Saturday, September 20, 2008

Hurricane IKE, SCTVs first hurricane!

Randy had to work so he could not make this chase, so I invited James Machen, a buddy of mine who had never been on a real chase. He was super excited, and understood the mental a physical strain of a hurricane chase. So on Thursday, the 11th, we left Tulsa with high hopes, tons of redbull, and a lifetime supply of beef jerky.
We stopped in Tyler Texas for some rest, that we would for sure be lacking the next night. By now, it was a for sure night landfall, which sucks, but we were already half way there. We met up with Tyler Costantini and Bart Comstock as we arrived in Houston, and we all agreed to head to the coast as the outer bands of Ike were whipping ashore. We met the Hurricanes first rain band near Seabrook, where a lot of media and other Hurricane chasers were riding out the storm in a Hotel. We geared up and walked down to the shore, which was already flooding the lower level of the parking garage with 6 feet of water. We played around in the 60mph winds for about an hour, filming the trees whipping, and parts of the side of the Hotel being ripped apart by the 80mph gusts, then decided to head back to Houston to ride it out in a parking garage. We had decided against going to Galveston with the experienced Cane chasers, as all 4 of us were newbs. We found a sturdy 4 story parking garage and set up shop there around midnight of the 13th. We put on our rain gear, and headed out on foot to film downtown being pummeled by the now Cat 2 hurricane. With the now 70mph sustained winds, things were starting to get interesting. Since it was dark, we missed a lot of the action. There was some tree damage beginning and small debris starting to blow around, but it was still less intense than we had expected. After being harassed by some security guards for filming on "private property" we decided to go back to the garage and wait for the winds to pick up. Around 3, the winds picked up to about 80mph sustained with gusts up to around 95, and we decided to head out again. Trees were starting to come down, and it was getting pretty interesting. We spent much of the time on the top of the garage, feeling the wrath of the storm. We had a blast playing around in the wind and rain. It was amazing. I had never felt winds like this for more than a few seconds at a time. We had been hearing some extreme damage being done all throughout the downtown area. I decided to watch for small spin-up tornadoes and I believe we hay have seen one about a mile North of our location. I saw what looked to be a cone tornado with 4 power-flashes illuminating the funnel. There was never any report of damage by this so I decided not to count it. Around 4AM, the EyeWall was making landfall so we decided to head out in our trucks to survey the damage that had been done, and see if we could catch some video of the carnage taking place. Large trees were being uprooted, even larger trees were being blown completely over, and the streets were littered with debric from the buildings sawying around us. Office windows were being shattered by the 110mph gusts, and office supplies were raining from above. We drove around for about 20 minutes, then glass and debris from the Chase tower starting falling onto our vehicles so we headed back to the garage again. After a quick power-nap, the sun was rising and we decided to venture out and take a peek at the damage. It was complete destruction. Stop lights laying everywhere, every tree blown over, every building missing all of the windows, and major flooding of most of the bridges in the area. Our original route out of town had 5 feet of water over it. After taking pictures of the wreckage, we decided to try to find a way back to Barts Uncle's house in North Houston. The whole area sustained heavy wind damage. We get back to the house around 8am and decided to catch some sleep before the drive home.

1114 miles.