Tuesday, September 27, 2005

What I learned from Rita…

There are so many lessons in life. Hopefully we learn from them and apply them in our lives. Hurricane Rita gave us many lessons. Here are just a few I want to share……

1) Be prepared - Hurricane Katrina was a wake up call for me. I asked myself if my family was properly prepared for a hurricane here in Houston. I had a 72 hour emergency kit, but I had other items scattered all over the house. I started gathering up things and putting them in one place so that we could grab them up as we ran out the door. I was still working on that as there were signs of another hurricane.

2) Make sure you have enough food and water - I didn’t waste any time purchasing 6 cases of drinking water. I had batteries, but I wanted more. I got them just in time, as they disappeared very quickly. Make sure you have enough food for you and your animals. I watched as the stores in Houston virtually emptied there shelves in two days.

3) Have supplies that will protect your house from harm. – Do you own a generator? Do you have ply wood that can protect your windows? I went to Home Depot at 7:00am. on Wednesday morning to buy sand to make sand bags with. The store was already swarming with people trying to buy these items and more. I purchased 6 bags of sand and decided to buy a chain saw. TF and I made sand bags to protect our back patio doors that lead into our bedroom. We had just had new carpet installed in the bedroom and I was bound and determined to save that carpet. We put plants behind the garage in the enclosed dog run for protection.

4) Have extra cash on hand - We had extra cash set aside for emergencies, but I went to the bank on Wednesday afternoon to make a deposit and they had already run out of cash. People were coming in and taking cash out of the bank for there evacuation. This happened all over town as there was a mad dash for cash.

5) Make sure your have plenty of gas for your autos. – Gas was at a premium here as it disappeared very quickly. We gassed up all of our vehicles on Wednesday. TF has extra gas cans that we also filled up but I plan to purchase 2 more 5 gallon cans. We were lucky, I didn’t leave Houston until 8:00pm on Thursday. My husband had me wait till they opened the inbound lanes to outbound traffic. By the time that I left there was absolutely no traffic going towards downtown. I drove from I-45 north, at 1960, going south to Interstate 10. I got on I-10 at the Washington street entrance and got on the contra flow lane going out of town. It was moving at freeway speed. It only took me 45 minutes to go from my house to Hwy. 6. Earlier in the day it took people hours to get that kind of distance. From Hwy 6, on I-10 all the way to Hwy 71 interchange to Austin, it took me 7 hours of stop and go traffic. After that it was basically freeway speed the rest of the way. All in all, it took me 10 hours to get to San Antonio and the place we were staying. I used 10 gallons of gas and got 25 miles to the gallon. I felt very blessed.

Now the hardest part of the trip was seeing all those people who had been in traffic for hours and now they were out of gas and sitting on the side of the freeway. I saw families with children, grandparents and pets standing outside there cars in the 95 degree heat. My heart ached for them. There were hundreds, maybe thousands, of cars in that condition. I wish I had the camera with me so that I could have taken a picture of a Loves gas station that was open along the way. There were literally hundreds of cars waiting for gas. I felt so lucky that we had waited till just the right time to leave. You don’t know if the best laid plans of mice and men will work until they are tested. Well, it’s been tested and we have a few kinks to work out. The staggered plan for coming home worked out much better. I got home on Sunday in only 3 ½ hours. I drove freeway speed the whole way, it was awesome. All in all, I think the mayor did a good job of evacuating 2 million people.

6) Take out flood insurance - It doesn’t cost that much. You don’t have to live in a flood plain to get it. After Allison came to Houston in 2000, I decided that we did not need the heartache of wondering if our house would flood. It didn’t and we were lucky. I called my insurance agent and found out that it would only cost $ 248.00 a year for our house. It was worth it for the peace of mind. FYI…Flood insurance doesn’t go into effect until thirty days from the day you buy it. You can’t run to your agent 3 days before a hurricane and expect to get it. We have it and pray that we never have to use it.

7) Stay in touch with your family – My whole family lives here in Houston. We all left except for my husband. The storm was moving further east and the winds had diminished some and he wanted to stay home and protect the house. Several hours before I left we had noticed some gang like characters walking around the neighborhood taking notes on who was going and who was staying. At that point my husband decided he was staying at home. I had my cell phone all charged up but the circuits were busy and it was like pulling teeth to get a call thru. We had made arrangements to use Grandma in Florida as the call center if we could not get through with family members. Everyone was given her number and was informed of the “plan”. It worked. Bonnie has a friend in San Antonio who took in my whole family. They were so kind and we made sure that we were neat and thanked them for their their generous offer.

