It's been a full month since Ike paid Houston a visit, and it's safe to say that things have returned to normal. So normal, in fact, that my rotations to Dubai can finally resume. I'll be heading to the airport in a few hours.
The days and weeks following Ike were slow and disrupted, as if somebody had pressed life's "pause" button. Lori's work was closed for an entire week. My office, while open, was practically deserted and I can't say I was very productive. Kirby's school was shuttered for a week and a half. Without electricity, cable or internet (the last of which I found to be most onerous), there really wasn't much to see or do. We couldn't wash dishes, run the garbage disposal, do laundry or run the vacuum cleaner, so the house became an absolute mess. The mild weather after the hurricane, the availability of ice at a nearby FEMA pod, and the generator that Lori's dad delivered to us all helped, but there really wasn't much for us to do other than keep the generator's gas tank full, cook dinner on the propane grill, frequent bars and restaurants that had air-conditioning and free wi-fi, and otherwise wait for life to resume.
The recovery process felt frustratingly slow. But gradually, things improved. Groceries stores restocked and reopened. Gas lines disappeared as more stations came back online. Schools reopened and the city's nightime curfew was lifted. And then, two weeks and twelve hours after it was cut, power was restored to our house. Cable and internet service - our true link to the outside world - resumed a few days later.
Now the traffic signals are working again, the piles of broken tree limbs are being cleared from the roadside and, other than the occasional boarded-up window or mangled billboard, evidence of Ike's visit is slowly disappearing. And while it will be a long time before normalcy returns to places like Kemah or Galveston or Surfside - it might never return to Bolivar Peninsula - it's safe to say that, one month later, Houston's recovery is substantially complete.
Could the recovery have been smoother? Of course. There were plenty of "lessons learned" from this storm that will be carried forward to the next one (and there will be a next one, someday), and now that we know what to expect during and after a hurricane, our preparations and anticipations will be adjusted accordingly. Ike wasn't fun, but we got through it.
And life goes on.