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« RITA: Well, Dang. | WILLisms.com | RITA: Houston Hurricane Ghost Town. »

RITA Traffic Jam: It's Amazing How Little We Drove Today.

We drove and drove and drove and drove. And went nowhere.

Kristel (my wife): "It's amazing how little we drove today."

We spent roughly 6 hours heading EAST on Interstate 10. And under an hour back home. We passed refineries and chemical plants, pristine and beautiful marshlands, beaches, beer factories, and hundreds of gas stations with no gas.

15 miles WEST of Beaumont, we made an important decision. We determined, via cell phone calls to people in the know, and listening to Fox News and The Weather Channel on Sirius radio, that Rita may head much further EAST than anticipated. Maybe.

Meanwhile, looking at all those empty lanes heading back into Houston was tempting. And since our house, at the regular speed limit, was only an hour away, we turned back. And now we're in our home. Our neighbors did the same thing.

We wouldn't have, in our wildest imaginations, wanted to go to Louisiana in this situation. But we had a wedding to attend, of a good buddy from high school. And I am very sad I won't make it for that. Not just to see him, but all my high school buddies.

A few observations:

1. There were TONS of cars with Louisiana license plates heading into Louisiana. I am pretty sure if Katrina had not sent all of those folks our way to begin with, the roads would have been far less congested.

2. Some Houston roads are as empty as I have ever seen them. Others are jam-packed.

3. This may very well turn a lot of people off from evacuating in the future. Katrina scared people into evacuating, but this kind of road gridlock (and running out of gas, stalling out, and so on) is just not worth it for most people. Meanwhile, if Rita does veer EAST to Beaumont or Lake Charles, all those millions of Houstonians will feel great that they've dodged the bullet, BUT they may think "why go through all of this?" next time around.

4. I now know what it feels like to evacuate for a hurricane. For 6 hours today, I was an evacuee. AND what it is like to go against the flow of a major evacuation.

5. Many people were trying to save gas by turning their air conditioners off. It's 100 degrees and about 100% humidity. Yeah. We had our air conditioner blasting.

6. In the future, we'll hopefully have better information. Information is priceless out there in the middle of nowhere, with bugs the size of sparrows buzzing around. It would have been great to have internet-enabled gadgets in the car. GPS. Information about where gas is available. Information about how traffic is, here and there, and everywhere. Information about everything. I missed my Wi-Fi connectivity. Information is power, baby. I was lucky to have Sirius radio and two working cell phones. But it would have been better to be able to look up the hurricane tracks ourselves. It would have been nice to have more information about the ridiculous traffic, and what the local news stations in Louisiana and East Texas were telling people. That way, we could have made our decision to return sooner. I have a feeling thousands of folks may be

We're glad about our decision. It was a stressful day. A stressful night. We packed up so much of our stuff. We prepared our home for the hit. And we sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic for far too long. It was just unreasonable.

Our new plan, depending on the storm track, will be to head to Kristel's parents' house in NW Houston. I think we'll be fine. Thanks for all your prayers and support and well-wishes.

Posted by Will Franklin · 22 September 2005 02:10 PM


Take it easy man and good luck.

Posted by: WunderKraut at September 22, 2005 03:27 PM

Well, good luck anyway whatever you decide.

Posted by: Kevin at September 22, 2005 03:37 PM

I think you all should go to your parents!... WE have lots of room and we want you!...

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at September 22, 2005 04:39 PM

"Will, list to your mother...."

Yeah, I just got us de-linked didn't I?
Be safe and take a few good pictures.

Posted by: Rob B. at September 22, 2005 05:02 PM

that was supposed to be "listen." I hate it when i hit "insert" on the keyboard.

Posted by: Rob B. at September 22, 2005 05:03 PM

HA! ... Yes Will listen to your mother!...

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at September 22, 2005 06:37 PM

Sorry you missed the wedding! Maybe you will get to see all your buddies again for a reunion???

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at September 22, 2005 08:09 PM

>4. I now know what it feels like to evacuate for a hurricane. For 6 hours today, I was an evacuee.

Na--- Ya gotta be at it for at least 600 hours to get the full experience. ;-)


Posted by: Paul at September 23, 2005 01:37 AM

Deja vu. Some 25 years ago (August 1980), my (former) wife and I, along with our then-two kids, evacuated from Houston (actually, from League City, which means we had to drive up to Houston, around the beltway, and then head west) when Hurricane Allen--a Cat 5 storm--appeared to be heading straight for us. It took us 4 hours to travel about 40 miles, at which point we got back to a normal rate of speed heading west from Houston on I-10.

Our plan was to go check into a motel in Austin for a few days, but once we were heading west, we decided instead to use some of my accrued vacation and spend a week in San Diego, our mutual home town. Good thing, too: Allen jinked west at the last minute, missed Houston entirely and went _right through Austin_, spawning a massive tornado and flooding that caused over $100M in damage (cf. http://www.reference.com/browse/wiki/Hurricane_Allen).

Hope y'all are doing well; dodging hurricanes is a crap-shoot under the best of circumstances. ..bruce..

Posted by: Bruce at September 23, 2005 04:50 AM

There seems to be a pattern developing. The Radio Talk Show host in Sacramento this morning was talking to a woman in Galveston who was staying with her husband and yellow lab. I hope it all works out for the best...but if not, it is surely Bush's fault.

Posted by: Ralph at September 23, 2005 09:26 AM

Or... KARL ROVE'S FAULT! Those evil doer's!

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at September 23, 2005 11:27 AM

My family & I got caught up in the evac nightmare. 17 hours of going nowhere. I have a sidekick, and it was invaluable for getting info from the net. I watched all the updates as they happened (text & still graphics). I knew exactly when & where to break from the pack. It got me to the only gas station anyone knew of. We managed to get out by the skin of our necks. They pushed us on a temp evac route which had no gas stations & was too long for most cars to make it before running dry. Once you we in, you could not get out for 17 hours!! I called it the 105 loop of death. I just knew we would run out of gas & get left stranded in the middle of nowhere. We lucked out at the gas station by 45 minutes. We waited in a line of 220 cars to get gas. Now I'm sitting in my popup in san marcos after driving non-stop for many hours. I've been up for over 72 hours now, and my trusty sidekick allows me to check on others with similar horror stories. BTW: if I had waited until the last minute, I would have made the route just fine. Anyone left by that time would have been out of gas, and on the side of the road.

Posted by: Mark at September 24, 2005 04:00 AM

9 hours, 11 miles, I-45. Then we turned around. It was incredible.

Posted by: Tim at September 26, 2005 03:38 PM