Thursday, September 22, 2005

Lovely Rita, may I inquire discreetly?

Ordinarily, I read comments avidly. These are not ordinary times in Houston, so pardon me if I ignore your responses to what's been, or being, posted here.

Rita has now turned so that it's aimed right at Houston. Earlier it looked as if it would go to Matagorda or Freeport, both south of here. Now it is coming straight for the city, and while we are far enough inland to be away from any storm surge, we expect winds in excess of 100 mph when the storm passes. The eye itself may, in fact, pass near us now. Rainfall may exceeed 12 inches on just the first day. Rain is expected through Monday.

Then again, who knows?

But leaving is no longer an option. That has been a point of contention in the family: I wanted to stay and try to save whatever the interior of the house whereever it might recieve damage from wind, or water infiltration. Real flooding doesn't worry me, and the kind New Orleans suffered is impossible in this location. But flash flooding from heavy rain and clogged storm sewers is a real possibility; that kind of damage I can hope to mitigate if I "shelter in place." As I say, though, leaving is no longer an option.

Just this morning Gov. Rick Perry decided that the three major highways out of Houston (two interstates, one state highway) should be made one-way. Galveston was evacuating yesterday, and the interstate out of that city was turned one way in the afternoon. However, people are leaving from north of Corpus Christi to west of New Orleans. Apparently no one planning an "evacuation" took into account how many people a hurricane could displace, and how they would leave. But unless you know the Texas county road system extremely well, your evacuation route (and the ones approved and advised by the state "Homeland Security Director) will put you on a freeway or state highway heading for: Houston.

After all, you don't want to go east out of Louisiana, or south along the Texas coast. You come to Houston. So an estimated 1 million people are fleeing through Houston, and all the "evacuation routes" are parking lots.

There are reports of people travelling 50 miles in 10 hours. A 45 minute trip across town in heavy traffic, has taken 8 hours, and that only gets you about half-way through the jam that is trying to get into East Texas or up to Dallas (which is where 45 goes from here). TV reports now advise planning on 24 hours or better getting to your destination if you want to leave town. Buying gas is, of course, a joke. Some people are pushing their cars on the freeway when there is any forward motion, to save gas.

As I say, the Gov. decided just this morning that maybe something should be done about this. But as the Mayor said, at some point you have to decide if sheltering in place is better than being caught in 100 mph winds (which is the inland wind speed predicted almost to Buffalo, where you can leave 45 for a state road) when the hurricane comes ashore. And in a traffic jam like this, you can either abandon your shelter, or ride along in your shelter as the wind does what it wants with it.

If the phone lines stay up, my laptop may let me post more later. I expect power to go out by the weekend, and to be gone for awhile.

TWO HASTY UPDATES: Weather forecasting on this changes constantly, especially here "on the ground." Earlier expectations were for 100+ mph winds in Houston. A more particular forecast, as Rita continues to bend northeast, puts Houston on the "weak" side, with winds in the local area expected at maybe 75-80. As you can imagine, we prefer the smaller numbers, especially since we aren't going anywhere.

Also: Autumn Mix candy, always excellent this time of year, is highly recommended as a "shelter in place" comfort food. This is subject to revision as we look forward to the 4th day of PBJ three times a day, but for the moment: two thumbs up (mine and my daughters)!

For today, a high of 100 is predicted, a record for Houston. But remember folks: global warming is a myth! (This message brought to you by Hurricane Rita!)

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