September 21, 2005

Just finished moving all of our outside stuff into the garage. There really ought to be a law against 95 degree weather in the days preceding a hurricane.

I'm a "non-essential personnel" person at work, so I'm officially off till at least Monday. Good thing, 'cause I wasn't going to be there anyway.

I've had two offers from readers of this blog - one of whom I've met once, the other never - to house me and my family during the hurricane. I can't tell you how touched I am by their generosity.

Now for the bad news: Rita is a category five storm.


If y'all will pardon my French, I believe the appropriate thing to say here is "Holy shit!" You can see some very scary pictures here.

Here's the good news:



FORECAST HOUR (12) (24) (36) (48) (72) (96) (120)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

HOUSTON TX 34 X X( X) 1( 1) 9(10) 33(43) 16(59) 2(61)
HOUSTON TX 50 X X( X) X( X) 2( 2) 17(19) 9(28) 2(30)
HOUSTON TX 64 X X( X) X( X) X( X) 9( 9) 5(14) 1(15)

In other words, the cumulative probability of hurricane-force winds in Houston (greater than 64 knots, or 74 MPH) is 15% through Monday. All things considered, I'll take it.

Houston has given the mandatory evacuation order for people in storm surge zones.

Mayor Bill White and County Judge Robert Eckels said at a morning briefing that some mandatory evacuations would begin at 6 p.m. today. They encouraged residents to leave voluntarily if possible before the evacuations become mandatory.

After some initial confusion over what areas would be affected by the order, officials provided this schedule, based on storm surge zones, for mandatory evacuations as of noon today. :

* 6 p.m. today: Storm surge zone A, which includes low-lying areas along the coast and the southern part of Galveston Bay.
* 2 a.m. Thursday: Storm surge zone B, which includes the Clear Lake area of Houston and other parts of southeast Harris and south Brazoria counties.
* 6 a.m. Thursday: Storm surge zone C, which includes the Ship Channel area of Houston as far west as the East Loop.

The evacuation so far is voluntary for those living in a 100-year flood plain or in areas that have flooded in past.

Up to one million people may hit the road.

Hospital and nursing home patients were evacuated and as many as 1 million other people were ordered to clear out along the Gulf Coast today as Hurricane Rita intensified into a Category 4 storm with 140 mph winds that could batter Texas and bring more misery to New Orleans by week's end.

Galveston, vulnerable sections of Houston and a mostly emptied-out New Orleans were under mandatory evacuation orders, one day after Rita sideswiped the Florida Keys as a Category 2 storm and caused minor damage.

Having seen what 145-mph Hurricane Katrina did three weeks ago, many people were taking no chances.

"After this killer in New Orleans, Katrina, I just cannot fathom staying," 59-year-old Ldyyan Jean Jocque said before sunrise as she waited for an evacuation bus outside the Galveston Community Center. She had packed her Bible, some music and clothes into plastic bags and loaded her dog into a pet carrier.

Christina Ybarrashe, 61, boarded up the family home in Galveston with plywood and planned to drive inland. "We just want to go way out there, to be sure we are far enough away," she said.

For those who stay, there will be no postal service or garbage collection through at least Monday. Note to self: put garbage can in garage before leaving.

Who's staying and who's not? If you're staying, the Chron wants to hear from you.

Do you have a blog, live in the Houston-Galveston area and plan to ride the storm out?

If so, we'd like your help with an experiment in citizen journalism.

We're launching a blog this afternoon called Stormwatchers. We'd like volunteers in key parts of the area with experience blogging to tell us what they're seeing as the Hurricane Rita comes closer, makes landfall and moves on.

We're particularly interested in bloggers who live in the I-45 South corridor; in the Freeport/Angleton area; and the southwest area, including Katy.

If you're interested, e-mail me at with the subject line "Stormwatchers." Include a link to your blog, detailed information about your location and a landline or cell phone number where you can be reached. If you go by a pseudonym in your blog, we'll need your real name.

Also include a 3-4 paragraph blog entry detailing what you're doing to prepare.

We'll pick our stormwatchers based on geographic location, quality of your blog and writing ability.

Checking around, I know Lair is staying. So are Gary, Stace, Matt H, Rob, Greg, and most likely Steve. On the other hand, 'stina, Christine, Robert, Liberty, and Katie are leaving.

Other links of interest are here.

Eileen is in Austin, but bringing a little Ghostbusters into the discussion made me smile, and I needed that.

