There is so much to tell of our evacuation from hurricane Rita, it is hard to know where to start. Last week Rita was a category 5 storm predicted to come on land in Freeport, TX and head north right over our house in Needville. We decided it was not safe to stay, so we hitched up the travel trailer and hit the road early Thursday morning. Our son drove behind us in the Tracker with the two dogs. It was the beginning of a very long day. An experience we will never forget.
My sister lives in Houston and was leaving too. We made plans to meet along the way and to eventually end up in Comfort, TX which is about 40 miles west of San Antonio. We expected traffic to be bad, but little did we know what was in store for us. We made good progress for a while and then we hit stop and go traffic that was more stop than go. It is no exaggeration to say we were inching along. We were lucky to be pulling a trailer so we could take bathroom breaks. Other people were searching out bushes and the few stores that were open were packed. We tried to keep in touch with my sister by cell phone. The system was overloaded and it was rare that we could get through. Text messaging worked and though cryptic at times, we could tell that our plans of meeting along the way would have to be abandoned. We continued on as did she, hoping to make some progress and to find some gasoline along the way.
We saw a lot of good and bad on our journey. One of the kindest things: a family had set up a table along the side of the road and was handing out free iced tea and water. One of the rudest and most dangerous things: people driving around the stopped line of traffic on the shoulder or in the wrong lane (we called them cheaters) and others fed up with it, pulling into the way to block them. We never saw a wreck, but I know there were some because we saw lots of ambulances.
Some more of what we saw in pictures:
Miles and miles of Texas at a snail's pace.
Very high temperatures. The highest we saw on our truck's thermometer was 108 degrees. When we were stopped in traffic, we had to turn off the engine to save gas. It was very hot! Some people could not use their air conditioning at all for fear of overheating their engine.
Long lines at gas stations. This station did not even have gasoline. People are in line simply because they cannot go any farther. They are hoping for a delivery of gas. At this point our guage is sitting at 1/2 tank. Every town we have been through was out of gas. There is no way to know if we can find gasoline anywhere. However, we can tell that traffic is moving well on I10 due to the fact that all lanes are now open in one direction. We decide to continue on and pray that we will find gasoline.
Smooth sailing...for a while. The contra-flow really helped traffic to move along. You can see the cars driving west in the east bound lane. A strange sight. We can even drive at normal highway speeds! The guy with his legs hanging out the window expresses how relaxed we feel now, because we were able to find gas for both vehicles. We had called ahead to a station we often stop at and were told they had gasoline. But, by the time we arrived they were out. We were down to 1/4 tank now--not enough to make it to Comfort. We decided not to get in line at the truck stop that had gasoline because there were about 200 cars waiting. We were afraid the tanks would be drained by the time it was our turn. Five miles later we found gas! Now we have enough to make it.
Contra-flow ends. Once again we hit stop and go traffic where I10 returns to two way traffic. You can see the cheaters crossing the median and generally causing dangerous situations for everyone. But, God is good and he gave us a beautiful sunset to take our mind off of the chaos.
In the end it took us 16 hours to travel a little over 200 miles. In normal situations it would have taken us around 4 hours. As for my sister, it took her 16 hours to drive 30 miles! This barely got her out of the city. She spent the weekend with friends near where we live. By this time, Rita had changed course and our area was out of danger.
We returned home yesterday. I don't think we even got a drop of rain here. It could have been so much worse. Our prayers are with those who were not so lucky. More tomorrow.