Friday, September 23, 2005


by Tom Bozzo

Oy. This was to have been, perhaps amazingly, my first full weekend of solo dad time with John in his nearly three years. That will have to wait a month or so: Suzanne was scheduled to go to Dallas to visit a friend who has a new baby, with Julia in tow, and there was just no way it was worth flying off into the fringes of the impending Hurricane Rita disaster. It feels like a found weekend up here with this morning's crisp early fall conditions.

But we're fortunate to have the choice not to fly into the storm. This is looking like a double disaster for one of Suzanne's cousins, who has been working as an OB/GYN resident at Tulane U. Hospital. Her parents live in the Houston area. Suzanne's uncle from Houston writes:
...To give you just a little background on Wednesday most gas stations were out of fuel and most stores were out of or running low of most commodities. I spent two hours trying to find gas and was lucky enough to see a tank truck pulling into a station. Pretty much the same thing at the grocery stores as the first 3 had no water, ice or bread. While visiting the 4th a truck arrived with these essentials and people stood in line to get them. I truly never thought I would see this kind of situation, especially in a city with a population of 4 million people.

Fast forward to Thursday and we load up 4 cars with 9 people and five dogs and all things necessary... We live in the northwest part of Harris county and are planning on taking I - 45 north. That is approx. 10 miles east of us and we head out. As we approach I - 45 traffic slows to a crawl and the last mile takes us about an hour. At this point we trying to stay in a caravan with me leading as you all know I'm the most competent navigator. The road at this point is 6 lanes northbound and traffic is crawling. However the good news is that approx. 15 miles north of this point they are opening all lanes, the terminology they use is contra-flow, to northbound traffic. We crawl for hour upon hour and six hours later have yet to reach the promised land of contra-flow. It's 100 hundred degrees and cars are dropping like flies because of various reasons, many have run out of fuel.

A couple of weeks ago I watched the horror that developed in New Orleans and really had a hard time comprehending how people could descend into that kind of behavior. After today I understand the process and how it comes about. As the afternoon progressed and people became more and more frustrated with the situation they began to do things that ordinarily you would not see. I sensed that with nightfall fast approaching we could soon be in real jeopardy. By this time we had all been split up not by choice but by the circumstances and communicating by cell phone was hit and miss because the systems were overloaded. [X] had been on the phone with his good friend [Y] in Dallas who was monitoring the situation on I - 45 and conveyed that the situation was the same all the way to Dallas which equated into a 3 day trip to reach there.

Given this dire scenario and after discussing the options we came to a consensus that returning home would be the best option. Of course as the leader of the pack I was able to exit first, even though a local law enforcement officer told me over his loudspeaker I should stop, yeah right. The southbound feeder road was open and I was back to the road we had entered I - 45 in less than 15 minutes, it seemed as if we were in a time warp. The entire trip took about 30 minutes and home never looked so good.

It's Thursday evening and you wouldn't know anything out of the ordinary is about to happen here, moonlit sky and still very warm. I know we made the best decision this afternoon as many people will be spending the night stranded in the middle of nowhere with a serious storm bearing down upon them. I hope this finds all of you doing well and you will say a prayer for all of us about to meet Rita.
Amen. We wish them a safe few days.
Certainly, what you said.

Has now been downgraded to Cat 3.

With the WaPo c*m*ng in Bush's mouth (and, yes, due credit to Duncan Black), it's painful to see the reality.

The flood in Houston in 2001 is the reason I started working on a Disaster Recovery project (and was therefore outside of NYC) on 10 Sep 2001, so I'm fond of preparation. But Rita, no less than Katrina, shows that preparation to be a logistical nightmare.

Or, as someone once said, "it's hard work." Would be nice to have professionals running the Fed effort. Ah, well. Maybe next decade.
Thanks for posting that on-the-scene report.
Phantom: You're welcome.

Ken: Yes, the reality is harsh. Thinking back to the bad old eighties, this has highlighted that with 30 min. to get out of the way of a nuclear attack, basically every city dweller would have been totally f***ed.
There used to be a billboard on the highway north of Boston, within sight of the Seabrook nuclear power plant, reading "Attention Mr. President: No Evacuation Possible." The reference was to a study that had showed there was no. bleeping. way that the Boston metro area could get out in the event of a nuclear accident.

Scared the hell out of me then. Still scares me now.
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