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Ronald W. Hull

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Rita -- A First Hand Account
By Ronald W. Hull   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Posted: Wednesday, September 28, 2005

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I stayed home, so my story is boring. Not so, my friend, Donna Kimble's account...

Dear Folks,

I am alive and well and safe. Fortunately for me and my family, the storm took an eastward path and left Houston mostly unscathed. We lost electrical power from about 2 a.m. Saturday morning until 7 p.m. Sunday evening. Ironically, the places where evacuees from Galveston, Port Arthur and Beaumont were sent were right in the path of the storm! Even Stevie Wonder could have seen that. Texas is indeed a smart state.

What I do find irritating is all of the touting on TV, especially on CNN and Fox, about how well they planned and handled the evacuations, especially by comparing our white mayor Bill White to Ray Nagin in New Orleans. They try to put a nice spin on the events, but I will tell two horrifying things:

1) We tried to evacuate from Houston early Thursday morning. I left my house at midnight, got to my parents' house (Of course no one was finished packing) and left there by two. We picked up Clayton by 2:30, hoping to make it to San Antonia by 7. We headed for I-10 west to San Antonia. Then we met all of Houston and surrounding counties fleeing the hurricane--On the feeder road to the highway. It took us about an hour just to get on the freeway! It literally took us from 3 a.m. until 3 that afternoon to get to the outskirts of Houston, near Katy, Texas, maybe about 18 miles. Then we decided to stop to try to get gas, as we were on a half a tank and the temp outside was about 100 degrees.

It took three hours to get a tank of gas, and we were in a line that snaked for miles down the road. The pumps worked incredibly slowly, the reason for which the attendant explained is that all pumps working at once puts a strain on the machine. It took about eight minutes to pump one gallon. After that, I decided it was not worth it, that I would rather take my chances at home and get killed by the hurricane than to burn to death on that highway in that heat, with people getting angrier, thirstier, and having to go to the bathroom with no facilities in sight, and no chance of finding gasoline between Houston and San Antonia. Even the radio stations said there was not chance of gas anywhere. I have not seen such a sea of unhappy humanity in my life. Finally, folks from Houston got a small taste of what Hurricane Katrina victims were going through in New Orleans. Sadly, however, some of the same evacuees from New Orleans had to be evacuated from Houston. Some of them have ended up in Oklahoma or Arkansas, and some small shelters on the way to Dallas. I think this may be a way they finally got them out of shelters here...just shipped them off somewhere else.

Upon returning and watching the news, some local newscasters said that some people had fights and pulled guns on 0thers trying to cut in line or let others get in line out of turn. I saw people get out of their cars, go shopping at WalMart, and get back in line before their car had moved 100 ft. I saw women and children running on the highway in the heat going to a found port-a-potty left by some construction workers. I saw lines at the local Sams where people got out of their cars to go to the bathroom before trying to get back on the road. I saw lots of abandoned cars that had run out of gas or that had developed car trouble from idling on the highway for hours. It is reported that people who did finally make it to their destinations got there in 24 to 48 hours!!!

I also saw people treating everyone like crap. A man in a big foreboding truck cut in front of others in the gas line, and since he had cut in, we let our other car cut in line in front of me. Boy, you should have heard that man curse and yell and seen him turn red in the face. I don't understand how he could have been upset when he had just done the same thing! When we asked a woman to let us through to get back on the highway after we gassed up, one woman replied, "I am through being nice. Forget it." Another lady (I am using the word figuratively) refused to let us through to exit the parking lot at Sam's, where we had gone to use the restroom.

That is when we decided to go back to Houston. We gave some guy (he sounded Australian) going to Austin with his wife, daughter, and dog, all of the food and water we had taken for our trip. He had been on the road since 9:00 the night before and had gotten only as far as we had.

Friday, my brother Red convinced my parents that they still needed to go, so we went and filled up at a nearby Stop-and-Go station that was selling Citgo gas (amazing how thrilled people were to sit in line for two hours to buy gas they would normally pass up). I gassed to stay here, but they left Houston about noon Friday and made it to San Antonia, they said, in reasonable time.

The evacuation might have gone well if service stations had adequate petrol so that cars would not have run out of gas and people would not have been stranded on the highways. It would have also helped if highway patrol or some other entity had been available to monitor those areas where traffic bottled-necked. If there is ever a need to evacuate again, I would seriously reconsider following orders. My parents live in a low-lying area with a bayou that floods, and they were under mandatory evacuation. They should evacuate, but after this experience, with my sick mom sitting in the hot sun for 10 hours when she is on meds that say she should avoid sunlight, I don't know what put her life in more danger.
There was no place where she could get a decent meal (she is diabetic and could not eat a bunch of junk...but she did.) There was nowhere for her to go to the bathroom, which she needs to do frequently. There was too much stress and strain and lack of good will, which is not good for her and my dad's bad hearts. It was not a pleasant affair.

The second and most troubling is the bus load of people who died on the way to Dallas. A former member of the English Department may have been among those from the retirement home killed on that bus. I tried to call to get information, but they were quite nasty (I guess I would be pissed too if 24 people I was responsible for perished in a horrible bus fire), and again, people were in more danger from evacuating that from the storm! And the shelter they were sending them to got battered because that is where the storm went.

I hate to sound like a pessimist, but Houston is not ready. Mr. Governor here (Rick Perry) has been beating his chest and praising himself, but he was supposed to have had tankers filling stations along the evacuation route, and he did not. All of the National Guard, helicopters, and trucks that were needed were in Iraq, but now suddenly it is suddenly popular to let some soldiers come from Iraq to help with the clean-up effort. It is all political garbage, and I am tired of the tricks and games. Too many lives are at stake for these idiots to play the "hero" game and try to spin a lie from the truth. So let the truth be known: Houston did not have a good evacuation plan and people suffered immensely on the highways leading from the city and those counties that were hit!

Anyway, thanks for your concern, but all is well. However, don't expect to find gasoline at a decent price until next year. Stay safe and well.

Donna from stupid Houston

Web Site: Ron's Place


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Reviewed by Regis Auffray 7/22/2011
You certainly bring back some poignant memories through your article, Ron. Thank you for sharing it. Love and peace to you,

Regis
Reviewed by m j hollingshead 10/17/2005
interesting read
Reviewed by Stephanie Sawyer 9/30/2005
At the first signs of awful Rita, I told my daughter, son-in-law, with their son, and my son, to "GET OUT - AND DO IT NOOOOWWWW! - That was on Wednesday, and I was promptly ignored.
Needless to say, they all ended up stranded in traffic and finally in my small apartment in Tomball. Daughter gave up on her plans for Midland. Son was on his way here anyway, but had no idea it would take seven hours to make the 45 minute trip to Tomball. Then there was another friend who couldn't make it to Fort Worth - and ended up here. There were others.
But nevertheless, I'm glad Bill White is mayor of this city even if our evacuation plan needs a lot of refining. He at least acted at the first sign of danger, unlike what New Orleans did. Mayor White did not stall and procrastinate. We can take this as a learning ground.
I'm only sorry others did not heed the early demonstration of the horrific signs of the storm. I knew my Wednesday there was deep trouble out there, and demanded my family get out of Houston. They just didn't listen. How many others out there tried to stall and say 'no big deal'? I remember Alicia too well.
Stephanie Sawyer
Reviewed by Tinka Boukes 9/29/2005
Wow thanks for sharing this intense experience Donna had out on the road....I guess we will not really know how hard that musta been....but thank God she and her family and you dear Ron are okay!!

Many thanks to Donna for sharing this!!

Love Tinka

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