A Few Survival Strategies Hurricane Ike Taught Me

Photo by Born1945
Not the radar picture any of us want to see

Growing up in Houston and the surrounding area, the threat of a hurricane hitting the coast was something we came to expect. Anyone living in the region knows it's not a matter of if, but when one of the big storms spins into Galveston, bringing a whole bunch of wind and water our way.

Those of us who have lived in the greater Houston area know the drill. Secure things that can blow around, put plywood over the windows, and be prepared to evacuate if you live in an area prone to flooding or other predictable storm hazards. Have your storm radio and enough non-perishable foods and water to last you and your family for a couple of weeks. Have a plan in place for your pets if you have any. Most of these things are common sense.

For some reason, even though hurricane season runs from June to November every year, a whole bunch of us seem to just forget to prepare until there's a huge storm bearing down upon the city. The mad scramble to get last minute supplies always seems to occur, and we would save ourselves a lot of headaches if we had our supplies stocked sooner.

The other predictable hurricane problem concerns evacuations. Sure, if someone lives particularly close to the coast, or lives in housing that is particularly at risk from wind damage or flooding, evacuating is the sensible thing to do. But a panicked, last minute mass exodus of Houstonians who live in sturdy homes is not a good idea.

Hurricane Ike was a good lesson for me, and for a lot of people living in the Houston area. I got off lucky. My electricity was only off for five days, and I knew people suffering without it for a lot longer than that. But living without electricity and a few other things in the days following Ike helped me develop a few good strategies for hurricane survival.

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The Best Hidden Places in Texas for Road-Trippin'

Categories: Nature, Travel

Photo by dherrera_96 via flickr
Oh, there's so much to see in Texas. From the white sands of the coastal shores to the deep canyons on down, our state has so much to offer.

And while everyone knows about some of our more national attractions -- Big Bend, South Padre Island and so on -- this is an enormous state, covering 268,820 square miles of land. With girth like that, there are bound to be a number of hidden gems in Texas that are just itching to be explored.

So if you're still busy planning out a summer vacation, perhaps you should eschew the typical and head for the hills -- of the Hill Country, perhaps -- or one of the many other places on this list, to find yourself a real adventure, Texas-style.

Here are the best hidden places to road-trip in Texas. Saddle up, y'all, but leave the spurs at home.

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Discovery Green Not As Green As It Had Been, Drive on to Replace the Grass

Categories: Gardening, Nature

dead grass edited 001.jpg
Photo by Margaret Downing
Operations Director Clark Curry explains how Discovery Green will be better prepared this summer.
It was a problem they never thought they'd have. Houston, with more annual rainfall than Seattle, has always been a green city. All the careful plans that went into executing downtown Houston's Discovery Park never accounted for the possibility that the faucet would be turned off.

But last summer's unending drought meant the folks in charge of Discovery Green had a tough decision to make. With a city-ordered restriction on water, with limits in its own budget, they decided to save the live oak trees and the landscape beds but let the grass survive or not on its own.

Well, as science experiments go, it was pretty definitive. If you don't water grass over days upon days of scorching heat and no rainfall, the grass doesn't just go dormant, it goes dead.

Discovery Green is trying to raise $25,000 in a "Grow the Green" campaign to cover the costs of replanting the park's grass -- about 20,000 square yards -- to re-sod the expanses of dirt left behind when the zoysia grass gave up the ghost.

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The Dastardly Bastard Cabbage and What It Has Done to Texas Bluebonnets

Categories: Gardening, Nature

Photo by Son Lam
One person's beautiful field of yellow wildflowers may be nothing but bastard cabbage hiding in plain sight.
Right now, Texas wildflowers are putting on quite a show in any number of places in Texas, but elsewhere, such as in West Texas and Houston, things are a little disappointing.

So we called the gurus of all things wildflower -- the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center -- whose personnel confirmed, as expected, that last year's drought had taken its toll in parts of the state.

But then we heard something we didn't expect.

"Bastard cabbage" -- we had to ask the distinguished Saralee Tiede, communications director for the Center, to repeat herself because we were sure we'd misheard -- is a major culprit in Central Texas right now, spreading over to the coast. The invasive species can choke the life out of a bed of bluebonnets.

You probably have a photo of it, too. Probably thought it was real pretty. Just like us.

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