Thursday, September 22, 2005

Hurricane Rita Preparations

I had planned to ride out Hurricane Rita when she first crossed into the Gulf as a category one storm. That quickly changed as the intensity level was raised to a category five and it appeared that it was headed toward Houston.

Lucy and I live in an older neighborhood with lots of big trees, the kind that have limbs that brake off and slam into houses. With the prospect of winds battering the area between a hundred and up for several hours I contemplated the fact that most homes will have substantial roof and window damage. A friend of mine is an engineer and he warned that most of the houses in our area don’t have some kind of strapping that holds the roof to the house and that they tend to lift like an airplanes wing at around 120mph. These thoughts put the idea in our heads that it was time to pack up my work truck and Lucy’s Solara and head for San Antonio where some friends of Bonnie from church had offered to put us up.

We did a bang up job of sealing the back side of the house with duct tape, caulking, plastic and even sandbagging the low corner where the water tends to gather. We stored all the projectiles; lawn bench, chairs, barbeque grill, hanging baskets and wind chimes. Anything not nailed down has been secured; I only hope my neighbors have done the same.

We invited a couple of the single sisters from church to join us in our travels away from the pending disaster. ( just as a note; I’m on my daughter’s computer and her keyboard is so much different from my own. Her whole set up is awkward for my slouch back style of placing the keyboard on my lap, leaning back in the chair with my feet propped at an off angle to the monitor. Bonnie likes to sit straight up in her chair; like the way they teach you to sit when typing. ) We planned to hit the road around noon time except that the freeways were in gridlock and it looked as if the department of transportation folks were about to open up the inbound lanes for outbound traffic so it would be better to wait.
I heard the newscaster explain that it had taken folks 10 to 12 hours to get from one side of town to the other, exhausting their gasoline with no hope of getting to another major city such as Dallas, San Antonio or Austin.

The lines at the gas stations, those that actually had gasoline, were two hour wait or longer with lines fading from view as the camera panned the area. I had topped off the tanks on all our vehicles in anticipation of the hurricane; all the same, it would do no good to hit the road on a 200 plus mile trip that would normally average 65mph and use only part of a tank of gas. Most of the frustrated drivers were pulling off to the side of the road on empty with no hope of finding a station with any fuel; stranded in Houston with a hurricane breathing down and little hope of getting to a safe location. These thoughts caused us to postpone leaving at noon.

The weather forecasters kept us informed of the slight directional changes of the storm, it tending to drift a bit towards the Texas Louisiana border which would put us on the “clean” side of the storm and give us a slight brake on the strength of winds we would be subjected to. Lucy and I decided to hold off leaving until around 6pm to see what the roads looked like and how much improvement had been made in the use of the contra-flow lanes. Justin and Jennifer had left around 1pm and called to say they were well on their way and how to make it around some of the trouble spots. Unfortunately my helicopter is in the shop for its routine maintenance and so we still have to use ground transportation. (That’s a joke, a joke. Ah say, it’s joke. I love the rooster cartoon)

Lucy was beginning to get a worried look on her each time the weather man pointed out the level of sustained wind, even with the storm going on a projected path off to the east by a hundred miles these winds would be around 80mph or more for several hours. Lucy was ready to mount up and ride. I, on the other hand had observed some of the local low life going down the middle of the street on a slow walk; as if they were taking inventory of which homes to come back to later on. There we were loading up our vehicles and they smiled as if we had been added to their list of places to shop with the five finger discount card. I took some of the items out of Lucy’s car and put them back in my truck; I was staying, hell or high water, maybe both.

Lucy and the ladies from church are 3 hours into the trip. She called me on the cell phone a few minutes ago to let me know that she had made it to Brookshire and was pleased with the use of gasoline enough to continue on to San Antonio. I’m listening to
Simon and Garfunkle; just a little louder since Lucy isn’t here to turn it down. I cleaned my pistol and have it hanging on my side; something I haven’t done since I retired. It would be a real shame to plant one of my neighbor’s kids for breaking into my house and have to clean it all over again.

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