Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Rita Is A Big Fat Sissy

That's just one of the memorable things overheard during storm week. But I think my favorite was "there's a category 5 storm headed right for us and he's asleep on the couch."

The announcements to evacuate the Houston area started Wednesday afternoon. A category 5 storm with winds of up to 175 mph was headed straight for Galveston and we were told to "get out or die". The storm was due to arrive sometime after midnight on Friday so we had lots of time but you wouldn't know it from the panic of some. My neighbor left pulling his travel trailer behind with its' door still open and steps dragging the pavement. Many left town without packing and others had little or no cash or gas.

The freeways were immediately at gridlock - no movement whatsoever. People were trapped, unable to get off the freeways and quickly running out of gas and food. The temperature was 98 degrees with temperatures in the midst of all the idling engines running around 110. It obviously was best not to try to leave town for awhile.

Our plan was to get up at 4:00 AM on Thursday and beat the next exodus, but the traffic was even worse. That's when I decided to continue to wait it out and take a nap.

Thursday afternoon the announcement came that all lanes on a section of I-45 would be open to outbound traffic. We still had a day and a half before Rita hit us, if she did at all, and our household vote totals were still holding at one to one - one vote to wait until the traffic cleared before leaving and one vote to get the hell out of town yesterday. We left about 2:15 PM.

The freeway was clear the 20 or so miles to downtown Houston. So far so good. It continued to move at a fast pace for 17 more miles but shut down completely just 13 miles from our destination at Scott and Jen's house.

Traffic didn't move at all for 4 hours. We were behind a couple who we found out lived near us but had left their home 11 and one half hours before we left ours. Cars were stalled everywhere. Babies were crying, dogs were barking and people were getting sick. The diesel and gas fumes burned the eyes and hurt the throat. We had plenty of ice and water and kept ourselves and our 15 year old mutt Petey hydrated.

People were using cups to relieve themselves, then getting out of their cars and emptying the contents on the freeway. The pavement was so hot that the urine seemed to evaporate right away but the smell lingered.

After almost six hours, we made it to Scott and Jen's house in Spring, a distance of 50 miles. We stayed until after the storm passed and came home on Saturday morning, beating most of the crowd back into town.

We had no damage to our house at all. For us, Rita was a big fat sissy.