Saturday, September 24, 2005

On dodging bullets...

Rita sez "FACE!!! I'm going to go crap all over Louisiana again instead." All I can say is, we got extremely lucky. Houston city officials are now trying to keep the evacuees out of town to prevent a second deadly traffic jam. There is NO gasoline in or around Houston right now and the city is effectively closed for business. Aside from the cicadas, it's eerily quiet outside. The smell of barbecue is wafting through my screen door from somewhere in my neighborhood. It's nice, but after five days of sustained panic, the calm feels like a undeserved pardon that could be revoked at a moment's notice.

I don't blame anyone for fleeing. The TV coverage of Rita from outside Houston was scary as hell. I saw a report on BBC World News where a reporter was standing Downtown in the middle of an empty Travis Street saying, in his most ominous tones, "But what will America do without its oil capitol? Tomorrow we'll see!" CNN coverage was little better. Coverage from inside Houston was far more measured, but still enough to get me to pack my bags, despite my not being in an evacuation zone. And that night I discovered that every route of Houston was a hundred miles of gridlock. By late Wednesday, people were having heatstroke in their cars, running out of gas, burning out their engines, having to defecate on the medians.. There was a deadly bus fire on I-45 that killed 24 nursing home residents from Bellaire. And then the gas stations finally ran out of fuel and closed up, stranding hundreds of vehicles all over Houston's freeways. Here's a promise: the next time Houston has a CAT 5 hurricane bearing down on it, most of the people who evacuated are going to end up staying put.


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