No, you didn’t miss parts 1 and 2 of "Blogging Rita" – I decided that even though the first 2 posts on Rita weren’t numbered to make it easier for readers to find them that I should start with this third post. Significant news concerning the path of Rita this morning. Last night at midnight Houston time the predicted path put Rita making landfall around the Freeport area. This put the eye passing very close to my area in Cypress, or at the very least put us on the “dirty” (west) side of the storm which is the worst side for rain, wind and possible tornado damage. This morning the experts are predicting landfall very close to Galveston which means my area would be on the clean side of the storm. Not much to hang your hat on but those of us here are looking for anything to make us feel better about our situation.
The traffic situation has taken a turn for the worse– people are experiencing 3 and 4 hour trips that take them only 2 miles towards the edge of town. The emergency measures have been stepped up as a result and the three major arteries out of town are currently being set for contra-flow. The inbound side of these freeways are being closed and diverted to a single traffic flow towards out of town. This is a very ambitious and unprecedented move given the size of the city of Houston but it will hopefully make it easier for people to flee the storm’s predicted path. The downside– this contra-flow project is so huge in scope that it will likely be late today before it is completed, and those already sitting unmoving on Houston’s freeways will probably not be affected by this move. Right now there is no sure way out of town in less than 18 – 24 hours and with the predicted landfall of late tomorrow night they predict the first gale force winds will hit land sometime Friday morning.
I must comment once again on the fantastic job city, county and state officials are doing in preparation for Rita. I have never seen such a concise plan enacted so quickly, especially considering the areal scope of the predicted affected area. The mayor of Houston, Bill White, has done a great job planning, executing and just as importantly explaining to citizens using no uncertain terms what is going on, how residents will be affected and what they should do through frequent press conferences.
Galveston city officials have stated their intention of riding out the storm on the island, and will stay hunkered down in the San Luis Hotel. The San Luis has long been a favorite stop for tourists but most people don’t realize the hotel was built specifically to withstand a Category 5 hurricane like Rita. There is a special bunker at the hotel and city officials will stay there. The mayor of Galveston, in a press conference yesterday, was asked how she is handling the pressure of the situation since the island is likely to be devastated. Her response– the bar at the San Luis is as good as people have heard.