September 28, 2005

The Evacuation Monologues Vol. I

On Monday, September 19, Rita was looking like a big bitch with her eye on the Galveston area.
I don’t ever remember feeling this uneasy about a storm before. I don’t know if it was because of Katrina, because of the intense mood of drama the media was spinning or if it was because this was a real threat.
I tried to talk to my family about a plan by emailing them and asking, “What should we do?”
I got a basic, “It’s every man for himself.” response.

I started looking around the internet for hotels/motels that took animals or even lake-side cabins or campgrounds.
It’s tough with 3 dogs but I knew where ever I went, I’d have my mother with me and she has 3 dogs herself. Her dogs aren’t leash trained like mine. She has a doggy door and her dogs come and go as they please. My dogs are on a strict potty schedule and expect leashes and collars at all times outside.
This was going to be a challenge.
Most motels that accept pets advertised that they only accept one pet. I kept looking.
Monday night, I decided after work that I would go to Wal-mart and grab some water and supplies thinking I would be the quick thinker and get there before everyone else went crazy and started buying it all up.
I was wrong. When I pulled up into the parking lot, people were running in and out of the store at break-neck speeds with baskets overflowing with cases of water, batteries and Rubbermaid boxes.
Shit! I wasn’t so smooth after all.
I got caught up in the panic at Wal-mart. I found myself grabbing shit left and right. I was elbowing elderly women for the last cases of water and then buying strange items like Cheetos and bubble wrap.

I went home and started packing things I would take with me in case of an evacuation like my books and my pictures.
I had two huge Rubbermaid boxes full of books and it didn’t even make a dent in my collection. I was in trouble here.
So, I had to weed down what I felt like I couldn’t live without and what had to stay behind. It was difficult. I knew all the pictures had to go, especially the ones of my father and my nephew.
With those big things packed, I knew I would be ready to go if we had to.

By Tuesday, September 20, the powers that be at work were meeting and things weren’t looking so promising.
I work for a city government and they were preparing for a major disaster. They allowed department heads to release their employees at anytime. My boss asked that I stay until the end of the work day and I did so I could move all computers and monitors in the building to a somewhat safe location.
What an odd feeling. I was packing up my personal items to take with me and I turned around to scan the now nearly empty space around my desk. I might never see this again.
I left there and went to my mother’s house to plan an evacuation. I heard from one of my sisters that Mom’s plan was to get in the car and drive until she found a place to stay.
Is she out of her mind? I was devastated. This is a stressful event as it is and now we didn’t even have a plan?
I found out that sister #2 was going to her sister-in-law’s house in New Braunfels and a friend of ours was staying in a motel in New Braunfels as well. I called that motel and found two rooms. I just never mentioned that we had 6 dogs and one cat between us.
By Tuesday night, sister #3 said she wasn’t going anywhere. Her husband wasn’t handling the stress that well and she was very pissed at him so out of spite, she was staying to let the hurricane blow them both away.
Luckily, by the next morning, she has changed her mind.
Tuesday night, with a plan in mind, I went home to pack all I could.
I have a small car and I couldn’t get much in there so wheedling down my personal items to what I couldn’t live without and what I had to leave behind became the theme of the night.
I had so many sentimental items; artwork I had been collecting for 20 years, my grandmother’s antiques, furniture, DVD players and TVs and books…TONS AND TONS of books.
How could I live without being surrounded by the written word?
I have about 50 purses, many of them quite expensive. There wasn’t room for all of them.
At 2am, I finished packing my car.
I made up a tote bag full of items just for the dogs; treats, bones, toys, bowls for food, bottles of water, potty pads, wipes, collars and leashes.
I also purchased cheap leashes and tied them around the head rests in the back seat as a make-shift restraint system. I left enough slack so they could lie down but couldn’t move around the backseat or jump into the front seat like they often enjoy doing.
I was pretty proud of myself for coming up with that little gem.
I also lined the back seat with their doggy day beds I purchased at Old Navy years ago. They are soft and quilted and lined with terry cloth. The dogs love them.
I knew this was going to be a stressful trip so I wanted them to be as comfortable as possible.
I tried to sleep that night but I kept laying there thinking about what I might have missed and what I WOULD miss if Rita hit us directly at the speeds they were predicting.
Long ago my dad said that if a Category 5 hit Texas City, the storm surge would flood us all the way to South Houston.
I believed him.
If a Category 4 or 5 made a direct hit to Galveston/Texas City, there would be nothing left of us. We would come home to matchsticks.
It was a terrifying thought.