8) Pray for guidance and use common sense. - I feel very blessed that things worked out the way they did. It seems that we made all the right decisions along the way. Now, I have heard several people say that I probably could have stayed home. Yes, I probably could have, but I would rather be safe than sorry. We were told by the weather men that even if the storm was on our east side that we could have had sustained winds of 80 to 100 mph. for 6 to 8 hours. We have several large trees around our house that could have fallen down and crushed our house. ( As it turned out our neighbor had her garage crunched by a tree.) I was a little concerned about loosing our roof. I decided that it would be better for me to leave with my family rather than stay in the path of danger. As it turned out, the hurricane moved even more to the east and spared our city. I am so very grateful for that. Can you imagine what it could have done to a city the size of Houston? It would have been devastating. I would do it again if I had to. I pray for those that got hit and have damage. We dodged the bullet again and for that I am grateful. My house is in one piece, my carpet is still intact, and did not get wet, and my husband still has his truck so that he can work and bring home the bacon. Other than it looking like it snowed pine needles and one large limb down, we came out smelling like a rose. We actually did use the chain saw. Last, but not least, my family is safe!!! What more can you ask.

Update: Fri. Sept.30th
It's been six days since Hurricane Rita came ashore. Yesterday the grocery stores finally had milk and bread on the shelves. The banks finally have some cash that they can distribute to their customers. The town in finally getting back to normal. The lesson here is that it takes some time for things to get back in order again after a mass evacuation like we had here in Houston. Be prepared!


At 4:17 PM, Blogger puremood said...

Praise the Lord that ya'll are safe!

Great info, Lucy!

At 4:48 PM, Blogger Lindsay said...

Those are really good lessons, thanks for sharing. My husband and I are always trying to make sure we're prepared in case anything happens here in Utah. Way to go being safe!

At 5:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank goodness everyone is ok

At 7:47 PM, Blogger Fred said...

Excellent list.

The flood insurance suggestion is by far the one most overlooked. It's not that expensive, and pays dividends. I fear that many people will be denied money to rebuild because they didn't have a policy. The lawyers won't win this one.

I hope all coastal communities are incorporating all the lessons learned into their disaster planning.

At 10:19 PM, Blogger Roseville Conservative said...


I want to focus on the part of your post about Flood Insurance.

About 50% of America is in Flood Zone "X" This is a Flood Plane of about 75 years ore more.

If you live in an area less than 500Ft in elevation and near rivers or dams, you are a fool if you don't buy the coverage.

I Just had my Folks and my brother buy a flood policy because they saw what happened when the levees broke around New Orleans.

Sacramento's Levees are in as bad a shape or worse... At least ours have Concrete Injected into them... Unlike New Orleans. Why?, those in Louisiana chose to spend the money on the sex and gambling industry!

At 9:56 AM, Blogger BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

What a great list, LS! Being prepared, physically, emotionally and spiritually is always helpful.

Thank you for your comments on my blog. I am going to resume blogging, but am posting only once or twice per week from now on. A middle ground here.

At 12:25 PM, Blogger steelcowboy said...

Hi there Lucy. Thanks for stopping by my little piece o' the net... :)

At 2:49 PM, Blogger Oh great One said...

It's good to know you are ok.
What a great list. I'm sure it will help someone next time there is trouble brewin'.

At 5:17 PM, Blogger Denise said...

Thank you for visiting my site. Rita scared me a bit, and we have decided that if it happens again this year (and it still might), we're just gonna get the h*** out of "Dodge"...pack up our stuff and move to WA state!! (grins)
Thanx for the great list. I wish I'd have known all this stuff before the hurricane (bein' foreign to these parts and all). Thank God that we all made it safely. I'm actually closer to Galveston than Houston is, and we didn't even lose power!!

At 8:47 PM, Blogger Hoots Musings said...

Good advice and we all need to stock up on food, gas, water and cash!

