Oh, I remember this feeling well.
Let's settle in for a story, dear reader. Got a beverage? Comfy chair?
Katrina, a category 3 hurricane, had hit on August 29, 2005 and my parents, located in Baytown, Texas, had escaped unscathed. In the 27 years they've lived in Texas, they've never really been deterred by hurricanes, and they've never really gotten motivated to evacuate. Mom always welcomed the excitement. We had survived Hurricane Alicia (category 3) in 1983 just fine. That was the worse hurricane since 1961 to hit Houston. I remember going to the bathroom and mom going with me while dad was yelling, "Be careful of the window!" People worry about the wind, the tornados and the flooding during a hurricane. They don't expect patio chairs to come flying through windows. Gotta watch for flying objects.
So, mom and dad didn't evacuate during Katrina. The storm was far enough east that they were only going to get a lot of rain. No biggie.
But then, on September 18, as New Orleans was still reeling from Katrina, Rita formed. And it looked like it was going to follow the same exact path as Katrina. Rita hit a category 5 status, as did Katrina, but weakened to category 3 as it hit landfall, as did Katrina.
I didn't get much work done that week. And I made no attempt to hide it. I stayed glued to Houston's Channel 2's website (even emailed them afterwards to thank them for their coverage), and Steve and I emailed each other, and my parents, and his family, continuously. And I've saved all of those emails. They still have the power to bring me to tears.
The following emails have been edited a bit, for content.
Sent: Monday, September 19, 2005 11:14 AM
Subject: just dandy
Check out the Updated Tracking map. They're thinking it's a B-line to Houston. I asked mom how much nagging would it take to get them to evacuate when it came down to it? I fear hurricanes now. And it's been a loooong time since Houston has had a direct hit. I told mom to go to the hill country, stay in a bed and breakfast, it'll be like a second honeymoon....or a first!
And poor New Orleans. Even if it doesn't hit them, they're going to flood again. Crap.
How are you?
RE: just dandy
Crap. Nobody needs this. N.O. is going to be on the wrong side of the pinwheel this time. They're going to get wet. I suspect your parents will be okay.
RE: just dandy
"I'm not too worried just yet. We'll wait until it gets over in the Gulf. If it stays on the path it's on now, we'll be okay. However, if it moves north very much, then yeah, our butts are out of here! Probably not the hill country though - more like up north somewhere. Umh, let me find out where the casinos are . . . ."
Sent: Wednesday, September 21, 2005 11:04 AM
"We had planned to sit it out if it stayed a category 3, however, got up this morning and found out that it had progressed to a 4 and might possibly be a 5 by the time it makes landfall. And we're just a little too close for a 5 - we're just across the Bay from Galveston. We're planning on going home tomorrow evening (Thur) getting a few hours sleep and trying to get out around 3:00 a.m. - hopefully can miss some of the traffic (not much, but some). Probably won't be able to find a room anywhere, but that's okay. We have a fairly good little mattress on the futon, so we'll just pull it off and stick it in the back of the SUV, grab some pillows, a cooler of water, sodas, cheese, bologna and bread and head north (knowing Stephen, it will probably be Shreveport, LA -- casinos!). (ha). My biggest concern is looters, so we're taking the handguns with us. But don't worry, we'll be fine. Will try and call everyone sometime over the weekend and let everyone what's going on."
I've talked to Dad and he said they may leave earlier. His shop is closed tomorrow and Friday. Mom said her office put out a memo saying "If you need to skip work Thur and/or Friday, you will be given one extra vacation day." That's so nice of them. Maybe once Rita hits a 5 tonight, they'll think about closing for the rest of the week.
And Shreveport is up by Dallas - north LA. I freaked out too when she said Louisiana.
Sent: Wednesday, September 21, 2005 1:33 PM
"Okay - I think we're taking off in the morning. Voluntary evacuating in Baytown right now and mandatory at 6:00 p.m. tomorrow evening."
Then an hour later:"Okay -- just wanted you to know that if you don't hear from us, don't worry. Most cell phones are not working already, and get this -- the banks are cutting off the ATM machines. Sure am glad we hord cash! Don't have much but at least enough to last a few days and maybe ATM machines 4 or 5 hours away are working in case we get desperate, huh? If we don't talk, we'll call you after we get to wherever we're going!"
Sent: Wednesday, September 21, 2005 2:14 PM
I just tried to call Dad's work and his cell and got the "We are unable to complete your call at this time". It has begun.
