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MirrersTrucking

The not so organized Hurricane Rita Evacuation

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I was reading through another thread, and someone mentioned the hurricane Rita evacuation fiasco. I'm positive that I am not the only one that is still amazed at the chaos that ensued. Me personally, I was living north of Houston off of 59, and it was 3:30am, I was heading southbound in order to get to work. As soon as I got on 59, I noticed the northbound lanes were full of stopped cars, and there were tons of people just standing in the median the whole 6 miles I rode on the freeway. I have never seen anything quite like that, before or since. (Although, in 2001 Allison had the NB lanes of 59 closed just north of Humble, and as I was heading southbound, I was startled by 2 18 wheelers going north in the left lane of the southbound side at the San Jacinto river bridge... But that is a story for another thread) :-)

So basically the point of this post is, what were your thoughts and what strange things did you see during the hurricane Rita evacuations?

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Ah yes, right turn Rita. Wasn't that just absolute craze. I think it was mostly the fault of the thousands of people who decided to wait until the last minute to leave. (they had been issuing advisories for an impact somewhere near the upper texas coast since the previous week) Then again I wouldn't know THAT much about the whole thing, especially since I was just a kid. (a weird kid who followed hurricane seasons closely) 

I remember that bus that caught on fire on the freeway, that was an unfortunate event. 

My family decided to stay in town and weather it out (pun intended) it turned out to be less of a monster than it was made out to be since it made a right turn and went for the LA-TX border. 

Didn't they at one point make the southbound 45 lanes, into northbound lanes? 

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Oh yeah, the contra flow!!! I forgot about that! I remember that bus catching fire just outside of Dallas, that was terrible. We did get some pretty strong winds and damage in the Splendora area that I thought was bad...until hurricane Ike in '08. I suppose everyone seen what Katrina did to New Orleans, so when Rita was coming, everyone attempted to flee...lol my grandpa even evacuated, and he lived in Livingston!

Edited by MirrersTrucking
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Well, some panic was to be expected after Katrina and Rita was the most intense tropical cyclone ever observed in the GOM (per Wikipedia).  So yeah, it's easy to look back after the "miss" and say we were all dumb but at the time it was scary stuff.  There were certainly people well inland that had no business evacuating, though - myself included

 

As for me, I was living @ Camden midtown and was debating leaving.  My roommate was headed north on 59 and called me to tell me there wasn't any traffic, so I went ahead and left (with my then-girlfriend, now wife).  Of course once we were on the road he called back to say he hit a wall of cars at the beltway but by then we were committed.  This was before widespread smartphone/Google maps days of course...  We were lucky in that my wife had a detailed Texas Atlas and Gazetteer that showed all of the back roads, so we got off 59 somewhere near Cleveland and wound up making it to Tulsa in 10 hrs or so - this was during the peak of the evacuation, too.  Once we figured out which exit to take off 59 it took us about an hour or so to go that last mile, which was more than enough support for us to decide to get off the main road

 

 

Edited by OkieEric
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I don't know if you would remember, but Katrina was headed straight for us until it took the right turn into New Orleans.

 

Nope I didn't know that lol 

I guess thats true with the disaster in New Orleans people weren't going to take this hurricane lightly, especially since they projected landfall as a major hurricane. 

Man time has flown by. I do recall some of my family evacuating to Lufkin, thought most stayed in town. 

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I'm retired now, but I was working at KUHF 88.7 when Rita hit Texas. As the storm took aim at Houston, my wife and I got up at my usual time of 3AM so I could drive from Copperfield to the station at UH, while she hit the road for Lufkin in east Texas to stay with our daughter. I worked all that day on storm preparation stories and the big story of the massive traffic jam. I came home that night and got up next morning at 3AM and called my wife on her cell phone.

 

24 hours after leaving our house, she was still on the road stuck in evacuation traffic only a hundred miles from home. Absolutely true. She finally got to our daughter's house in Lufkin around 6AM that morning. We still talk about the time it took her 27 hours to drive 130 miles from Houston to Lufkin. It took her a long time to be able to laugh about it.

 

My most vivid memory of the storm itself was all the roof damage on houses all over our neighborhood. Oddly, our house in Copperfield West Creek Village was the only one on our street that had NO roof damage. None. And the satellite dish on our roof was still in place and working. I'm still amazed by that. This experience was the last straw for us. I started planning for retirement, and when I did retire in 2010 we moved as far away from Houston as we could get - Lufkin. 

