The end of the world? No... just the next day.
They blame us.
Published on September 23, 2005 By Lotherius In Current Events
I spent 22 hours in the hell of I-45 yesterday with my 84 year old grandmother. We made it to Dallas just fine.

However, I'm catching up on the news this morning, and I'm seeing a thread of thought that is REALLY PISSING ME OFF.

Emergency officials in Brazoria County (South of Houston) are blaming Houston/Harris County for causing the gridlock conditions by inciting unecessary panic. There are officials blaming evacuees for leaving when they didn't have to, for example, those whose homes are outside the storm surge zone.

My apartment & my grandmother's home is on the very edge of the storm surge zone for a strong Cat 4 storm. It survived Carla in 61 (before I was born), it survived Alicia in 83. It flooded, but not badly, in Tropical Storm Allison in 2001.

I hear people talking about blaming this 'mass panic' on the results of Hurricane Katrina.

So basically what I'm hearing is - people shouldn't have evacuated outside of storm surge zones, and the blame solely lies on those who did.

BULLSHIT. All of it.

I was 9 years old when Hurricane Alicia hit in 1983. We lived in Tarkington, TX, which is significantly inland, and we lived in the highest part of the county. We stayed and rode it out like a lot of people did - after all - it was only a category 3.

I remember the howling wind, the driving rain, and the tornados. One of them lifted the edge of the roof on our house, creating a leak that we couldn't afford to fix for years. Our property (8 acres) was litterred with downed trees. I remember going outside when the eye crossed over, in the calm, and seeing dozens of trees on their sides.

What I remember most, however, was 17 days without electricity. Thankfully, we had a generator to run our water well and deep freeze where we had all our frozen meats (from calves & hogs we raised for our own use).

17 days without electricity. We survived, but it was not easy.

Now I have an 84 year old grandmother, who lives in Houston, much on the edge of storm surge Zone C. They tell me a Cat 4 or 5 hurricane is coming. As of yesterday morning they were predicting a DIRECT HIT on Houston. Alicia in 83 was only a Cat 3. I thought about my grandmother sitting in her house in Houston, with no power for 17 days, and no clean water (since we have neither a well or a generator), no air conditioning. I thought about my 84 year old grandmother dodging breaking windows under the force of hurricane winds (we were unable to get plywood to cover the windows, the lumberyards were out). I knew she would not survive those conditions.

I didn't need no fucking Katrina, or no fucking mayor Bill White, to make me get the fuck out of Dodge. A lot of people in Houston agree with me. No offense to people from NoLa intended, but we aren't a city full of poor blacks with no options. We are (somewhat) better educated, and many of us remember Allison's destruction in 2001 only too clearly - and it was ONLY a tropical storm! Many remember Alicia's destruction in 1983 - it was one of the most expensive hurricanes for decades until the 90s which saw an explosion of storms - and it was only Cat 3.

We weren't stupid. We knew that staying in the face of a category 4 or 5 was potentially suicide EVEN OUTSIDE THE STORM SURGE ZONE.

Now we have the fucking 'officials' blaming us for panicing. Well FUCK THEM.

I made it through the gridlock - but barely. If I'd run out of gas - if my sister hadn't been there with her gas can of 5 extra gallons - my 84 year old grandmother would probably be dieing of heat exhaustion today sitting on that god damned highway.

Yes, the evacuation was the largest in history. But I'll fucking tell you what - the attitude of every soul we saw on that highway restored at least a little bit of my faith in humanity. Those people were literally our neighbours. We got to know their cars, which cars were convoying with others, who had water, who was running low on gas, whose cars we overheating.

A woman at 1960 & 45 opened her ShurGard storage unit so that travellers could use the bathroom and get fresh water. It was the only bathroom break we would be able to have for 14 hours.

People drove politely, let other cars out when they needed out, and in when they needed in. In the entire 22 hours, I saw NOT ONE SINGLE ACCIDENT. Others reported accidents, but it seemed that overall, people drove much more courteously than I'd seen in years.

My neighbours on that freeway and I shared something that I cannot explain. A sort of comaraderia. Also we shared the knowledge that no matter how bad it was on the freeway, it would be WORSE being in the face of that storm. We knew it was rough, and we expected it to be rough.

What disappointed us, what let us down, were the lies. We were being constantly lied to. The radio told people there were ALREADY relief vehicles patrolling the highways with gas for those who had run out, as early as 9 am I was hearing this. The people out of gas on the sides of the highway, wondered were these relief vehicles were.

We heard as early as 9am that contraflow lanes were being opened on I-45, but this didn't happen for hours. We were being told "stay put, relief is on its way" but we were lied to - traffic went from 0mph to 1mph - hardly what anyone felt was relief.

My ex was gridlocked on US-59 while I was on I-45. By 11am I knew it was going to be the long haul. When she called me from US-59 @ FM 1485, I told her "GET THE HELL OFF THE HIGHWAY"... I gave her directions via FM 1485 - literally back country roads, and then her dad gave her directiosn from that route the rest of the way to Dallas on back roads. She reached Dallas 12 hours before I did, with plenty of gas because she managed to find gas still open.

Since I was stuck on I-45, it was farther to reach the alternate route. I didn't even reach the road she had taken where it crossed I-45 until 8:30 pm, by which time it was already overwhelmed as well. Thankfully that is when we met up with my sister and her can of gas which was needed later in the trip.

If the state had been honest, if the state had announced to people who were low on fuel that fuel was NOT coming to them in a timely fashion, instead of lying to them, perhaps people could have planned accordingly, or at least known what they were facing.

If the state had been honest and admitted that the major routes were overwhelmed, people could have taken to earlier routes EARLIER and spent less time sitting on the freeways.

But instead, they blame us, the evacuees. That is the way of politicians. They weren't out there on that highway, most of them. They don't know what it's like to move 100 feet in 2 hours, watching your fuel guage slip lower and lower, knowing you're still hours away from gas. They don't know what it's like to see people stranded, who you cannot help, because your gas is so precious to you that if you gave them gas, you wouldn't make it either. They don't know what it's like to be thankful that you brought water, cokes and a smoked brisket in your cooler. They don't know what it's like to feel GUILTY for having those things when you see others who don't. But you don't know how long you'll be on the road either, and if you start giving it away to those who didn't prepare, you would no longer have those things either. They don't know what it's like to feel guilty when you manage to get onto the contro-flow lanes and are going twice as fast as those in the mainlanes, because you are somehow "cheating" by going faster than your comrades. They don't know what it's like to have uninsured posessions. They don't know what it's like to be thanking the gods that you're driving an ex-cop car because it has heavy duty cooling and silicon hoses. They don't know what it's like to be the guy I saw in an 84 Plymouth minivan, driving with his hood open in a vain attempt to cool the engine.

We made it, my neighbours and I, well some of us, because we prepared and kept our heads cool under a crisis. Would that we could say the same for our politicians.

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