[que eerie, disaster movie music]
To: Mom&Dad; Don; Marcia; Ann; Mardie
Sent: Wednesday, September 21, 2005 2:34 PM
Subject: FYI -- Raechelle's parents in the path of Rita
Thought I'd let y'all know that Raechelle's parents are evacuating Baytown TX tonight or tomorrow morning. The phones are already busy and she can't get them on the phone at this time, so having e-mail has been good. Following this message are the Marsh updates I've been hearing throughout the day.
Sent: Wednesday, September 21, 2005 2:58 PM
Subject: Good luck, stay safe!
Hi Annette and Steve,
Everyone up here is thinking about you a whole lot, and we're on your side. We all think Rita is a bitch. Please be careful, be prepared, and stay safe. I bet Seattle doesn't look so bad right now, does it?
Hey, I'm the one who suggested heading west towards San Antonio to Raechelle, but now I think it might not be a good idea. It's a 7 hour drive in the best of times. Double that now? Quadruple that? It may still be the best way to go, but if you go that way and it sucks I just want to say it's not my fault. So there.
You're going to be fine. Just try to stay out of the wind and rain.
p.s from my sister Ann:
Thanks for keeping us in the loop. I'm sorry to hear that they even have to evacuate but I'm glad they are being safe and leaving. If they ever need a place to evacuate to we always have an open door for them!! (Ohio is a little closer than Washington) I do hope that it will miss their area! We will be thinking of them.
RE: Good luck, stay safe!
You make me cry. Ann makes me cry.
I've cried a lot today. This sucks.
But thanks :-)
RE: Good luck, stay safe!
Ann made my cry too. And now you just did. So we're even.
Except my parents are in Brier, so I know we're not really even.
Re: Good luck, stay safe!
Date sent: Wed, 21 Sep 2005 5:15:05
Thanks for the thoughts! I just wrote Bink and told her that my trip home was normal as usual, however, the traffic headed to S.A. and Austin (I-10 west) was WAY backed up, so no way I'm headed there! We're thinking I-10 east towards Louisiana (if we leave in the morning before anything happens) then cutting up and going north, towards Shreveport. So we'll see what happens. Might end up in WV - you never now. Oh, I think S.A. would only be about 4 hours normally, but earlier today it was a 8-10 hour trip to Huntsville - about a normal hour drive from Houston. Fun, huh? And yeah, Seattle doesn't sound TOO bad, but . . . . .
Sent: Thursday, September 22, 2005 10:55 AM
Subject: How *you* doin'?
You probably already know there's cause for a little bit of optimism coming from the Gulf this morning, at least as far as your parents' house his concerned. They're now projecting Rita's path might move east, putting the bay on the weaker side of the pinwheel. And she's weakened a little.
Thoughts? How are you?
RE: How *you* doin'? [Here's where I started to panic a bit.]
The storm is now the least of my concerns. Wendy got through to mom. They left their house at 6am. Four hours later they were in Liberty - 25 miles away. They have less than a half a tank of gas, they're not using the air conditioning to save gas, and the heat index is 97 degrees.
Here's a good map.
If you hover your mouse down in the right corner, you get the little box that blows the picture up. Baytown is just east of 146. Liberty is not really "out of the woods".
I'm worried about mom and the heat and them running of gas right in the path of the storm, once it makes landfall. I don't know why they're in Liberty. They should have been in Louisiana by now.
That's how I am. I'm getting nothing done and I'm not hiding it.
Sent: Thursday, September 22, 2005 2:01 PM
Wendy got through to mom again. She must just be laying on the phone hitting redial.
They're still in Liberty, on 90. There are blockades and police not letting them on 146 - we're not sure why. They still have a half a tank of gas because they just shut the car off when they're not moving. They have plenty of water and snacks. They're both in pretty good spirits, not annoyed, cranky or desperate. There are cops all over the place bringing gas and water to people, so if something does happen to mom, people are around. Wendy found them a room at the Marriott in Dallas, if they can make it there. Wendy's also talking about using frequent flyer miles and some cash to get them plane tickets out of Dallas to come here. If they could just go right, into Louisiana and up into Arkansas they'd be in the clear. Maybe fly them out of Little Rock....I don't know. I'll try and call them as well.
I feel a little better knowing they're not passing out in the car. I just wish they could get moving. 45 is moving north of Conroe - they finally got the southbound lanes open. I-10 seems to be moving a bit better west of Houston.
