Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Battening Down

Today was my day to work at home. About 2:00, I decided to run to the grocery store for a few items. The impending hurricane, bearing down on the Texas coast, had everyone out buying supplies. To have a category 5 hurricane aiming for Texas so soon after Hurricane Katrina decimated southern Louisiana made even those of us who have experienced inland hurricane fallout a little nervous. My logical self knows that Bastrop will probably experience little more than some wind gusts and a lot of rain. My illogical self said to lay in a supply of non-perishable food and batteries.

I was not the only one reacting to those uneasy feelings. The long row of shelves that normally groan under the weight of bottled water were empty. Several people were carting those 5 lb. bottles that you can fill with filtered water at the machine outside the store. (Do those things really work?) People were loading up on canned goods and bread. It looked like HEB had been hit by a herd of locusts. The clerks said it had been crazy all day.

On the way back home, I was facing the traffic headed to Austin from the Houston direction. Two days before the predicted landfall, the road is already packed with people moving out of the storm's path. If there is anything good that came out of Katrina's destruction, people are paying attention to the evacuation orders and hitting the road in plenty of time to get to safety.

My first experience with hurricane weather was in 1961, when I was 7 years old. We were living in Oak Hill when the eye of Carla passed over Austin, and my primary memories of the event consist of driving rain and whipping wind. Many of my Frankum relatives lived in Texas City, Brazoria and Wharton at the time and they headed inland for safety. I guess that's the first Frankum family reunion that I remember; everybody ended up at Aunt O's and Uncle Shorty's in Central Austin. I remember lots of people, dominoes and music. I didn't understand the gravity of the weather situation and for years I associated hurricanes with a big old family party.

We were living in Smiley when Celia and Beulah visited Texas. I don't remember much about Celia, but Beulah dumped an enormous amount of rain in Gonzales County. Something like 22 inches in two days. Smiley was cut off from the rest of the world on three sides due to swollen creeks.

So I know to expect lots of rain and wind. I know there will be the possibility of tornadoes. But my relatives living in Texas City, Brazoria, Wharton and Bay City face much worse odds. They may return to find extensive damage to their homes. I would never be able to live under the spectre of hurricanes that is part of life on the Gulf Coast.

But in any event, we are ready to hibernate this weekend and avoid the weather. I have dog food, cat food, sandwich material, peanut butter, fruit and veggies. My pantry is full of canned food. I have shifted plants and lawn furniture into protected areas. We won't need to brave the wind and rain for days, if necessary.

But let's hope it's all done and gone by Sunday afternoon. I have an expensive ticket in my purse for the Sunday matinee of Chicago. Rain or not, I'm going.

Thursday postscript:
The exodus continues. Highway 71 is bumper to bumper while traffic makes its way slowly through Bastrop headed to Austin. Rita continues to slide inexorably toward Houston. This may be the one that becomes the new hallmark for hurricanes in Texas. Next year we may be saying, "Carla who?"


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