Today is the fifth anniversary of hurricane Rita.  I think those of us in the Houston / Galveston area still remember it all too well, though perhaps not for the storm itself.
We were in the wake of the devastation hurricane Katrina imposed on the New Orleans area.  We had seen, on live television, a great deal of the horrors experienced by those who chose not to, or were unable to evacuate.  Like Katrina, Rita at one point had become a category 5 storm.  It was supposed to be a direct hit on Galveston.  Learning from the mistakes made by many in the wake of Katrina we were all getting the heck out of Dodge!  Even those who were not supposed to leave left.  We all battened down the hatches and made our way to safety.
I, of course, waited too long to go.  It’s OK though, I have my excuses.  I was responsible for both personnel and equipment at work and finally two days before the storm we got everything and everyone out.  So I went home to prepare our family’s evacuation.
The news reports were filled with the enormous traffic jams headed both north and west.  We decided to leave early the next morning (the day before the storm), and head east to Michelle’s fathers place in San Augustine.  We drove east on I-10 because the direct route up 59 was at a standstill.
We had smooth sailing and a clear freeway ’til about halfway to Beaumont.  As luck would have it, by the time we arrived on the east side of Beaumont, about to turn north towards our destination, the latest evacuation order was was issued to the very spot we had run (the venerable Appointment in Samarra comes to mind).
To make a long story (and an even longer sojourn) short and omit the story of my heroic and courageous leadership in creating my own “contra-flow” lane: It took us over 17 hours to make San Augustine (normally a 2 1/2 hour trip).  We arrived at around ten o’clock that night  which was about twenty four hours before the storm would make landfall.  Directly to bed we went for a much needed and deserved respite.

I arose early the next morning to soak up all the news reports I could.  Michelle slept most of the day as she had come down with something during our harrowing adventure.  The forecasted path had crept up the coast throughout the day and it seemed that Rita had her sights set on a destination north-east of our home.  My greatest fear, now, was not the storm, but another nearly twenty hour grind in traffic as everyone made their way back home after the storm.  We talked it over and decided to head back home that very evening.  Yep, right into the oncoming storm.  I figured I could take it easy and use extreme caution.  We could always turn around and abort our mission home if it got too bad.
Well, it never did.  It was very stormy and windy to be sure, but nothing more than a good Texas thunderstorm.  In fact, it was surreal, like driving in a post apocalyptic city.  I remember thinking that Houston might have looked something like this if the nuclear explosion from the movie Independence Day had really happened.  We saw only one car, a police cruiser with it’s overhead strobes flashing, driving below us on a feeder.  We never passed another car or truck in either direction the entire trip.  We made it home without incident in a mere two hours, fifteen minutes.  Unbelievable.
We settled in at home to ride out the storm which, for us, was nothing more than a tropical storm.  Others to our east fared much worse, but that is another story.  Two good things came from our experience: some great stories of adventure and our family road trips are now much more tolerable.