Possible hints to why they can't get on 146:
I wish I could do something for you or them. People here know I'm totally distracted and are starting to ask for updates. Ian, Matt, Allyson, and John send their best. Ian did an easy fix that I was supposed to do, but now I've got to put out a fire.
Thanks. No one here is asking me to do anything. John has popped his head in a few times and ask, how's traffic?
I just got through to dad. Nothing new. They're just sitting there, and he heard from his neighbor Mike (via cell phone) that they're not letting people back into Baytown. So people can't go anywhere. They can't get north and they can't turn around and go home. He said mom was doing okay. He made some jokes about not being about to get out and pee. It was good to hear his voice.
To: Don; Marcia; Mom&Dad; Mardie; Ann
Sent: Thursday, September 22, 2005 9:47 PM
Subject: Update: stuck in Livingston TX
It has taken Annette and Steve 14+ hours to go 90 miles. They are in Livingston TX and they're out of gas.
Polk county has a (1) fuel truck that is rendering assistance, and they know the Marsh's situation and location thanks to Raechelle and Wendy. Calls to her parents are going straight to voice mail right now, so we can't speak with them directly. Maybe they're sleeping and turned the phones off, maybe they're saving battery power since they're out of gas and can't recharge them, who knows. Raechelle and I have sent text messages with important phone numbers and what we know about where to find shelters (in Lufkin TX, ~45mi up hiway 59). We hope they and their phones are equipped to receive them.
Rita's projected landfall has shifted east, putting Galveston Bay and the Marsh home on the less-dangerous side of the pinwheel. However, Baytown is not letting residents back in, so going back home is not an option at this time.
That's all for now.
Steve y Rae
p.s. I looked over Raechelle's shoulder right now and she's looking up the latest earthquakes in WA on the USGS website. It's Natural Disaster Night here at MarshMiller headquarters.
To: Don; Marcia; Mom&Dad; Mardie; Ann
Sent: Friday, September 23, 2005 7:07 AM
Subject: Update: kindness of strangers
We were just awakened by a call from Annette. They're alive and reasonably well, and were able to sleep in a bed last night. The gas truck wouldn't come to them unless they were on the side of the highway with the hood up. But yesterday that was impossible on highway 59. Ordinarily a two-lane highway, 59 became four lanes northbound including both shoulders. There was nowhere to stop the car, so they pulled off the highway to look for gas.
They stopped in the parking lot of a nightclub in Livingston, called J & C Supper Club. Steve went into the bar to ask if they could sleep in the parking lot, and the owner took them home for the night. He set them up on the floor in the living room, but when his wife found out she was almost livid. Annette: "We're not going to take your bed." Host lady: "You either sleep in our bed or you're not staying here."
What were these kind folks' names? STEVEN MARSH and his wife RITA. No kidding.
(Steve Marsh and Steve Marsh)
This morning they called us from I90 west, at a gas station with no gas. Annette told Rae last night was the worst night of her life. Considering what she went through in the hospital a couple of years ago, that's saying something. While Raechelle was talking with Annette, we heard Steve say in the background "You want to go home with them?" Annette, sounding a little surprised and tired said "I'll go home with anybody." Apparently some elderly couple who lives near that gas station was out looking for someone to help, offering to put people up. Annette said she'd call Rae back in a couple hours.
Steve y Rae
(Bitsy & Ron - Saviors)
Sent: Friday, September 23, 2005 12:32 PM
Re: I'm sure you would have told me already....
> ...but have you heard anything new?
Nope nothing new. Still waiting for mom to call. I did find mention of a list of refueling yards in the Chronical. I couldn't find the list on the website, so I called someone, got passed around, then someone asked for my fax number and said they would fax me a list of the places. Haven't received it yet.
> How are you?
I'm okay. Talking to mom was good. It will get me through today, knowing that they're (for moment) safe and indoors. Lisa emailed to see how things were. She offered up her cable tv if I wanted to come over and watch things develop tonight. I think I do. I may just get in my sweats and head over and crash on their couch. They're going to be packing to leave tomorrow for the weekend, but I may offer to cook dinner for them, if they want. I'll let you know the plan.
And I'm leaving here at 3pm, maybe a smidge before, just to get out of here.
Sent: Friday, September 23, 2005 2:09 PM
Re: Houston mayor
> sounds like an asshole. Are you watching channel 2?
