Hurricane Rita Evacuation of Pennington Family 09-05

(the site may be wide but I wanted to use larger pictures and let them all load at once)


When we drove out at 1200 on Thursday 9-22-05 we had just made the decision to leave and go to my mother in laws house just north of the Woodlands, Tx (Magnolia) a little south of Conroe. We live about 2 miles from Kemah. Our home is about 2.5 miles from Galveston Bay, and about 23 miles north of Galveston. We finally got nervous about the potential storm surge and decided to go. We hoped to time our departure to be leaving about the time they decided to open the counter flow lanes of I-45 North, which the Departmant of Transportation had never previously done. When we left home and got on 45 we thought we had been genius' because the lanes that had been full the day before were empty. Our next door neighbor had made the trip downtown and took 6 1/2 hours to do so.... when we got on the freeway it was as you see above and we were feeling pretty dang intelligent


As you can see by the second photo, we began to get a tad nervous, but once again thought we were Einsteins because we had chosen the HOV lane and the rest of the evacuees were not using it... we (my wife and other son were in the brown car in front of my 16 year old son and I) were all alone in the HOV lane and moving at a good clip and feeling like we had it made.


By now we are still south of the city of Houston and passing all the stopped cars in the normal north bound lanes. We only saw one other car in the HOV lane and couldnt believe our luck at being able to get in the High Occupancy Vehicle lane as the entrance to it was well south of where most folks were getting on the freeway and since all those south of us had left before us. You can see the stopped vehicles still quite a way from downtown.


The picture on the left shows us still sailing by all the traffic, the one on the right is after we drove around a deserted downtown Houston trying to make darn sure we found the entrance to the HOV lane going north out of town. We had never had a reason to use it and had no idea where it started but were determined to find it, and it was easy to get around downtown, as no one was there.


We are guessing that by using the HOV lane we saved over 6 hours of traffic at this time.. very pleased with ourselves.... and were amazed at this point that so few were here and at this point became very confident we were going to miss the entire traffic nightmare... that was when Karma struck...


We got to this point and began the real experience of evacuation. These are things we had read about and seen on the nightly news when the brave reporters in their traffic helicopters would zoom over and exclaim how horrible it was... we "thought" we sympathized with the victims in previous exodus adventures. We would move for a few hundred yards to a half mile and then would sit and not move an inch for one solid hour. (I timed it) It still seems very odd to me that you could sit still for an hour and never move a single inch then start driving and realize that the road was clear way ahead of you... then back to a sudden stop and another solid hour of no movement (I timed it... in fact I dont remember ever looking at my watch more often and being amazed at just how slowly time CAN move when your not looking backward at a birthday)


The first picture is that of my son, Jesse and my beautiful, and very much not happy Derringer. Lest anyone forget, and if you were there, you wont, it was 100 degrees... now that is on the thermometer, but if your sitting in a city like Houston, which is one solid slab of heat absorbing concrete, that 100 feels MUCH hotter. You could not keep your car running or you would be one of the victims pulled over on the side of the road with no petrol to further cool yourself as you sat while waiting to move forward your alloted 1/2 mile for the hour. The back seat housed 6 other adult cats, one of which is VERY pregnant and due in 3 days. This girl looks like she swallowed a basketball. I have never seen a cat pant that much. I finally put one of those blue ice things that keep coolers cold under a towel in her carrier and that seemed to help her somewhat. One of the adults is Reigny who has her litter of 5 that were born on 9-11. ( Hero, Liberty, Beamer, Glory and Patriot) (thats right, 11 days old and all incredible little survivors who btw are stunning examples of the Bengal breed) In one carrier was a Persian wannabe and a DSH who barely fits in a carrier by herself she is so huge, another carrier has another DSH rescue, one 3 month old Bengal girl who was such a trooper. In the backseat of my wifes car is the dog that I could not find a home for that my father left me when he passed away in March (part Chow with the requisite fur)... I was able to turn on the truck for about 5 minutes an hour to cool them down a little and offer them water as often as I could get them to take it.

Note the picture on the right- this was some industrious entrepreneur who was selling ice cream to the stranded mass of humanity. The children would run from the other side of the road where they would cool off in fountains of businesses where they could find them, weaving through the discarded diapers from babies left on the road (diapers left on the road, not babies). The children crying was tough to hear. For the most part people became little communities as we shared the experience I hope no one has to ever endure.


The picture on the right was where we broke into the just opened counterflow lanes. Again we thought we had hit the jackpot and once again became hyper intelligent in our own minds as we began flying by those trapped in the other lanes. We didnt learn by past experience that our feeling so cockey was a sure way to feel the wrath of Karma. It was dark shortly after this picture was taken and I didnt get the pictures of being once again trapped in stopped traffic. It was supposed to be 8 lanes of totally clogged traffic. However, the idiots began to show themselves as they clogged the emergency lanes and it was now 10 lanes (well, 8 lanes and both side of the emergency lanes) of stopped cars and trucks. Which was fine until you began to cry as you noticed that ambulances who were trying desperately to get their percious cargo to the hospital up ahead at the Woodlands and were unable to pass, eventually having to drive in the grass to move forward dodging the sea of cars with hoods up, out of gas. Also avoiding the kids laying in the grass trying to cool off. A few of us tried to block those from using the emergency lanes, but would get our mirrors bumped as they forced their way through and laughing when you tried to tell them they were blocking ambulances. So many examples of great human kindnesses were seen amongnst the great human ignorance and selfishness. We were one of the lucky ones... we were in traffic for only 9 hours, there were many who spent in excess of 30 hours in this congestion. Amazing isnt it?


Kittens survived and a greatful mother and babies are safe in my mother in laws washroom. Mama cat (Azana Whisper Reign of Mystre) took care of these babies every long hour of the trip. Feeding them and keeping them hydrated, through all the noise and heat, through the sudden removal from their quiet dark room into the oven of the Houston Freeway of Interstate 45. These kittens never cried out, except when one fell from the cage onto the floorboard and we had to find her under all the supplies. Not a peep. There are two of the kittens that are HUGE and is obvious that mother never lets them miss a meal. I am very proud of this mama and her acceptance and trust of us.


On the left is Baako Sweet Melody of Mystre drinking after she was released from her personal oven. You would not have known of the trauma she had to endure the way she played and won everyones heart, even the mother in law that does not like indoor cats. Bless her for letting us borrow her home and not get too upset at the many litter boxes and crunchy sounds as she walked over litter that was too exhuberantly used to cover the end results of a healthy appetite of 7 cats. Oh, and forgiving Derringer for the one vase that was in his way on the window ledge that was inadvertantly used for gravity testing.

The final picture on the right was our trip home tonite, 9-24, after the storm. Derringer was too tired to even hold his head up on the drive home. He was very glad to get to his room, as were all the other fuzzy friends of the Penningtons... oh, we were pretty happy to be home too, and even more so that our home was still here. One very important thing I feel compelled to say.... Praise God.