This is going to be an extremely long post, so forgive my verbosity.
I’m happy to be home, sitting in front of my computer, in a clean living room, after going in to work for half a day and getting paid extra for doing so. (Same thing will happen tomorrow; Wednesday, it’s back to business as usual.)
I am irritated at the local media for whipping us into a frenzy over this non-storm. (At least from Houston’s perspective; I know my neighbors to the east will beg to differ.) All week long, we watched the storm with baited breath. Wednesday night, after coming home for the week (our office was officially closed starting this past Thursday), Robert and I watched the television constantly for blow by blows of the storm. I was convinced, after seeing model after model of what might or could happen or what probably would happen, that our home would be under at least two feet of water. I live in a 1930s-era fourplex. The unit upstairs from me is vacant. I called the landlord and asked him if I could store some of my stuff up there and he said, “Of course. Let me get you a key made.” So Wednesday night was spent schlepping some of my bigger stuff (read: stuff too big to put in the car for when we GTFO) upstairs. This included my desktop computer which was about five days old, my three printers, flatbed scanner, computer table, printer tables, stereo equipment, two drop-front secretaries where we usually have our laptops spread out, and a mattress and box springs.
After that was done, I began packing what we’d take with us to my brother’s vacant house in Bandera, far far away: The wheelchair, of course, which would occupy a good portion of the trunk, our two laptops, two duffels of clothing for Robert and me, canned goods, two milk jugs of frozen water, one milk jug of tea, my Starbucks four-cup coffee maker, coffee, coffee creamer, crackers, peanut butter, squeezable grape jelly, the cat, his food, litter pan, litter, two pillows, one cooler (to hold the aforementioned foodstuffs and Robert’s insulin), my portable fan from work, and a short wave radio my brother gave me quite awhile back that runs on (1) AC power; (2) DC power; (3) batteries; (4) solar power; and (5) Dynamo (a little hand crank that screams like a cat with its tail caught in the door!).
I sensed Robert was dragging his feet about leaving late Wednesday night and I was getting pretty tired myself after moving furniture and packing and putting in a full day at work (I hadn’t gotten home from work until 7:30 that night). The thought of laying down for awhile was quite appealing. But I continued working in the house, operating under the assumption that the house would be under at least two feet of water and putting things in plastic bags and stacking them high on pieces of furniture. The latest news reports were saying that she may continue to be a category 5 when she hit around Matagorda Bay but would likely be a strong category 4. The winds were enough to scare me. Plus, I’d lived through TS Allison in June 2001 and I knew exactly what floodwaters could do.
The point in time when I made my mind up to leave right then and there was during a 3:30 a.m. broadcast where the newscaster said “If you don’t leave in the next few hours, you won’t get out,” or words to that effect. That galvanized me. I barked to Robert to get in the chair. I quickly loaded him, the cat and our stuff and we headed out. I had just a bit over three quarters of a tank of gas when I pulled out of our driveway. I figured I’d get gas somewhere along the way.
We decided to check out Highway 59 South and it was surprisingly light. We then jogged over on Highway 6 (which was an evacuation route) and it was going pretty good until we got to Westheimer. Then it began to crawl. And of course my Honda, which has a messed up fan clutch, began to overheat. I cooled the car off by driving very fast (around 50 MPH) on the shoulder of the road, whizzing past stopped or slowly creeping cars until I could jump back in when the temperature went back down to normal. By 5:30 a.m. we’d made it to I.H. 10. We saw that it was basically a parking lot and kept on going up Highway 6 to Spencer Road (a.k.a State Highway 529). This also proved to be a mess, so we attempted to go back and catch I-10 from Fry Road.
Big mistake. We sat in traffic on the feeder road forever. The only thing that took the sting out of it for me was a Lambo sighting. Of course, I didn’t have my PDA camera handy so all I caught was a mere glimpse of it from behind the windshield. Oh well.
Eventually, we snaked our way across the feeder road and caught 529 again. By the time we had driven about 10 miles it was already 11:30 a.m. and the temperature was rising fast, not only in the engine, but in the cabin of the car, where Robert and I were sweating like pigs and Sunny had begun to pant.
This was too much. I told Robert I’d rather live the next two days (even if they turned out to be my last two days) in air conditioned comfort than endure this hell. He was relieved, since he thought this was a bad idea since about sunrise that morning and was probably ready to levitate back home! We turned the car around, figuring we could decide what to do after we got home, cooled off, had some lunch and iced tea and checked out the Rita situation more closely.
On the way home, I decided to call a friend of mine who lives in Sugar Land and ask her if we could stay with her if necessary. Sure, she said. She’d love to have us, just come when we are ready. I was so glad to have a Plan B. Plan A had turned to shit pretty quickly. By this time, I had just over a quarter of a tank of gas left and no prospects for any more. Just enough to make it to my friend’s house and back to my house again.
We arrived home, immediately cooled off with showers and iced tea. I fixed what we refer to as our “last supper” — Cheese nachos and rocky road ice cream. We rested awhile and continued to watch the storm reports. I made sure Sunny ate and did his business so he’d be good to travel again.
We headed to my friend’s house that evening (Thursday) because I didn’t want to be on the road on Friday during the pre-hurricane wind and rain. We arrived with steaks from our freezer. We had a lovely time visiting. Next day, after I helped my friend pull her pictures and knick knacks off the wall and helped her husband pull their patio furniture into the garage, her husband grilled the steaks and we relaxed and watched the news reports about all the people stuck on the freeways, out of gas or disabled in some way, very very grateful that we were no longer among them. We then began rounding up candles and flashlights and turning in for the night.
While I was grateful that my friend’s home and my home emerged unscathed, I’m sorry that others did not fare so well. I’m sorry that the Beaumont-Orange-Port Arthur area was devastated, that many people lost their lives attempting to flee this non-event.
As I said in a previous post, I cannot take the same chances Robert and I took three years ago. Three years ago, if this had happened, we’d have kicked ass. Robert would be helping me move things upstairs and we’d probably have hunkered down and ridden out the storm and if the water started rising, we’d just run upstairs. Can’t do that anymore. I’ve got to think about Robert. How would I move him in his wheel chair up a flight of stairs alone if water began to rise?
We did the best we could under the circumstances and we ended up choosing the right course. I hope I never have to make such a decision again.
But Stan and Tammy are out there somewhere.
Y’all take care. I’ve got a lot of backed up web work to take care of.