Sunday, September 25, 2005

An eye on the eye of the storm

It's been a really weird week with Hurricane Rita. Starting about Tuesday that was all that anyone could talk about. Even being 4 hours inland, Austinites went crazy. Store shelves were bare as folks bought up all the supplies. I even heard about some folks being ugly just to get the last of the bottled water.

It's weird, but I got caught up in the panic a little as well. Even when it looked like the storm might through Austin, I knew that the most we'd get was electricity outages and heavy rains. I was never worried for our safety, but I was worried. Then the storm moved east towards Galveston and I wasn't so worried for us -- again heavy winds and rain -- but I was worried about my aunt and cousin. My aunt was in the hospital in Galveston for cancer treatment and my cousin was told to come get her. He lives south of Houston near NASA and they decided not to leave. I guess he figured where he lived was better for his mom than getting out on the highways. People were averaging less than 1 mph on the highways and running out of gas. A trip from Houston to Austin which is normally less than 3 hours was taking 20. Motorists who ran out of gas were just stuck as none of the stations had gas. Unfortunately the situation is the same as folks are trying to head back to Houston even though state officials are asking them to wait a day or two.

Luckily for Houston, the storm moved east and hit Port Arthur (the home of Janis Joplin, fyi). I feel sorry for the folks where it hit, but it hasn't seemed that the damage wasn't worth the over hype. Here we are in Austin with no bottled water, no canned goods, and we haven't seen a drop of rain. In fact it's been sunny with temperatures near or above 100.

For 4 days you couldn't turn on a local television or radio station, or read the news paper without hearing about preparing for Hurricane Rita. Austin alone had more than 3,000 evacuees and 11 shelters. The closest available hotels were in El Paso or Oklahoma. (Just to give you a mental picture, El Paso is almost halfway between Houston and Los Angeles.)

I hate that the storm brought out the worst in people. I also hate that many intelligent people got caught up in the panic. But I guess for the media it was better to be safe than sorry. We didn't have the loss of lives that we did for Katrina, so I guess that means something.

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