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Rita, Fear, and Me

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I’ve always loved inclement weather. As Garbage would put it, “I’m only happy when it rains.” The seven years I spent in sunny Southern California were nice all right, but it sure got boring after a while.

I recall being angry at my parents for not allowing me to play outside during Hurricane Carla. I did get to play outside when Alecia came through in 1983. I made it into the foyer of an old brick church in my neighborhood and watched tree limbs moving horizontally. It was awesome, in the original intent of the word. Stupid as well, but I digress.

It is 8 am Thursday morning and we are about to head west to San Antonio until this thing is over. I’ve been glued to the weather channel and checking the NOAA alerts on their site every six hours or so. The track has shifted from south of the city to just east and north, good for us, bad for Louisiana. The winds have pegged the meter at 175 mph.

This is the second Category 5 of the year. Whether you think it’s global warming, or the 10,000 climactic cycle of calm ending, or God’s will, things are different now than they were ten years ago. The weather is more threatening and we’re not adapting. Rebuild that which is repeatedly flattened!? Isn’t that one definition of insanity – repeating the same actions expecting different results?

I remember shots of Andrew and the total devastation and clearly anything in the way this time will also be flattened. The government authorities, especially the Galveston and Houston mayors, have done a better job this time. As usual it seems, it took a horde of deaths for the government to get its act together.

The list is endless, fire escapes mandated after the Triangle Waist Company fire in Manhattan that burned to death 146 young women, doors that open out after 300 die at the Coconut Grove, and now we get the infirm out after 35 die in Katrina. Otherwise intelligent people allowing others to die because… what… we didn’t think of it? But I digress again.

Here’s what I’m putting off I guess. I’m scared. Not for my safety as I’ll be long gone. I’m scared for my city, scared for the people I know who are staying. They have nowhere to go. There’s a good chance they really will have nowhere to go in about 48 hours. I’m scared of what I’ll be coming back to, or never coming back to again, we’ll see.

God bless and keep all of them, and me.

Update – 9:50 PM
Turned around. Sat in traffic for 45 minutes and moved 3 car lengths. At home, hoping the jog to the West is not a portent and that landfall is in the sparsely populated Beaumont area.
If turning all the inbound lanes to outbound requires the posting of police at each inbound entrance ramp, did it not occur to the authorities that they would have to move on the same freeways that had become parking lots in order to position themselves at the entrance ramps? They told us about turning the inbound lanes to outbound at 7:30 this morning and the first freeway wasn’t done until almost 3 PM. Countless people are stranded on the freeways out of gas from idling for ten hours. Countless others turned around and came back home.
Will keep you posted until the grid goes down.
Pray for us all.

Update – 2:30 AM
Traffic heading north now in a 90 mile jam, was 100 miles late this afternoon, progress I guess. Other freeways opening up but there’s no gas to be found.
Red Cross shelters full, parking lots along I-45, I-10, and 290 holding stranded evacuees. Waller County (next county NW from Harris) Sheriff complaining that he’s getting hundred of calls from people out of gas and water, stuck in his county along the freeways. This is starting to look pretty bad.
45 MPH winds expected in under 12 hours, up to 100 in 24. Red Cross supposed to open more shelters in the morning. The Coast Guard is supposed to be airlifting gasoline into the city. I don’t see that we have the time for this to work…
I’m in a bungalow built in the 20’s about 2 miles north of Buffalo Bayou about 3 miles from downtown. When Tropical Storm Allison came through in 2001 we had 27 inches of rain in our neighborhood and water was up to the front and back porches. None is talking about that much rain yet but some of the models show Rita stalling and looping back over the city Sunday…

Update – Noon, Friday
We’re all talking like it’s missed us. This because the eye is projected to pass 60 miles to the east. Will we regret our arrogance?

The winds have started and it’s clouding up. We drove downtown and out to Memorial Park. Dozens of joggers and bike riders in the park, downtown is boarded up, the police were loading bottled water into their new substation downtown. One gas station was open and there were three dozen cars lined up. One store was open on Westheimer, we didn’t stop.

No mass rescues of the people stranded on freeways and gale force winds are less than 12 hours away. I hope Interstate 45 doesn’t become our Convention Center. These people are in parking lots, why aren’t they being bused out?

Update 4 PM –
The facts appear to be that buses have been cruising the freeways and people have declined a ride. The Chief of Metro says they asked 450 people and 11 accepted rides. They’re going out again, for the last time. Wish I knew the truth of it. Reporters talk about hundreds of cars and people in parking lots and the local government rep says it ain’t so. I know there is no gas. I saw people using Big Gulp cups to hold the few ounces of gas they could get and then watched them pour half on the ground trying to get it into their tanks. I’m glad I’m home, hope I’m as glad tomorrow…

Update Final
It is the next morning. I’ve modified the Nano playlist for Hurricane aftermath music. For us it was another non-event. The fear of course, is when the next one comes we will all be inclined to downplay the danger. Maybe rereading this then will help. Had the winds here been 100 plus we would have been in real danger. A steady 30 mph wind does some scary things to trees, 100 would have surely launched missles through the air. I’ve taken the tape off the windows, hoping some theaters open today or tomorrow, there are some movies I would like to see. Nothing scary though, not for a while.
Edited: PC

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About johnwstiles

  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    I hope you’re not reading this, John — that would mean you’re on your way, on the road out of danger. We’ll be thinking of you.

