Friday, September 23, 2005

Rita notes 5:10 am

The weatherman is telling people not to leave after nine o'clock this morning. The Twelve-hour Rule says you ain't gonna make it, so stay where you are. KPRC is not running commercials. That has been advertised since yesterday...

Houston-area leaders have said that, if you are not in a mandatory evacuation area and have not yet left, stay home. Conditions on the road are not conducive to getting from here to there.
I raise my hand and testify to that, amen!
Today, I went 55 miles in 8 hours and burned half a tank of gas before coming to the awful conclusion that I was not going to reach my destination because I couldn't buy more fuel on the road.
I was part of a team the Chronicle dispatched to San Antonio as a kind of mirror operation. If the power went down at the mother ship in Houston, I was to be part of a group working out of the
San Antonio Express-News keeping the site updated.
I left the house in the Montrose area around 10:30 a.m. I'd heard on TV and radio traffic reports that U.S. 90A was a good alternative route to Interstate 10, which was a parking lot.
Unfortunately, everyone else heard the same tip. By the time I got onto that route -- which is comparatively narrow and dotted with lots of traffic lights -- it was as crowded as I-10.
I didn't see much of the rudeness and road road I heard about on other highways. Oh sure, you had the occasional jerk who tried to shoot ahead on the shoulder, and the equally jerky types to darted out to try to stop them, but overall people were kind to each other.
I stopped at a shopping center that was deserted in search of a restroom. The only workers there were the owners of a day care under construction. They were taping up the windows. I poked my head in and asked if I could use their restroom.
"I promise I won't tell anyone else!" I said, and they laughed. More importantly, they let me use their potty.
I told them I'd remember them -- the First Foundations Learning Center, near Sugar Land. Good folks.
My bosses wound up calling me back after we did the math and determined that, since I had burned half a tank of gas over 55 miles in eight hours -- and give there was no fuel to be purchased along the way -- that I wasn't going to make San Antonio.
It took me about 45-60 minutes to drive back the way I came, and maybe only a couple of gallons of gas.
What's cool about the Web as a medium is that you can update it from anywhere. But you do have to get there first.

The Red Cross is at work...

The Red Cross planned to open more shelters as far away as Waco on Friday for weary Houston and Galveston area residents seeking refuge from Hurricane Rita but unable to find hotel rooms.
Some reaching the central Texas city have been on the road as long as 18 hours.
“The police say there may be as many as 200 to 300 people circling the city trying to figure out what to do,” said Ramona Cooper, a Red Cross volunteer at the Bledsoe-Miller Recreation Center in Waco. Bledsoe-Miller and three others were at capacity, and the Red Cross was preparing to open two more early Friday:··Sol Ross on 1414 Jefferson in Waco.··Harrison Senior Center at 1718 N. 42nd in Waco.Together, they could hold about 150 more people.The Red Cross was also preparing to open a third facility, the Green Family Camp, in Eddy, Texas, south of Waco on Interstate 45.
“Some of the people coming in the wee hours just haven't found any lodging. Some are on a budget, but I think it's really a mixed bag,” said Cooper. “They are very pleasant and very appreciative. They just seem happy to be off the highway.Many of the children among the evacuees are apprehensive about what will happen because of what they have seen on television after Katrina struck New Orleans,“ she said.
At Bledsoe-Miller, which was full with 143 occupants, the children relaxed by watching television or coloring with crayons.
Most at the shelters don't know how long they will have to stay. “There was a young couple that came in just a few minutes ago. They were very pregnant,” said Cooper. “They wanted to know if we had good hospitals here because they didn't know if they would be able to go home first or not.”

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