The truck rolled slowly by, its loudspeaker blaring in Spanish. “We buy metal cans, old air conditions, scrap metal, tin roofs. Leave them out on the street in front of your house.” I looked out the window and saw the sign of the side of the truck. It said "We Buy Metal". I had heard it’s bell a block off. I had hoped it was an ice cream or snow cone truck. In the 98 degree heat I would have gone outside to buy one. This truck came around because the hurricane hit here last week and the trash…metal and trees were sprawled all over. The piles in the streets and alleys were seven feet high. The trucks for garbage pick up were trolling every day.
I have learned that these natural disasters have a mandate of their own which they leave behind and it’s spelled Work. First there were the trees lying down broken all over my yard. The soil is porous, the roots are not long enough to hold them upright against the 95 -150 miles an hour winds.
Then there is the ice box without electricity for 5 days. I tried to cook up all the fresh pounds of salmon I had bought last week before the storm hit but most of it went to the trash. Even when I cooked it over the charcoal fire in the back yard, the camp ice box couldn’t hold it fresh.
We had water most of the time which was a God send but we had filled up the bath tub anyway in case it went off. But the air conditioners went out when the electric went and it was gone for 5 days. The humidity kept everyone soaked all day from the sweat.
The worse thing for me was that there was no coffee. I went outside after the storm and all the stores were closed. No grocery stores. No gas stations. No Dairy Queen. No coffee. Later we traveled 50 miles north to check on my trailer but to tell you the truth, really I didn’t care what happened to that trailer, I just wanted to find some coffee.
As we were driving up there, it looked like we were driving through the rice fields in India. Lakes along the highway stretched as far as the eye could see from water dumped by the hurricane. I about cried when I found that there was no coffee in Harlingen either. The stores were closed. The gas stations were closed. No electric. But finally we went to Valley Baptist Hospital and found some. I filled up my thermos.
The thing about this storm was that not only did no one believe it was really coming in here (because they always say its coming in here). But when it came it stalled off Padre Island and stayed there. It didn’t move. Most hurricanes travel slowly and keep moving but Dolly came to dinner and did not want to leave. They say that’s why it caused so much damage on the Island though it was a little storm. But I don’t know. I had no TV to watch or newspaper or even radio to track the storm. The only tracking I did was from my front door which I opened on occasion to see the howling winds outside and then slammed it shut. Once I climbed on the kitchen chair to peek outside over the window shutters. I was scared as I had seen the huge mesquite tree outside my house swaying 5 feet from the house. The other trees had fallen in the back yard and I knew this one would hit the house if it went down. It didn’t.
After the storm, they said that some of the hotels on the Island won’t be opening until Jan 2009. I find that hard to believe. But they did cancel the International Fishing Tournament that was supposed to be here next week saying there was no place to have it as the Auditorium lost its roof early on, along with the fire station. And so many stores with huge glass plate windows were a shower of glass and water and mangled wet T-shirts and beach clothes. The Palmetto Inn still stood untouched. I was relieved. It was our local tribute to Tex Mex greasy food, here since 1960’s.
The problems with the hotels is that building on an island, you have to sink piles into the sand that are almost as high as the building is going to be…which could be 25 storeys in some cases. That’s where the law suits are coming from. One new huge building was leaning over southward. Another was questionable before the hurricane but now. The demand for these condos is unabated by the winter tourist and yankees.
We went down to the old Wal Mart parking lot in Port Isabel after the storm. Huge trucks operated by HEB and local national guards soldiers were handing out free bags of ice, drinking water and boxes of instant meals that heat themselves. We were glad to get them. We were pushed into a line for breakfast and handed a plate of scrambled eggs and sausage and biscuit… It was delicious.