Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Smoky Scare and a Prayer for Rain

It seems like the whole country has been having a tough time lately with Mother Nature. Earthquakes, hurricanes... it's just awful. I'm not sure if the national media is really covering what's going on here in Texas, but we're in the middle of a really horrible drought. It's ironic because usually Houston is getting hit by one hurricane after another at this time of year, but now we're in the middle of the worst drought we've ever had and we're also facing record high temperatures.

Recently some weather scientist guys put out a graph of rainfall vs. temperatures, and it's pretty clear that this is a really bad year for Texas.

We've got burn bans and water rationing restrictions, but it doesn't look like we'll have rain anytime soon, and it's just getting worse. Everything's so dry that we've been getting some pretty bad wildfires, and a lot of people in north Houston have had to evacuate their homes.

Yesterday I had a pretty bad scare on my way home from school. I stopped to put gas in my car at a gas station a few miles from our house, and the air smelled like smoke and fire. Sadly, this has been kind of normal lately, so I didn't think much of it. I got back on the highway, but as I approached the exit that I take to get to our house I saw this in the distance:

I turned on the radio, thinking that someone would for sure be talking about it if the wildfires had made it all the way to our side of town. All I could find was music and commercials. I called Jeff to see if he knew what was going on, but he didn't answer his phone, so I kept driving. As I drove closer to home, it started to look more and more like the giant column of smoke was coming from the exact area of our house. We're kind of on the edge of our neighborhood, which borders a lot of undeveloped land with trees and such, so I started to get pretty worried.

I called Jeff again, but he still didn't answer. At that point I thought about the fact that I'd been at school all day with no access to the news, etc. (plus, I'd been in the basement for the last half of the day where my phone doesn't have service), and I realized that it was entirely possible that our neighborhood had been evacuated and I had absolutely no idea. I worried that maybe Jeff was too busy grabbing photo albums and family heirlooms and evacuating to answer the phone.

I turned onto the street that leads to our neighborhood, and sure enough... I was still driving closer and closer to the big column of smoke. I knew the chances of our house actually being on fire were really slim, but my gosh... it looked like it was in our neighborhood. When I turned into our neighborhood the air was all smoky, but I could see that the smoke was coming from somewhere behind our house. Thank God. I relaxed a little bit (because at least our house wasn't on fire), but it was pretty clear that the fire was awfully close:

(I took this picture a while later, after the smoke had died down and I knew everything was safe and okay, but you can see how close it was!)

I walked into the house, ready to grab all of our important possessions and get out of there. I found Jeff (who was on a conference call for his online Masters degree, and had his phone switched to silent), and he told me that the Homeowners' Association had notified everyone that the Humble Fire Department had the fire contained, and it was just residual smoke coming up from the undeveloped area adjacent to our neighborhood. Again, thank God.

In the end, our brand new house was safe and sound. We got lucky. So many other people in the suburbs to the west of us have been through the same thing with a much worse result. I'm so thankful for our firefighters who were able to get our fire contained so quickly, but I'm still a little worried that it could happen again.

Now, more than ever, we're praying for rain in Texas. Hopefully it comes soon.

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