night, the population doubled.

As I said before, the water is not drinkable. The boil order is at least until Friday. The one grocery store in town is almost empty. When the power went out, they lost what hadn't been snatched up by everybody's last minute buying. There is no bottled water in the town except what has been brought in by some wonderful people.

Want to know about gas? So does everybody else in town. This afternoon, there was only one out of five gas stations that had any. It's line was at least a mile. At another station, some people from out of town were sitting on top of their car in 100 degree heat. I went up to them seeing if they needed any help. They told me they were going to wait in line there until the truck arrived.... tomorrow. It's $2.85 in case you were wondering.

You know, when Katrina came through, we were so concerned for Bayou La Batre, Alabama. A bunch of students and I went to the bayou for a mission trip this summer to work on houses and with people affected by Ivan last year. As I made twenty phone calls trying to get information, a pastor told me that it was like "trying to explain colors to someone born blind" describing the damage he had seen. I'm going to try to post a few pictures and see if I can bring a few things to the light.

Bottom line, we're doing fine down here in Texas. I have been amazed at the capacity of people to care for each other when they all work together and God is in their hearts and on their minds. Black, white, latino, and asain, they were all here huddled together in the gym. We still have over 100 people using our church property as a shelter. The vast majority of these people are working so hard, that we barely need people working to help them. Everybody is pitching in with the cooking, cleaning, caring for the little ones, organizing food and clothing donations, and everything else that it takes. In fact, as I sit at my computer while keeping guard on the night watch, it's so quiet. As much I would like life to get back to normal, I will miss the wonderful folks who have stayed up with me until a few minutes ago and kept me company.

Be sure to keep inland Texas and Louisiana in your prayers and don't forget about us here. I'll try to post more later if possible.

An old tree just knocked over in our church parking lot.

This used to be the sign at our grocery store

A large sinkhole just a block away from the church.

This sign just kicked over by the wind.

A power line still down

This tree used to be in my back yard, now it is on top of my place.

1 comment:

Derek said...

Oh wow.......glad you're ok, and praying for your community, bro.