At 1:42 AM, Blogger Live, Love, Laugh said...

sounds like you are prepared now. I think I will print this list and stock up.

At 2:08 AM, Blogger Mountain Mama said...

I pray you never have to use the list you have so carefully made.
But it is wise to be prepared. Thank God you are safe.

At 7:17 AM, Blogger Liquidplastic said...

Lucy I think you just about covered everything. You really put some work in this article and it is very much appreicated.

At 9:33 AM, Blogger SquirrleyMojo said...

What I learned from Rita:

I am on my own.

At 1:59 PM, Blogger Lucy Stern said...

Thanks everyone for thinking about us. We are grateful for all your friendships.

Squirrleymojo, pretty much said it all, You are responsible for yourself. We can not ask anyone else to do for us, what we can do ourselves.

Fred and Aaron, I hope more people take out flood insurance to protect their house and property.

Karim and Denise, I hope you don't move away because of the Hurricanes. It is important to learn about the areas that we live in so that we many protect ourselves. I would rather live here than in an area that has earthquakes, mudslides, forest fires and the likes. When TF and I got married we moved on the north side of Houston because we knew what a hurricane could do living too close to the Gulf. We feel a little more protected.

Lindsay, You have things up in Utah that you need to be prepared for. Winters near the mountains have there own set of problems. It beautiful up there.

At 8:27 PM, Blogger Nettie said...

Gas I would have thought of, but not cash. Interesting.

At 9:04 PM, Blogger Jamie Dawn said...

Lucy, you really do know what you're talking about.
I am so glad you are safe, and I am also glad that you were prepared.
You blog content is just perfect to address these hurricane situations, as well as many other practical issues. You could make a flyer of your hurricane preparedness list; it's smart stuff.
I'm thankful for you, Lucy!

At 9:53 PM, Blogger mis_nomer said...

Thank God!

At 5:00 PM, Blogger Big Dave T said...

Thanks for visiting my blog.

We do not get hurricanes or flood in my part of Michigan. We did lose power for a few days last year. Batteries sold out very quickly at stores. (Not everyone wants one of those noisy generators).

One interesting note--with the power down, only one phone worked, an old dial-up in the garage. Thank god for old-fashioned technology. Better than new in many cases.

At 5:22 PM, Blogger Lucy Stern said...

Nettie, Always have a little emergency cash stashed away somewhere.

Jamie dawn, thanks for your vote of confidence.

big dave T, We all need to remember to have at least one land line in our homes. All the other phones need some form of electricity to function. Thanks for the reminder.

At 8:09 PM, Blogger . said...

Good info, just remember the generator should be in a well ventilated area as there were problems with people getting suffocated from carbon monoxide poisoning from generators.


At 8:33 PM, Blogger No_Newz said...

I'm so thankful youn are safe and sound! Here's to hoping things get back to normal soon.
Have a great weekend!
Lois Lane

At 11:11 PM, Blogger Essence said...


I read all you did to prepare for the coming storm and it was wonderful that you had the resources to afford all the items needed to protect you and your family.

I know from my own self that even if I knew a storm like Rita was on it`s way and I wanted to get away...I would probably have to use plastic to get the gas because being on a limited income, I do not have cash in the bank or on hand.

You are a very organized person and gave some good pointers.

At 9:46 AM, Blogger Lucy Stern said...

Ted, It is so sad to see people dying because of carbon monixoide poisioning from the generators being left indoors. It is soooo important to have proper ventilation.

No_news - Things are finally getting back to normal for me, but those in the hurricane's path will have a lot of work to do. It won't be normal for them for a long time.

Southern ww Backbones- If it takes using plastic to be safe, then do it. Do what you have to do. Maybe you could start putting change into a big jar and hide it away for later use. I have saved for many a thing doing this.

At 10:02 PM, Blogger Alydyn said...

Lucy: glad to hear you (and yours) got out and back safely. I am here in Dallas and just kept seeing the horror on the news. Believe it or not the things you mentioned ie: shortages on gas, food, water etc applied to us here too.

Thanks for the list. Having lived in a hurricane area in the past I knew some of this, but I was a kid then so did not remember it all. GREAT list!

P.S. Lucy Van Pelt is my counter part also..: )

At 9:12 PM, Blogger PBS said...

Good things to remember!

At 5:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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