  • http://www.nrlc.org/ Anthony Grande

    Why Texas???

    Bush has sent hurrican Rita to his own homestate, Texas, in order to finish off the refugees from Katrina. You know, the the poor black ones who didn’t vote for him.

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    Will Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s handling of Hurricane Rita propel him to presidential status? Imagine a race between Rick Perry and John Edwards. It would be the Presidential Pretty Boys squaring off. Talk about metrosexuality. Is this part of the Bush agenda to have Perry come in for four years to prepare Jeb for 2012?

    Or is God sending Rita back to the Gulf to purge it of the religious right who got out of town in time as a way to make it up to the abject poor? Has France’s warranty on the Louisiana Purchase expired? Can we file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission?

  • http://www.johnwstiles.com johnwstiles

    Update – 9:50 PM
    Turned around. Sat in traffic for 45 minutes and moved 3 car lengths. At home, hoping the jog to the West is not a portent and that landfall is in the sparsely populated Beaumont area.
    If turning all the inbound lanes to outbound requires the posting of police at each inbound entrance ramp, did it not occur to the authorities that they would have to move on the same freeways that had become parking lots in order to position themselves at the entrance ramps? They told us about turning the inbound lanes to outbound at 7:30 this morning and the first freeway wasn’t done until almost 3 PM. Countless people are stranded on the freeways out of gas from idling for ten hours. Countless others turned around and came back home.
    Will keep you posted until the grid goes down.
    Pray for us all.

  • Les Slater

    Where are you? I’m heading to Clearlake on Monday.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    Hopefully, Rita will be a “mere” Cat 3 when she hits.

    I endured a Cat 3 last year. No fun at all. Lost my porch, and was w/o power for about 2 weeks.

    But it wasn’t total and complete devastation like we saw with Katrina…

    So…

    Best of luck… :-/

  • http://www.johnwstiles.com johnwstiles

    Update – 2:30 AM
    Traffic heading north now in a 90 mile jam, was 100 miles late this afternoon, progress I guess. Other freeways opening up but there’s no gas to be found.
    Red Cross shelters full, parking lots along I-45, I-10, and 290 holding stranded evacuees. Waller County (next county NW from Harris) Sheriff complaining that he’s getting hundred of calls from people out of gas and water, stuck in his county along the freeways. This is starting to look pretty bad.
    45 MPH winds expected in under 12 hours, up to 100 in 24. Red Cross supposed to open more shelters in the morning. The Coast Guard is supposed to be airlifting gasoline into the city. I don’t see that we have the time for this to work…
    I’m in a bungalow built in the 20’s about 2 miles north of Buffalo Bayou about 3 miles from downtown. When Tropical Storm Allison came through in 2001 we had 27 inches of rain in our neighborhood and water was up to the front and back porches. No one is talking about that much rain yet but some of the models show Rita stalling and looping back over the city Sunday…

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    Any news on how gasoline prices are in TX and LA at this point? The weather map at this hour looks like Rita may be heading more for LA than TX.

  • Les Slater

    “…parking lots along I-45, I-10, and 290…”

    Houston highway system is inadequate even when there is no evacuation.

    More than once I’ve headed north towards Houston from NASA area on I-45 and had to turn back because traffic not moving. Highway system is fragile.

    Were these people thinking when they made evacuation plans? Well, maybe for the next hurricane.

  • http://www.johnwstiles.com johnwstiles

    Update – Noon, Friday
    We’re all talking like it’s missed us. This because the eye is projected to pass 60 miles to the east. Will we regret our arrogance?

    The winds have started and it’s clouding up. We drove downtown and out to Memorial Park. Dozens of joggers and bike riders in the park, downtown is boarded up, the police were loading bottled water into their new substation downtown. One gas station was open and there were three dozen cars lined up. One store was open on Westheimer, we didn’t stop.

    No mass rescues of the people stranded on freeways and gale force winds are less than 12 hours away. I hope Interstate 45 doesn’t become our Convention Center. These people are in parking lots, why aren’t they being bused out?

  • http://www.johnwstiles.com johnwstiles

    Update 4 PM –
    The facts appear to be that buses have been cruising the freeways and people have declined a ride. The Chief of Metro says they asked 450 people and 11 accepted rides. They’re going out again, for the last time. Wish I knew the truth of it. Reporters talk about hundreds of cars and people in parking lots and the local government rep says it ain’t so. I know there is no gas. I saw people using Big Gulp cups to hold the few ounces of gas they could get and then watched them pour half on the ground trying to get it into their tanks. I’m glad I’m home, hope I’m as glad tomorrow…

  • http://www.johnwstiles.com johnwstiles

    Update Final
    It is the next morning. I’ve modified the Nano playlist for Hurricane afternmath music. For us it was another non-event. The fear of course, is when the next one comes we will all be inclined to downplay the danger. Maybe rereading this then will help. Had the winds here been 100 plus we would have been in real danger. A steady 30 mph wind does some scary things to trees, 100 would have surely launched missles through the air. I’ve taken the tape off the windows, hoping some theaters open today or tomorrow, there are some movies I would like to see. Nothing scary though, not for a while.