I “woke up” around 6am and started moving things from my porch and patio into the house.
I called my mom around 7am and she had just gotten up and was having her coffee. She sounded relaxed. I asked her what all she needed to do before we could leave at noon. She mentioned packing some of her antiques and a few original paintings.
She asked if I could come over later to help.
I showered, packed the last of my things and loaded the dogs up in the car with plans to come by on the way out of town and pick up Hemingway, the cat.
I hit my mom’s house at 10am and found her in the kitchen sautéing some onions.
“What are you doing??” I asked incredulously.
“I didn’t want this meat to go back so I’m making a casserole to take to Friend’s house.”
Our Friend just lost her husband and the funeral was supposed to be on Wednesday but things were being postponed due to the evacuation.
I couldn’t believe that two hours before we were to flee for our lives, my mother was making a fucking casserole.
Her antiques weren’t packed nor were her suitcases.
I grabbed the bubble wrap and started packing up her glassware antiques; I pulled her suitcases out of the closet and got them ready for her to pack.
I then had to call my vet to get him to prescribe me sedatives for Zoe. She is a basket case on a normal day and I knew she’d need all the sedating we could get. Hoping Mom would continue packing, I ran to the vet’s office and that place was a madhouse. There were many like me, getting sedatives but mostly there were people getting last minute vaccinations incase they had to board their animals.
I ran back to my mom’s and she was dragging her feet. It was now after 11am and she hadn’t even showered yet.
I rushed her into the shower and finished packing her and loading her car. We also decided to take Dad with us. Dad now resides in a small oak box and he fit perfectly in the back floorboard of the car. He was in for an interested ride.
At noon, after shoving a sedative down Zoe’s throat and then doing the same for Crash when I realized he was super nervous too, we were on the road. As I drove down the main road through town, I noticed the two huge car dealers had shipped all of their cars away so now there were only empty showrooms and bare concrete. It was an eerie site and I felt a little bit of hysteria building up inside.
The roads were busy but we felt fairly confident in our route. We were going to try to stay off major highways for the bulk of the trip. I was relieved with that decision when we passed under I-45 and saw bumper to bumper traffic.
We hit Hwy 6 and planned on taking that to I-35. It didn’t take long to run into gridlock. I don’t know how long we sat there; it was early in the trip so I was still feeling optimistic.
We hit Business 35 and took a country road to 36. We weren’t the only ones with that bright idea. We sat on the country road staring at cotton fields for about 3 or 4 hours moving only a few miles every half hour or so.
My feelings were so mixed. I was relieved we were on our way out of the danger zone but I was anxious about the traffic. I felt a bubble of panic trying to work its way out when I would think of this devastating storm breaking apart our homes and washing away the contents.
I kept classical music going in the car to calm the dogs and myself but my sister #2 would call on the walkie talkie to tell me the latest news on Rita.
Each time she would say “Rita’s now a Cat 4 with winds at 150mph. headed right for Galveston Island. All wooden structures will be wiped out.” I’d feel that bubble rising.
A few minutes later she would call to say “It’s now a Cat 5. Nothing will be left but matchsticks and rubble.” I nearly doubled over in pain and agony.
To distract myself, I allowed myself to form a relationship with the man behind me. We shared the same road space for nearly 4 hours and would make eye contact through my rearview mirror at times.
I felt we had something special and I guess he did too because when we became mobile, he would fight tooth and nail to keep any cars from getting between us. Even if we got up to fast speeds and someone did get between us, he would speed up and cut people off to maintain his spot right behind me.
I felt like he wanted to take care of me and watch over me.
However, I was heartbroken when we stopped in Sealy to give the dogs a potty break and he kept going. I guess we were growing apart.
***If you were traveling down 1462 and 36 towards I-10 on Wednesday in a white Ford pick up, possibly early 90s model and you were behind a black Toyota with a pink daisy decal on the back window. Email me. We might have a future. ***

Stopping in Sealy was a disaster. We made sure to stop somewhere on the right so we could merge back into traffic easily. Everyone else had the same idea. A Whataburger offered us a bathroom break and a triangle of grass to allow the dogs to relieve themselves.
There were about 200 people driving through that area at the same time we were. We were all refugees, going in the same direction to save our own lives yet no one made eye contact and no one spoke. We were living the same nightmare but we weren’t doing it as one. We were islands in our fear and despair.

Posted by De at September 28, 2005 02:23 PM | TrackBack

Please keep writing about this. Very interesting. So glad all turned out well for you, your animals and your family.

Posted by: Angela at September 28, 2005 02:45 PM

As I read that, I began to think it told more about this person De than it did about her account of hurricane Rita. Interesting to say the least. Do dogs get carsick?

Posted by: shank at September 28, 2005 02:48 PM

Angela! Thanks, girl. I'll keep writing. It's just so LONG winded.

shank, I can only give you info on what happened to me and mine.
Dogs do get carsick, however, mine don't; they just whine and cry when not sedated.

Posted by: De at September 28, 2005 03:03 PM

Wow...I was getting nervous just *reading* this. You must be the most devoted and loving pet owner in the entire world.

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