It appears that we are in the path of a Tropical Storm, possibly strengthening to a category 1 hurricane by the time it makes landfall tomorrow morning. I'm ashamed to admit this, but I'm excited. No, I don’t want anyone to die or for the storm to severely damage or flood anyone’s property, but I do admit that I like storms. My friend, Kelli, and I are always excited when we find out we may be getting bad weather, especially TS or hurricane type weather. I guess that makes us twisted individuals or something. I have a friend in Corpus that is the same way and we usually fight over whose turn it is to get a storm. (Houston/Galveston or Corpus Christi/Padre). It’s usually just us wanting a day or two off from work! Since I'm off for the summer that really doesn’t apply now, but I'm still excited so I guess I really am twisted.
I was in junior high in 1983 when Hurricane Alicia hit. I remember the heavy winds and stormy weather very well. It was exciting and scary. We lost power and ended up all playing games and huddling together waiting on it to blow over. We were without power for almost two weeks afterward and had to stay with my grandparents. Being without A/C in Houston (especially in August) is never fun.
In 2005, when Hurricane Rita was churning in the Gulf, the city personnel and media had the entire state of south Texas in a panic. Evacuations were mandatory in most places, voluntary in others. They were preparing us for storm surges and major flooding. People panicked and the majority of the population in the area decided it would be safer to evacuate, mandatory or not. Most people began leaving their homes two days before the storm was scheduled to hit land. She was going to be a category 5 and people were terrified.
It was a big deal and the city was basically shutting down. I didn’t get off work in time to leave with my family and my husband was required to stay for his job. Once my parents and siblings had left and were already on the road, I really didn’t want to take a road trip with the kids and dogs all alone. I ended up waiting around before deciding what to do before what I was seeing on the news helped make the decision for me. All roads and freeways leading out of town were like parking lots. It was complete chaos. People were running out of gas on the feeder roads, driving the wrong way on the freeways trying to get off and find somewhere to get food and gas, getting sick from the heat, running our of food and water in their vehicles, etc. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing on the news and wanted no part of it.
It took my family, who were all driving in a caravan with a travel trailer and RV over 24 hours to get to my grandma’s house, which is typically a 3.5-hour drive. It was a nightmare.
The kids were upset with us for deciding that we would stay here. They wanted to be with their cousins on what they thought would be an awesome and exciting road trip/adventure. Plus, they thought we were basically setting them up for sure death. I saw the news and was in constant communication with my family. I knew it was no adventure that I wanted any part of. Funny note: (sorry, Mom) my mom actually had to squat in a parking lot to go potty. There was no other option for her at the time. That was huge and probably a first for her. I was so proud! I never knew she had it in her.
We were prepared to go to work (the police station) with my husband if things got too bad here. The building is old and tough and safer than our modest home. I took all of our pictures and home videos and stacked them up high in the house in case of flooding and we waited for the storm of the century.
The city was like a ghost town. Stores were closed. Roads were totally clear of other cars. I think we were the only people on our street that stayed. Our entire neighborhood seemed deserted and we seemed to be the only people left for miles. All of our friends and family had left. After two days of complete boredom, constantly watching the chaos of the evacuations on the news and the anticipation of what we had in store, we decided to go for a drive to get the kids out of the house.
It was so cool. We were the only car on the entire freeway. We drove for miles before seeing anyone else on the road. We drove to Kemah, which is usually packed with people on the Boardwalk and surrounding restaurants. There wasn’t a soul in sight.
On our way home we actually passed an open convenience store and everyone got so excited. We stopped, mostly to stock up on junk food, but I think we wanted and needed to see other people. At that point, we were feeling pretty alone. There were a few people inside. I remember meeting one couple that had stayed to keep an eye on their restaurant. We told the kids to get whatever they wanted. We were sick of them whining about the fact that we were the only people who stayed and how we should’ve gone, too. Believe me, the people who did leave went through hell trying to get out of town and I did us all a huge favor by not joining everyone else. We spent $60 on junk food before heading back home and that shut them up for a while.
In the end, the storm took a turn east more towards Louisiana making landfall as a category 3 and all we got was some heavy rain and winds. There were some branches down in the yard, but the storm barely even woke me up. I slept in the living room with the kids and when I heard the wind I got up and checked things out but then fell right back to sleep.
I was asked to drive by some houses after the storm to evaluate any damage, since most people were stuck out of town for a few days waiting to get back home and were anxious to know what, if any, damage they were coming home to. Fortunately, no one had extensive damage, mostly just fallen branches and limbs.
The city has since worked on improving emergency evacuation routes but I don’t think most people have much faith in the system. For the most part, the next time we are encouraged to leave, I seriously doubt that most people will go willingly after their hellish experiences in 2005. It'll be like crying wolf, in my opinion. No one will ever believe the big one is actually coming.
As far as this latest storm goes, it doesn't sound too scary. I have candles on hand (always do) but don't anticipate needing them. Cassidy and Caden are at their Grandma’s and we’ve opted to leave them there. She lives farther from the coast than we do in a house made of cinder block. (That house isn’t going anywhere). I’m sure she’ll try to coax me into coming over, too, but I’ll just stay here with the dogs. I’m trying to persuade Lauren into staying the night here just because I'll feel better if she is with us. As a precaution, most people are off from work tomorrow so maybe I’ll have a few friends over tonight for a hurricane party! Of course I hope and pray that no one is injured or loses their homes and/or businesses. Really, all we ever want is just some heavy rain and a day (or two) off from work. Is that asking too much?
Here are some before (the calm before the storm) and after photos from Rita, in no particular order. (Notice the looks of sheer displeasure on the kids faces).