Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Running from Rita (Part Two)

Running from Rita (Part Two)

Well after the 14 hour trip, my wife and I took some Tylenol PM and actually sleep pretty well. I had been monitoring the storm on the radio on the way up and then on Television that evening and it was becoming ever more apparent that the storm had turned north a little quicker than expected that Houston would miss the worst of Rita. I will say that the next time, I’ll leave the day before instead of two days early. I do not regret evacuating; we did what we thought was best and did it based on information that we had at the time.

One the best things we did, was to bring two way radios for the trip. To have the ability to communicate with each other, instantly, during the drive up was wonderful to say the least. The radios were the cheap, $35, 2-mile range Motorola radios that you can get in any sporting goods store. Look in the hunting and fishing sections.

Next, the portable CB Radio; these are great for road information and for entertainment value. Truckers are a real hoot to listen too. They were all working together to aggravate the “four wheelers” that would jump off onto the shoulders and try to pass everyone. It was pretty entertaining to listen to them plotting and calling ahead to tell the truckers up ahead that one was “comin at you” and needed blocking; however, my 11 year old did learn a few new words listening to the truckers.

Food and Water… we had plenty, but we planned ahead. I was astounded to learn later that people were stuck on the road with no food and water. What idiot evacuates the fourth largest city in the US, and takes no food or water? Gasoline? We had no problems getting gasoline, but then we stuck, to back roads for the most part and avoided I-45 as much as possible. We also planned ahead and had full tanks of gasoline. As a side note, when I went to Louisiana after Katrina to help some family members, I saw people buying large liquid laundry soup containers only to dump them out and use the container as a gas can. I waited to late to buy a large gas can, but I do plan to pick up a couple of 5 or 6 gallon containers before next hurricane season. I also plan to pick up a hitch rack to store the gas cans while traveling. I saw a lot of people with 5 gallon gas cans strapped to the tops of their cars.

Guns… I brought em (didn’t want the NOPD coming down to help and breaking my doors down to search for weapons), except for the shot guns; those stayed in the gun safe at home.

Ok…now for the trip home on Saturday. We messed around on Saturday morning and finally hit the road around 1:00pm. Everything was smooth sailing until just before Corsicana, TX on I-45. Now believe it or not, due to road construction, I-45 was down to one lane going south. We were stuck in traffic for hours. Unfortunately people were not as courteous as the trip up; I guess everyone was ready to get home and a little on edge. Cars were going all over the shoulder, on the access roads, cutting back and fourth in the grass and in general, being typical “I’m more important than you” Houston drivers. Once we got past the road construction, it was smooth sailing back to Madisonville where we exited I-45 and took back roads around Houston. Somewhere along the line we heard on the radio that the state had developed a return plan and that for our quadrant, we were to go home on Monday. Oh well… we didn’t know, so we made it back a couple of days early.

Now…. Remember in part one where I said that the city had promised garbage pick-up on Thursday? Well guess what? They couldn’t roll the trucks due to the traffic. The city sent out emails and called neighborhoods asking those who stayed to please pull the garbage of those who evacuated back up to their house so that the storm drains wouldn’t get plugged with garbage. So yeah… when get go home at 8:00pm, our front stoop was piled high with rotting stinking garbage. Ewwwww is putting it nicely. My son and I pulled it back down the street and rinsed off the stoop before we could unload the car.

The next day I pulled the garbage down from most of my neighbors homes who hadn’t yet made it back and most of those had done as I did and emptied their fridges. It was a nasty job. My son and I then poured bleach on stoops and rinsed the areas down good. For a few neighbors, we power washed just to make sure that we got it all. The smell was awful even after we rinsed everything down, but power washing took care of it.

I’m thinking next time, maybe move the fridge to the garage and leave it plugged in. If power goes out while we are gone, just duct tape it closed and bring the whole thing to the curve for the city to deal with. A lot of folks in New Orleans did just that after Katrina.

After cleaning up the garbage, we raked the yard and unlashed everything in the back yard. Also restarted the pool pump and pool cleaner and let the pool take care of itself. I had to dump the cleaner a few times, but it took care of itself and evacuated all of the leaves on the bottom and those floating went to the skimmers.

What had I done to the house? Just turned off the water and set the water heat down to low. Had turned the A/C’s up to so I took care of all of that stuff Saturday evening when we arrived home.

I feel like we managed pretty well as did Houston. 2.8 million managed to evacuate in a short time and that is quite a feat. Sure there were problems, but for the most part the problems were caused by those that had problems. You’ve got to plan ahead and make sure you have food and water. You have to have a full tank of gasoline and a clear direction as to where you are going. You’ve got to have a map and you’ve got to take care of yourself and your family. This is a pretty uneventful and boring story, as it was for most Houstonians who evacuated. My heart goes out to those in Lake Charles and other parts of Louisiana and Texas that got hit hard by Rita. Evacuating Houston is minor compared to what they are going through.

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