|Destruction All Around Them, Just Out of Reach|
|Written by Sherry|
|Saturday, 13 September 2008 07:43|
This poignant depiction from the Houston Chronicle's blog - where they have been live-blogging all night:
Galveston Co. emergency officials wait it out in League City
Locked in a reinforced-concrete bunker overnight, Galveston County's emergency management officials could only reach the outside world by phone and radio.
It was a frustrating night for dispatchers unable to send help to desperate callers.
The county's emergency operations center in League City, fortified to stay standing in a Category 5 hurricane, shook as sheets of wind sliced against it through the night.
The power went out shortly after midnight, and the center seamlessly switched to generators. Inside, emergency workers walked the fluorescent-lit halls in jittery exhaustion, rubbing their eyes and chugging coffee.
``I'm done answering phones,'' said one dispatcher, retiring to the bunk room after her shift ended at 4 a.m. ``So many people are stranded. It's heartbreaking.'' Rescue crews were under orders to stay inside through the night, until the worst of the winds subsided. But the panicked, angry voices on the other end of the phones begged for exceptions.
``I told them, we'll put you on a list. We'll get to you,'' the dispatcher said. ``One woman was mad because I told her she couldn't take her dog. I said, `Ma'am, we have human lives to save all over Galveston County. You're not the only one.' But she was upset. She was yelling and cursing.''
The dispatcher plans to retire before the next hurricane season. In the central command room, a projection screen scrolled with the latest emergency calls, documenting the restlessness of bunkered emergency crews.
``Fire crew coming out of shelter to respond to fire visible from shelter,'' read one update.
They could see destruction all around them, just out of reach.