Friday, September 23, 2005

Evacuation Ordeal; We Is Refugees

Thanks to Tyler Community College, where Michelle and I are now staying as guests, I have internet access and can update my blog sooner than expected. Yesterday morning I hurriedly finished securing the house and loading the car. I met Michelle at Silsbee Convalescent, and joined the convoy headed north at at about 11am. We were travelling in separate cars - Michelle had one of her residents with her, and I had Pipa with me (dog is my copilot). He was surprisingly relaxed & well behaved, and his good behaviour was rewarded with pepperoni and beef stick.

As soon as we got on Highway 69 we were in heavy traffic. Normally it takes less than 2 hours to reach Woodville; we didn't get there until about 4pm. Fortunately there was a Pizza Hut still open there, and we took a late lunch break before starting the nightmarish second leg of our journey.

Michelle and I both had full gas tanks prior to departure - astute planning on our part, because finding a gas station that was still open was only half the battle; then you had to contend with the long lines.

We were stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic for mile after mile. After Woodville I became separated from Michelle and the rest of the nursing home convoy. Traffic was at a crawl, and for hours it was stop-and-go...well, more stop than go. There were long periods when we were at a complete standstill. Michelle reached Tyler around midnight; I didn't arrive until about 2am. I had been on the road for 15 hours.

Pipa couldn't stay with us at the evacuation center. I'm afraid the nursing home patients will have do without a therapy dog for a while. A volunteer was nice enough to come down to the college and pick him up last night. Once again, good people coming through during an emergency.

Tyler is located southeast of Dallas. We are staying at Tyler Junior College, which has become an ecacuation center for special needs patients. The college has provided us with a place to stay (we are camped in the gymnasium), and volunteers have kindly dispensed plenty of food and drinks to the nursing home patients and staff (and tag-alongs like me). They are doing a great job and really deserve to be commended. There are televisions so we can track the storm's progress, and we even have internet access, as you can see.

The drive here was frustrating, tiring, and often chaotic. EMS vehicles and police had to find a way around the congested traffic to reach those who needed help, and there were many cars and trucks stalled along the roadside. Not all of the evacuees were as well prepared as we were. One of the nursing home employees didn't arrive last night, which has everyone concerned. But since our arrival here the situation has been orderly and well managed, and everyone seems to be in good spirits.

According to the latest storm tracking Rita is expected to slam into the Texas Coast near Port Arthur. This is very bad news, and means that Beaumont & Lumberton may take a direct hit. The prospects are catastrophic for all of us. Now all we can do is wait and see.

It's likely that I won't be able to use my cell phone after the storm makes landfall. Yesterday I was getting "all circuits are busy" messages most of the time. Michelle lost her cell phone service after Katrina, and it took quite a while for service to be restored. Again, it's wait and see. For now we are all well and doing fine.


At 7:42 PM, Anonymous Mike and Gina said...

Glad to hear you and Michelle made it with minimal problems (Pipa too) You are in our thoughts.


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