 

Edited by FilioScotia
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It took me about 18 hours to get to Lufkin from Houston during the Rita evacuation, but I wound up getting off of the multi-lane parking lot that was 59 and taking a detour on the backroads into Coldspring - I was about to run out of gas and knew there was no way I'd be able to get any near the major highways. Fortunately, a tanker truck showed up to replenish the supply of gas at the Brookshire Bros. I stopped at after I'd waited in line at the pumps for about half an hour or so with a couple dozen other folks. 

 

Ironically, Lufkin took a bigger hit from Rita than Houston did - my neighbors in Houston said our street never lost power, but it got knocked out for two days at my aunt's house in Lufkin where we were staying. There were quite a few trees down as well, at least in the areas of Lufkin that we ventured into the day after the storm had passed.

 

I think almost everyone that experienced the Rita evacuation said "screw it, I'm staying put" when Ike came along. 

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My wife says she would have taken a back road to get to Lufkin but she was alone and doesn't know the back roads as well as I do. She ain't an east Texas girl. Had I been with her we would have jumped off 59 at the first sign of a backup.

 

You're right about Lufkin taking a bigger hit from the storm than Houston got. My wife still jokes that the damn storm followed her to Lufkin, and our daughter still blames her for bringing it. LOLL. As a fellow evacuee, I think you will agree that the storm damage and power outages plus thousands of refugees made life in Lufkin "interesting" for a few weeks.

 

We also said no way we would evacuate next time, and when Ike hit we stayed home and rode it out.

 

Edited by FilioScotia

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It's been a long time, but I think we left just after the peak and headed towards Austin.  Took 6 hours total to make a 2.5 hour drive.  Most of that was getting to Hempstead.  After that it cleared up considerably as half the people peeled off to go to College Station.  Passing through Giddings they had the local police out directing everyone to keep on moving through town.  We waited out the storm and then came back on Sunday.

 

I had to look at the wikipedia article on Rita to refresh my memory, but I think we left Thursday night around 8pm or so.  Got to Austin about 2am.  Rita made landfall Saturday morning and we came back to Houston on Sunday.  After Rita I started looking around for a job with more flexability so we could leave way in advance, if needed.  We did that with Ike, leaving 3 or 4 days before expected landfall.  Like mentioned earlier in this thread, after Rita many people decided to sit Ike out rather than risk sitting in evacuation traffic.  I guess it's murphy's law that Rita mostly missed us and Ike hit us full-bore.  Afterwards I heard from co-workers about 24 hour trips to San Antonio and Dallas and started counting myself lucky that ours was only 6 hours.

 

We didn't have a gps at the time and with only memory and a fold up texas map we decided just to stick to the main roads.  While we were in Austin I bought a detailed Texas map book and kept it in the car until we bought a gps several years later.

 

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My roommate and I bought a keg for the long weekend.

 

I have a few pics from my sidekick phone.

 

The sky as outer rings passed.

post-10350-0-58112200-1445207179_thumb.j

 

Westheimer at Winrock during rush hour.  Friday I think.

post-10350-0-02053300-1445207180_thumb.j

 

Walmart canned goods isle

post-10350-0-16017600-1445207179_thumb.j

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Wow crazy, I definitely remember waiting for an hour and a half for gas at the Walmart in Conroe after Ike, we were smart for Rita as we filled everything up before the storm hit. Guess since Rita didn't hit us too hard, we got lax when it came time for Ike 3 years later.

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What kinda sucked for me was the fact that I worked at the Wally World distribution center, so that meant loading tons of water and canned goods while being required to work the whole time the storms are approaching and your worrying about your family...glad I finally wised up and got a real career.

Edited by MirrersTrucking

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I just never understood why anyone in Houston would even think about evacuating. People along the coast for sure but not people 50 miles inland. I know people 75 miles away in the Woodlands that left town. I'm sure people were worried about flooding but it doesn't take a hurricane to flood Houston. Did the news media create a mass hysteria or are people just that paranoid? 

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I just never understood why anyone in Houston would even think about evacuating. People along the coast for sure but not people 50 miles inland. I know people 75 miles away in the Woodlands that left town. I'm sure people were worried about flooding but it doesn't take a hurricane to flood Houston. Did the news media create a mass hysteria or are people just that paranoid? 

 

I totally agree.  Why would you leave if you're not in an evac zone?

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I just never understood why anyone in Houston would even think about evacuating. People along the coast for sure but not people 50 miles inland. I know people 75 miles away in the Woodlands that left town. I'm sure people were worried about flooding but it doesn't take a hurricane to flood Houston. Did the news media create a mass hysteria or are people just that paranoid? 

