Grappling with Ike
On Sept. 13, 2008, Hurricane Ike touched down in Galveston, Texas, a city within the Greater Houston area. The fallout from Ike has been widespread, affecting people from all walks of life, and the numerous WWE Superstars that live in the Houston area, such as United States Champion Shelton Benjamin, MVP, Carlito and Cryme Tyme's Shad, are no exception.
Though it had been downgraded from a Category 4 hurricane to a Category 2, Ike still boasted winds of 110 mph when it touched down in the Lone Star State. Though Texas felt the brunt of the storm's assault, effects were felt far and wide, with tropical storm level winds making their way 275 miles from the storm's center. At present count, there have been 60 reported deaths in the United States, with some as far away as Indiana and Pennsylvania. In addition to the lives lost, Hurricane Ike is estimated to cost the United States $27 billion, which if accurate, will make it the third costliest U.S. hurricane of all time.
United States Champion Shelton Benjamin is a resident of the Houston suburb of Spring, where he has seen the effects of Hurricane Ike first-hand. Fortunately for the SmackDown Superstar, the damage around his neighborhood was limited in its scope.
"Everybody got hit," he assured. "I don't think there's anywhere that went untouched. With the size of the storm, every suburb got hit — I don't care if you're on the north or the south, or in the west or east side."
Though the U.S. Champion wasn't one of the many Texans who evacuated their homes, he wasn't in Spring when the hurricane came through. Benjamin was on his way to compete in a WWE live event as the storm rolled in.
"The night we left, for about 60 miles, we were pretty much fleeing the storm," Benjamin claimed. "The roads were empty and the wind was blowing us all over the road."
While traveling, the U.S. Champion originally thought that the storm wouldn't effect him except for some rain and wind. But as they moved down the highway, Benjamin looked at the storm cloud on his phone, and found that with a 65-mile wide eye, Hurricane Ike was going to be a much bigger deal than he first thought.
"For the most part, Spring wasn't hit as bad as some of the other areas," Benjamin admitted. "Obviously, there were a bunch of trees and signs knocked over. There are a bunch of houses around here that have wood fences, and those are down all over the place."
The effects of those destructive winds are being felt throughout the Greater Houston area, with power knocked out to homes and businesses, and even street lights on major thoroughfares left blinking and ineffectual. The Gold Standard explained that the disaster has caused a run on various staples and necessities, with excessively long lines at gas stations included. Because so many stores in the area are boarded up without power, the ones that are open for business have had much of their inventory wiped out by Houston residents who are without electricity to power their refrigerator, or who perhaps just hope to stock up while they can.
Benjamin grew up in South Carolina, so he has vivid memories of 1989's Hurricane Hugo. Though he noted that Ike was a larger and more destructive storm than Hugo, the memories of that disaster came back to him as he prepared for the storm. The Gold Standard had to reschedule a trip to San Francisco so that he could tape up his windows and bring lawn furniture and plants inside his house.
The U.S. Champion readily admitted, however, that he might be "one of the luckiest people in the whole ordeal." While his neighbors had to deal with uprooted trees, destroyed lawns and damage to their homes, the worst that Benjamin had to deal with was a slightly damaged air conditioning unit. He was even lucky enough to have not lost power, water, cable or even Internet service.
Downtown Houston suffered a particularly heavy toll, Benjamin told WWE.com, with the Downtown area being in complete shambles. Though it has been a week since Hurricane Ike hit, the city-wide clean-up has been progressing slowly due to the magnitude and widespread nature of the damage suffered.
The thoughts and prayers of all members of the World Wrestling Entertainment family go out to those affected by this terrible disaster. If you feel moved to help, please consider donating to the disaster relief and recovery efforts by visiting the Houston Red Cross.