Thursday, September 22, 2005

Calm for the Moment

Back at Casa El Jefe we have been gathering the supplies and preparing an area (a downstairs bathroom) for SWMBO, the Heir, El Jefe and the High Patroness cats to ride out Rita, if she comes calling.
Gasoline, as well as plywood, flashlight batteries, bottled water, etc., is pretty much finished in our part of Houston (West University), inside the 610 Loop. Inasmuch as the State transportation officials have double-sided IH-45 and IH-10 out-bound, I don't think much in the way of supplies will be coming into the city while the evacuation proceeds. Refineries are shut down so that their personnel may seek shelter and be with their families. Biggest lesson I've learned so far is to leave at the first whiff of trouble, and not to wait for official pronouncements. Those who took vacation time Monday or found ways to leave early Tuesday mostly made it safely.
The biggest problem confronting the disaster planners presently, (as you may have gathered from my last post), is the situation on the jammed freeways. Houston Traffic Report shows all outbound freeways north and west still jammed with persons fleeing Houston/Galveston, as they were this morning. It is easy now to second-guess the evacuation planners (State of Texas, Texas Department of Transportation, Texas Department of Public Safety), but also unfair: they're doing the best they can, it's just a huge logistical problem to drain out a city of 1 milllion (Galveston) by passing its citizens through another threatened city of 4 million (us). I suspect all us voluntary evacuators who learned our Katrina lessons too well completely bollixed-up the mandatory evacuation from Galveston and the coast: instead of a million people on the road, it was probably more like 2.5 million.

I wonder how wise the plan is to open up both sides of the freeway to outbound traffic ? This smacks of a counsel of desperation to me. All this will do is compound the problem and create two jammed-up portions of freeway with fuel problems instead of one. I think they should use the local police forces, county sheriffs and the DPS to, on the west, close up inbound freeway access ramps from Katy (westside of Houston) to Columbus and ,on the north, from Conroe to Madisonville, and use 45 and 10 just to drain Houston west on IH-10 (with no turns till Columbus), north on IH-45, (no turns till Madisonville), and move the coastal areas west of Houston/Galveston out on the other state highways east of Columbus northwards. But I believe it's a mistake to use the inbound side for moving Houston/Galveston folks out. They need the inbound side to move tanker trucks and supplies, most especially fresh water stores, not to mention the troops. This is another reason we aren't going to be able to get more gas and supplies here, because they are compounding the problem with the evacuation.
Meanwhile, news reports this afternoon tell of hundreds stranded on the roads without fuel, or with mechanical problems north and west of Houston, with local police and DPS trying to distribute what fuel there is...and night is coming on. Many of these persons are no-doubt armed, (big run on firearms in Houston this week). In its photo gallery, the Houston Chronicle has a picture of somebody filling a 55 gallon drum with gasoline before getting onto the road. I hope that gentleman makes it to where he's going without anybody realizing he has a drum full of gas. All in all, a combustable mix of circumstances on the roads this evening.

Rita is going to be here tomorrow, sometime, looks like. Most of El Jefe's neighbors have stayed, and I expect we will get together for a bit of a dinner party this evening to eat and drink good things and perishable items before the coming days of broken glass and canned goods. El Jefe will post on anything new tonight, although I don't expect much. I will relate news as it comes up, and expect to take my laptop into our hidey-hole, when the action starts. Will try to post as long as I have power.

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