 

Bill White scaring people didn't help.

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/23/us/nationalspecial/miles-of-traffic-as-texans-heed-order-to-leave.html

Mr. White and the top official in Harris County, Judge Robert Eckels, admitted that their plans had not anticipated the volume of traffic. They maintained that they had not urged such a widespread evacuation, although only a day earlier they invoked the specter of Hurricane Katrina, and told residents that the "time for waiting was over."

 

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I totally agree.  Why would you leave if you're not in an evac zone?

 

I grew up on the gulf coast and have sat through enough hurricanes to know it's more fun to watch it on tv than to see it in person.

 

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I just never understood why anyone in Houston would even think about evacuating. People along the coast for sure but not people 50 miles inland. I know people 75 miles away in the Woodlands that left town. I'm sure people were worried about flooding but it doesn't take a hurricane to flood Houston. Did the news media create a mass hysteria or are people just that paranoid? 

 

The answer can be mostly summed up in one word: KATRINA

 

Hurricane Katrina was a very recent memory (what, like only several weeks or a month prior?) All the images on TV, all the images in newpapers and magazines.That was VERY fresh on people's minds, and folks were thinking the same thing might happen in Houston. Who would want to risk being in town, potentially under water, not able to get away, etc. Plus, there was no history of what happened on the roads and highways. No inkling that the highways could clog up and turn into parking lots, and the gas running out, etc. Yeah, in retrospect we see things different, but for those who remember, it was just a natural response and reaction to recent news.

 

Another big factor was that the hurricane kept gaining strength. It reached Category 3, then Category 4, and at one point even Category 5 (the strongest level). Most long-time Houstonians only had experience with Hurricane Alicia, and though only Category 1, that one went straight through the center of Houston. Obviously, a Category 5, 4, or even 3 through the city would spell big trouble. So even though the roads were so bad, a lot of people who planned to stay changed their minds and wanted to get out of town. Any chance of getting farther from the coast seemed not only smart, but absolutely necessary.

 

So there's nothing strange or hard to figure out. There was no hysteria, and no media conspiracy. Just a lot of factors that came together to create a unique situation. And it's not like anyone could predict what would happen. We're talking about hurricanes after all. Now, if anyone knows how to forecast the exact movement and actions of hurricane, make sure to contact me, I've got a business opportunity for you ;-)

 

Personally, my girlfriend at the time and I got away from the city just on the edge of the roads/freeways becoming clogged. Really, even another 15 minutes would have been much worse. It turned out to be a great vacation from work though. My girlfriend's vehicle got messed up where we stayed, deep in East Texas, so we had to stay until that got fixed, which turned out to be about a week. It was a lovely time, and it still is a great memory. 

 

Edited by Gurgis
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Us folks in the evacuation zones were the ones that got screwed. After helping my wife secure and boarding up her store in Galveston, we did the same for our home on the mainland and sat back. Evacuations for Zones 1 and 2 were underway, when we both looked each other and said "what do you think?" Having a 90 year old mother living with us we decided to go. My plan was to caravan my family to Shreveport to another family member's house, and then race back to Houston to be at my job in the medical center and rid it out. We spent 20+ hours on the road and where only at Splendora when I decide to wave off. My son found gas off of the main road in Splendora as he was driving the family gas guzzler (95 Tahoe) and needed it sooner than the rest of us. We spent the night in the Woodlands at a co-workers house, then drove over to Brenham to my step mom's house ("Awkward" since we had my mom with us). 

I'm telling you it is a humbling feeling having all of your possessions that you could cram into 4 vehicles stuck out on the freeway with thousands of other people, not knowing what will happen, and not being able to control the situation.

 

Not enough time can ever to pass to make this a "laughing" memory.

 

 

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Katrina was crazy bad but there's a big difference between Houston and New Orleans. When more people die as a result of the "evacuation" then the storm itself then there's a problem. Hopefully people learned their lesson. Maybe I'm just used to storms having lived on the Texas and Louisiana coasts for most of my life. Back when we lived closer to the coast we would evacuate to Houston for hurricanes. I've never worried about about storms this far inland except for the flooding aspect but that seems to have become a common occurrence with any area rainfall.

With that in mind I hope Meyerland residents don't have to go through what they did earlier this year as the remnants of Patricia hits us in the coming days. 

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I agree, it's been 10 years, and I didn't evacuate, but I still get chills thinking about how erie and depressing the whole situation was. I don't know if I could ever joke or laugh about Rita...or Ike as a matter of fact.

Edited by MirrersTrucking

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