I wanted to take a moment to comment on Hurricane Rita. I live in Houston, Texas, and I gotta tell ya, we knew Rita was heading our way long before she got here. Thankfully, the most damaging part of the storm missed our immediate area in Northwest Houston, but other communities weren't so fortunate.
My issue is this: I've been listening to the media, not necessarily our local news as they reported on the real happenings of our situation before during and after Rita. Where I am irked is the assumptions of the national news media and their pomous comments, verbal blasts, and unwelcomed advice on how Houston handled itself during this serious situation.
Our freeways were jammed. Of course they were. We have a few million people who live in this city, not to mention the lower lying cities closer the Gulf. We ran out of fuel. Our local grocery stores ran out of water and some food items. We lost electricity in many of our cities, some only for a few hours, and others are still without power. Here's my complaint - We, Houston and all the cities in Texas affected by Rita, had a week's time, miminum, to ready ourselves and get outa town. Some of us had to work, granted. I was one of them. Others were able to pack up and leave early. I was one of the lucky ones who left on Wednesday evening, sat on the freeway (Hwy 59 North from Humble northbound) for 9 hours and traveled a whopping 40 miles. I was able to get fuel at a station near Livingston, Texas, slept for a few hours on the side of the road, and made it out of town to the safety of my in-law's home in the midwest. (Consider it a working vacation.)
Others chose to ride the storm out at home, and yet others were not able to make it out of town because they waited too long and fuel ran out. They found themselves stranded on the highways. My husband left a day after I did, hit the highway, then realized his dilema (13 hours on the freeway and 20 miles behind him!). Not wanting to be one of the stranded, he chose to turn around and head back home and brave the storm.
What's my point? The national news media did not live this event. They were not here to see how very well-executed and orderly this evacuation was. I watched every day as mandatory evacuations were issued first for areas closest to the Gulf, then areas inland according to "zones" relating to their proximity to the Gulf. I was amazed at the effacacy of the authorities and proud at how we as Texans handled ourselves in the wake of this potential disaster. No-one can presume to know how they would handle evacuating an area as large as Houston and Galveston under such circumstances. We were faced with the third largest hurricane in Gulf history, and potentially the largest hurricane to hit Texas ever. We did a damned good job, folks! I want to commend those who were in charge of the evacuation from the highest to the lowest (us, the evacuees).
One more thought - I want to comment on the wonderful people who were there to help us along our evacuation routes. There were folks standing outside along the roadsides north near Lufkin, Cleveland and areas higher, in the wee hours of the morning, who were offering free coffee, hot dogs, hamburgers, etc. Others were charging only $1.00 for these items. It was truly heartwarming to see these communities come together to help those of us fleeing from harm.
We slept on the roadside the first night, as ambulances and police cars roared by on the highway shoulders, sirens blairing, but the second night we took a room in Tennessee somewhere and were offered a tremendous discount for being evacuees. I didn't ask for any discounts; the clerk saw my address was in Houston. God bless her. She made every effort to be helpful and caring in what was a very distressful time for myself and my children. If you get a chance, visit the Budge Inn and Suites. Wonderful people, folks!
Okay, I'm stepping down off my soapbox. Just wanted to share my experience as an evacuee and very proud Texan!