Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Enough with the Hurricanes!

This spread very briefly covers the 27 days between Katrina and Rita. I lead a rather uneventful life, and then when there's something major to write about in my journal, I manage to condense 4 weeks onto two pages! The events surrounding Katrina were so overwhelming that I found it impossible to write about them in any depth. Bonnie and Cody's house is only about 2 miles from Lake Pontchartrain, and we were very worried about it. We knew right away that they were safe from harm, but it was several days before they discovered that their house had received only minimal damage.

In the middle of this time period, I went to Nacogdoches for my mother's birthday. I had decided to take some art supplies to the Louisiana children who were sheltering there, after reading about how popular such things were with the kids staying in the Astrodome. I also included many, many reams of paper and cardstock from my father's printing business. He died last November, and I would like to think that he would be pleased to picture these kids who've lost everything having a bit of fun by coloring and gluing and cutting on some of his paper.

The following weekend, I was busy taking a workshop from Judy Melvin, and was also hosting her. Right after I got home from taking her back to the airport on Monday, JT called to tell me that there was a hurricane named Rita that looked to be headed straight for Galveston. I didn't take it very seriously until I went to Wal-Mart and saw that they were already almost out of D cell batteries! I started packing up our important papers. On Tuesday we boarded up our windows, and helped Missy with hers. I was up until about 3 a.m. packing up my art supplies. After barely 3 hours sleep, I started loading the car with the things I value the most. To be honest, I really feared that I wouldn't have a house to come back to. I stayed through Alicia when the eye came right over Alvin. That was very scary, and I swore that I would never stay through another hurricane. Katrina made me even more determined and definitely more spooked!

Always before, when I have run from a hurricane, I have gone to Nacogdoches. Having just been there, this time we decided to head west to my sister's house in Pflugerville. I hadn't seen Jeanne and Pete since Mother's Day, and since JT's grandson Philip lives in Austin, we thought it made doubly good sense to go that way. We got on the road about 10:30 Wednesday morning. Traffic was heavy, but it was moving pretty well. There were some spots where everything would come to a standstill, but then would pick up again in a few minutes. It only took about 30 minutes longer than a normal trip. Everytime we came to a dead stop, I would get on my cell and call Missy, urging her to leave NOW! Fortunately, she paid attention after the second or third call, and left downtown Houston about 1:30 p.m. She made the trip with no trouble either. It was definitely another story for those who waited until the normal workday was over. It was the mother of all gridlock. They say that 2 1/2 million people in the Houston metropolitan area fled this storm, mostly all at the same time. It took Mike and Leigh 15 hours to get to Lufkin --normally a 2 hour trip. We heard story, after story, like this. One young couple from Pearland have 7 month old quadruplet daughters and a 20 month old son. It took them 18 hours to get to the Cleveland exit (a 1-hr journey). At that point, fearing they would run out of gas, they gave up, turned around and went home. Still fearing the worst, a family friend piloting a private plane flew in to Ellington Field on Friday and evacuated the babies to their grandmother in Oklahoma.

Missy was a wreck worrying about Jerry. His boss had refused to let him leave until it was too late. When Rita escalated to a category 5 storm, I think she was bracing herself for the fact that she might become a widow. As hurricanes so often do, Rita veered away from the Galveston path, and turned northeast before making landfall around Beaumont and Port Arthur. Everyone in the Houston area breathed a huge sigh of relief that we had escaped this time around.

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