Hurricane Rita 2005.What an incredible, insane mess.With reports on the radio of an enormous category 5 storm headed right for Houston came pleads to evacuate.And evacuate we did.We left at 3pm on Wednesday, heading west on I-10.We spent 11 hours in traffic, nearly ran out of gas, and traveled a total of 72 miles before turning around & coming home.After siphoning all the gas out of our 2 other cars into our Suburban (all the gas stations were closed), we tried again Thursday.These pictures are from our trip that day, north on I45 from Houston to Dallas.We left at 8am, arrived at 3am in Dallas, for a total of 19 hours in the car.Fortunately, the storm weakened and didnít hit Houston directly.Next time, most of these people will probably do what I will.Stay home.Better to weather a storm at the house than on the side of the freeway.

 

The traffic went on for as far as you could see.

 

We were dead stopped, with plenty of time to get out & walk around.

 

We were stuck in the hov lane.Concrete barriers prevented us from escaping.

 

The main lanes were actually inching along sometimes.We were at a dead stop.

 

It was hot.The radio said it was 96 degrees, but it was probably more on the concrete.We only had a couple of bottles of water.We even made the dog drink out of a small cup.

 

A lot of people were pushing their cars to save gas.The feeder was also stacked up.

 

There was plenty of time to get out & walk the dog.

 

Or play a game of catch.

 

Or listen to the radio.

 

Some people started taking drastic measures.Like going the wrong way on the opposite feeder.It was a fine idea until the cops made these trucks take a U-turn.

 

By the time they opened up the southbound lanes to northbound traffic, people were anxious.There was a mad dash as cars jockeyed for position on the new road.

 

But even these new lanes didnít move too fast.Top speed, maybe 10mph for much of the way.

 

By nightfall, you could see long rows of white lights into the darkness.Notice both sides of the freeway are headed north.

 

There were only a few gas stations open along the way.The lines went on forever.

 

From what I hear, trucks came up the freeways and gassed up all the stranded cars, and busses came and picked up anyone whose car had broken down.I donít know how thatís possible, but thatís the story.A friend counted over 300 abandoned cars on the way back to town in one section of hiway.If Rita had traveled on her predicted course, who knows how many hundreds or thousands of people would have had to seek shelter under a bridge, or behind a tree, or under an awning.There has got to be a better way than this.Thank God noone died.Well, except for that bus full of nursing-home patients that blew up.I didnít actually see that, except on the news.We saw plenty of police cars & ambulances speeding by on the south lanes before they were open, and a few tried to squeeze through the traffic, but I have no idea where they were going.Always over the horizon.

 

Next time?I just donít know.Iím not sure you can call the evacuation a success when the storm didnít even hit Houston.We spent over $300 on just gasoline alone, when we could find it.Next time, Iím for darn sure going to bring a few extra gallons of gas, leave the dog home, and pack at least 25 gallons of ice water.It was misery, it really was.But, the story has a good ending, at least.No damage to our property, weíre all alive, and we can all remember the worst traffic jam in the history of the world.Itís always good to have stories to tell.

 

-Mark