Friday, September 23, 2005

Gettin' the hell outta Dodge.

We left Beaumont at about 9:30 last night. There are about 300,000 people in the Beaumont-Port Arthur area, and only one hurricane evacuation route. And it narrows to one lane each way in places. Sometime Thursday someone at TexDOT realized that it might be a good idea to make both lanes run north (southbound folks got to use the shoulder).

By 10:00, we had almost reached the mall, which is about 3 miles from my house. 2:30 a.m. found us approaching Woodville, about 50 miles from home. But the reports on TV said traffic started moving once you got past Woodville. And it did. For a while.

It seems that a lot of people couldn't find a gas station with anything to sell and set off with less than full tanks. There were a lot of gas stations along the way that still had gas, but where ever one was, traffic slowed to a crawl for miles. And that was pretty much the story of the trip from Woodville to Lufkin.

Lufkin is about a hundred miles from home, and about half way to Tyler, which is where we were going. That was another huge bottleneck. That's where the road I was taking--Route 69--meets up with I-59, and I-59 was full of people leaving Houston. I finally got through at about 6:00 a.m.

Once past Lufkin, things got a lot better. The gas station bottlenecks were fewer and fewer, and traffic actually started to go speeds resembling the speed limit. But for some reason, after spending so long going so slow, people seemed to have forgotten how to drive normal speeds. All along the way, even where the speed limit was 65, there were lots of people who couldn't seem to bring themselves to go above 40.

Anyway, the sun rose somewhere around Jacksonville, and we arrived in Tyler in time to catch the morning rush hour. We reached our destination at 8:00 a.m.

Now here's the good part: compared to other people I've talked to, we made unbelievably good time. A friend who left for Dallas at 1 o'clock yesterday afternoon called this morning. She had only made it as far as Livingston. Livingston is mostly north and a bit to the east of Houston. It's 87 miles from Beaumont. She was almost out of gas and there was no gas to be had anywhere. And, of course, the roads are packed with tens of thousands of other people who have been on the road for 18 hours and are out of, or nearly out of gas. And this was one of the official evacuation routes. TexDOT is supposed to be sending fuel trucks.

And here's the bad part: This morning's storm tracks predict that Rita will make landfall at Port Arthur as a Category 3 storm. The eye should pass over Beaumont early Saturday morning. Beaumont is only about 30 miles inland, and it's still supposed to be a strong Category 3 at that time. Unless the storm makes some last minute adjustments, the storm surge will flood all of Port Arthur and a good bit of Beaumont.

The storm surge shouldn't make it to my house (the maps say it would take a Category 5 storm for that to happen), and even with the storm surge and backed up bayous, it probably won't dump enough rain to flood my house, but there are lots of tall pines in the yard that I've heard are prone to breaking in half when the winds get above 80mph. There are nine of them in my yard, and similar numbers in the neighbors' yards.

I wonder what I'm going to come home to.

I'm starting to get a little worried about this.

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Blogger Laurie said...

Thank God you made it! We're in Arkansas. My sister-in-law's mother's house in Jasper just got hit by a pine tree. I hope your house is okay.

Saturday, September 24, 2005 9:29:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...


I'm glad you're someplace safe. I wish I'd never left. I really can't stand not knowing whether I have a house to go home to. It's driving me freakin' crazy. All I want is to get back and start putting things right. But from what I've read, the BASTARDS (e.g., Carl Griffith) are going to try to keep us out until THEY decide we can be allowed to go back to out own houses.

I hate them.

I hate them all.

Sunday, September 25, 2005 2:29:00 AM  

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