No, I haven't been watching.
Mom just called. They're holed up with the older (not elderly) couple along with 2 other families in an office building in Livingston. The host works for a company that bought the building, so they live upstairs and have an office and more living quarters downstairs. It sounds like a very solid building - not a trailer, whew.
They've slept most of the day, and mom said she just finished a bowl of homemade vegetable soup and cornbread. She says they may just stay after the hurricane. She also says they are very, very blessed. Karma baby. She is very proud of dad who kept his cool all day yesterday. But she said he was really beat at the end of the day - physically and mentally.
That's it for the update. They are safe, in one spot and ready to take on Rita. We may not talk again - I'm sure the cell phone towers will be down after the storm moves on.
Okay, gotta go email a couple of mom's friends.
To: Mom&Dad; Don; Marcia; Ann; Mardie
Sent: Saturday, September 24, 2005 2:00 PM
Subject: Update: alive and well
Raechelle just talked to Steve -- dialed up and got through on the first try. We were expecting cell towers to be down.
They're fine. They weathered the storm in Livingston and survived intact. They had generator power and have been watching TV coverage of the storm in air conditioned comfort. They're almost out of gas for the generator though, so they may have to rough it soon.
Steve is exhausted and Annette's back is giving her plenty of trouble, but they're hanging in there. Steve said Annette was upstairs watching a movie and laughing, which is a good sign. Steve is entertained by their hosts' 30-pound cat.
Power is out in Livingston, meaning the gas pumps aren't going to work even if there were gas to pump, so they're going to be there for another day or two. Steve went outside and looked at highway 59 and it's already packed with people coming home. He said there's no way he'd want to get back in that anyway. It's still blowing and raining pretty hard.
Reports from their neighbors at home in Baytown are that there was very little damage. A couple of boards blew off the fence. Still, despite a hellish Thursday Steve thinks they did the right thing by bugging out.
That's all for now.
Sent: Sunday, September 25, 2005 9:51 AM
Subject: YEA! We're Home.
Hi everyone -- we made it back home late Sat. evening. Took us 1 1/2hours to return, whereas it took us over 14 hours to get to where we holed up. Is that not ridiculous?? I think there's a problem with this evacuation procedure that they need to look at just a little more closely.
We were extremely fortunate that we got picked up off the street (literally) by a very nice family who were just absolutely wonderful and I have no clue how we will ever repay them. Since Livingston, Tx is in a dry county, we will probably buy them each a case of beer and take to them in the next month or so (ha). The morning of the hurricane was very rough, but I did manage to get out when it was calm and take a short video which I will send out later once I get all the photos downloaded on the computer. We lost electricity around 2:00 in the morning, which brings me to the reason why we left so early to come home last night.
Yesterday evening, a neighor had talked with a guy from the electric compnay and had been told that it was going to be about a week and a half before they would have the electric back on up there. So of course that meant that they were going to have to go to their daugher's which was another 2-3 hours north. So we had to make a plan - and that was that they siphoned enough gas from all the vehicles sitting around and put it in our truck to get us home (are we lucky or what!). Plus the fact that they were going to open the gates on the Livingston Dam before it broke which meant that the 2 routes back home would be closed down because in one particular section, they would be under water. Therefore, we got our stuff together in about 15 minutes and hit the road. Traffic was very heavy coming south but was moving at 50-60 miles per hour, so we were home in 1 1/2 hours. We have electircity and water, however, the subdivision has called and advised that they're about to shut off the water - have no clue why or for how long, but of course we both got in the shower very fast - no showers since Thur!
This was something that was probably the most traumatic in my life and I pray to God that I never have to go thru it again. Maybe we'll be retired and in WV before the next one hits! But thanks to all who were thinking about us and were saying their God Blesses.
We were very, very lucky this time. Everyone take care and love to all.
I don't think I've ever been so worried about my folks. Mom's remove-a-lung surgery didn't even scare me this badly.
The evacuation process was so much worse than the actually hurricane. I remember seeing coverage of the parked freeways and hearing reports of people dying from the heat. I think Houston learned a great deal from Rita, so here's hoping their evacuations are going better this time around.
However, the Weather Channel now tells me that gas stations are already running out of gas.
It's going to be a long couple of days.
And in case you're curious, mom and dad aren't evacuating. As mom says, they're hunkering down.
Good juju, please. Send them some good juju.