What a cast-iron bitch! Rita reminds me of a former girlfriend, always changing her mind at the last minute. I am glad she is gone.
I read with great interest Head's post outlining his ordeal to get out of town. As a fellow Houstonian, I am saddened by all the troubles his family and many others faced as they tried to escape impending death and destruction.
Here's some thoughts on the whole Rita debacle from another Houstonian's perspective.
Our training class in San Antonio was cancelled for the rest of the week so the trainer and several of us from Houston could return home and tend to our families. I made the mistake of calling into the branch to make sure I wasn't needed. Boss Lady asked me to come to work the minute I hit town. Thankfully I drove to San Antonio, and I was able to make good time. Those that flew had to use the return portion of their tickets and didn't make it back until later in the afternoon.
Traffic was amazingly light as I put distance between me and San Antonio. The only other car to pass me was a DPS black & white. I guess he had more important things to do than bust me for going 85.
It didn't dawn on me until I got past Columbus, but I saw quite a few flatbeds loaded down with the big generators (over 20 trucks by my count). They were all headed to San Antonio ahead of the storm. To tell the truth, they were needed here in Houston. I can't fathom why they would be moved 200 miles away.
The gas runs were in full effect by the time I got to the bank. I filled up in San Antonio for the trip down, and decided it would be better to top off the tank when I arrived to avoid the long lines I knew were gonna hit. Sure enough, I waited over 30 minutes for my helping of Super Unleaded. By the time I headed for home, the lines for gas were snaking down the street by at least 30 cars.
The lines at our bank were no better. Many people were coming by to lock up valuables in their safe deposit boxes, and others still were coming by to empty them out. I even opened a few new boxes for worried customers. The real fright came when I received word that the ATM was running out of money...AGAIN! The tellers scraped up about $15K more in twenties for the last ATM infusion, but we all knew that would last a couple of hours by looking at the line of cars in the motorbank.
My family had an escape plan in place when I got home. We were going to load up and head to our friend's place in Navasota early on Thursday. That is usually an hour drive by car. All reports Wednesday night from friends, relatives, and news reports indicated at least a six hour drive just to get out of Houston. By this time, computer modeling showed Rita rolling right up I-45 and dumping on our laps. With a projected 70 mile diameter eye and Cat 5 winds, there was not gonna be a dry side to this hurricane.
We were already planning on bunkering at my parents place for our Thursday departure. Mom kept the place well stocked, and after riding out the likes of Carla, Alicia, and Allison before, mom had all the supplies needed to ride Rita out in style. I made sure to bring my HAM radio Base Station, new Grundig emergency radio, hand held HAM radio and ROSCOE and Mr. Blasty. The family Shooter was not lacking in the personal survival department. I am glad to say we accounted for every eventuality when Rita made landfall.
Thursday rolled around and my part of town looked deserted. I could have run naked as a jaybird down San Felipe without so much as a by your leave. I had the truck packed and we were out the door by 8 a.m. Since we nixed going to Navasota, I prepared my base station and tuned the bands for any news not distorted by the MSM.
Some close friends of my parents decided to shack up with us for the weekend. Their house has one end covered in 12' tall plate glass. As a Cat 5, Rita would have chewed that up without blinking. I was able to use their carport to store my truck as it offered protection from the elements. I was not about to leave it at my apartment.
Rita rolled her bitch ass up the Gulf and the weather gods were forecasting a direct hit to a near miss all the way into Friday. Along with that we were seeing the reports of cars breaking down, contra-flow lanes opening up, and mass panic as people started to run out of gas by the side of the road. We did very well to stay put. As it turned out, many, if not most, of the Houstonians who fled really didn't need to. I understand the need for Galveston county to evac, and for the low-lying areas of Houston and the southern communities, but to have so many people from the west and north Houston neighborhoods bug out like they did was not kosher. A direct hit right up I-45 means that they would get a lot of heavy wind damage, but avoid the tidal surge that was sure to hit.
Mass Media outlets were no help at all in allaying the fears of these evacuees. They kept shouting that it was a Cat 5 of biblical proportions. Death and destruction were looming big in their eyes. I watched as quite a few rookies stood out on Seawall Blvd. hoping for a big gust to knock them over. I guess they heard Dan Rather came back to town to try an relive his glory days as a cub reporter holding on for dear life to a telephone pole as Carla tore him a new hole to speak out of. As my dad tells it, the smartest guy that night was Dan's cameraman. That poor schlub stayed in the car!
We lost power at midnight on Friday. The sounds of power transformers popping like champagne corks kept me up most of the night. Ours was the third one to go exactly at midnight. Gas and phone service were still available to us. By virtue of the fact that my parents live in a heavily wooded subdivision, every time a fat man farts near a power line, the street goes dark. Dad and I played with his new chainsaw and cleared three trees that fell up and down the cul-de-sac. I checked on a couple of neighbors' houses, and dad and his friend went to check that the plate glass was still intact. With nothing more than 50 mph gusts, we saw the worst of Rita pass us by.
It was physically draining to watch and listen to news reports all day and night and wonder about the outcome of Rita. I can only imagine what many of the evacuees who tried to escape on constipated routes felt. We were misled by local and state authorities, and the news media pounced on it like a cat to a mouse. Things were not easy and help did not arrive in a timely fashion. Yes, Mayor White and Gov. Perry had the right idea, but their implementation sucked royal ass. Rita was made out to be this major bitch of a hurricane and all we got were her stinky farts.
People are armchair quarterbacking this to death now. I hear people editorializing that many people were saved from the utter devastation that occured. Hello, numbnuts, Rita went feet-dry as a Cat 3. The last Cat 3 I remember was Alicia, and I slept through it. People could have been safe at home not worrying about the hazards of road travel along with a hurricane. Take those poor souls from Brighton Garderns in Bellaire. I work next door to that place and let me tell ya, not a pine needle is out of place over there. See where I am going with this?
I don't mean to trivialize the damage that was done to parts of Galveston and most of the Sabine Pass Region. They have their own stories to tell. I am here to gripe about my life and how I was mostly affected by Rita. I pray to never see a Cat 5 come across my doorstep, but I plan on being ready. I pray for the souls lost to Rita, and I pray for a speedy recovery in NOLA and HOUTX. I also pray for our elected officials to do the right thing and help us back on our feet.
Next time around, I hope we get it right.