Listen to Tom, everybody:

As all grizzled veterans of Hurricane Alicia in 1983 know (related Chronicle story is here), this is a serious situation for the Texas Gulf coast and it is time to prepare to batten down the hatches. If you are a relative newcomer to this area and have never been through an intense hurricane before, do not fall into the trap of thinking that the media and others are crying "wolf." This is a deadly serious storm that has the potential to be every bit as devastating to the Texas Gulf coast as Katrina was to the Louisiana-Mississippi-Alabama Gulf coast. As destructive as Alicia was in 1983 (it's eye came in on Galveston's West Beach and tore through the middle of Houston on a track that essentially followed I-45), it was a minimal category 3 storm. In comparison, Rita is shaping up to be a much more powerful storm that is comparable to Hurricane Carla, which was a category 4 (winds of 133-155 mph) storm that caused incredible damage to Houston and the upper Texas Gulf coast on September 11, 1961. Carla had the same minimum barometric pressure as the great 1900 storm that killed over 6,000 people in Galveston.

I hope I have gotten your attention.

Consider it yours.

Jay Lee has some practical advice for you whether you stay or leave.

I took the digital camera and shot pictures of the house (both inside and out) for insurance purposes. I burned these images to a few CD's. One CD to keep with me and another is going into my safety deposit box.

I also copied off my important digital documents and images to a portable hard drive that I will be keeping with me.

I will be taking my desktops and laptops and wrapping them in plastic trash bags and putting them up on a shelf in the hopes of protecting them from water damage. I have removed the hard drives and wrapped them separately.

The photo idea is on our to-do list for the evening. The computer is in an interior hallway on the second floor, and is in the least likely place in the house to get wet. I'll still power it down and unplug it, of course.

Last, but not least: At some point this evening, and I don't care when it is, I will watch the season premier of Lost. I mean, I don't know when my next chance to do it will be, so tonight's the night.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 21, 2005 to Hurricane Katrina | TrackBack

Charles, we've got room here in Austin if you and the fam bug-out. You like martinis & margaritas?

Posted by: elgato on September 21, 2005 4:43 PM

Currently I'm staying -- I'm in Storm Zone C (Deer Park, close to Belt 8 and 225) but my house rode out Allison without the water even getting close, so I'm not worried about storm surge.

However, I'll be keeping an eye out on the storm tracks. If Rita looks like she's cutting sharper north, I am GONE. My wife, kids, and dogs are already in Temple. So is my mother.

Worst comes to worst, I'm close to an emergency shelter and will go there. I'll ride out Cat 1 or 2 winds in this house, but I prefer to be somewhere else if it's harder than that.

Posted by: Morat on September 21, 2005 5:12 PM

Stay safe Kuff,

Although here in Waco we're far from the danger zone, my primary consideration on whether to stay or go would be my kids. If I was single I'd be tempted to hunker down. But with kids you gotta get out. By the time you decide you made a mistake all the trees are down and all the roads are impassable and you are stuck there without power, air conditioning, water, and ability to get anywhere.

I'm seeing way too many of those missing Katrina kids notices on CNN to ever stick out a hurricane with kids.

Posted by: Kent on September 21, 2005 6:06 PM

The last I read, the central pressure of the hurricane--the most important factor in how strong the storm is--has dropped yet further and is now the 3rd worst storm ever measured in the Gulf. Ick.

We're bugging out to my mom's in San Antonio to help her out there. The storm path includes the odds of ramming through Victoria and on to San Antonio, so I want to be there is she needs a hand.

You guys stay high and dry, please.

Posted by: B. K. Oxley (binkley) on September 21, 2005 7:53 PM

"There really ought to be a law against 95 degree weather in the days preceding a hurricane".

Just as Calvin and Hobbes lamented in one of their last cartoon strips. While you're rewriting weather specifications, check into that hurricane thingy too.

Posted by: Charles Hixon on September 21, 2005 8:02 PM

If you need a place to stay in Austin, let us know.

Posted by: hope on September 21, 2005 8:50 PM

My fingers up in NYC are crossed for you and yours, Chuck. I hope you come through this OK.

Posted by: Chris Quinones on September 21, 2005 10:32 PM

As I told another mutual Houston friend, Minnesota is 99% hurricane free, so if you want to hop on I-35 north, the door's open!

Stay safe, all of you.

Posted by: CrispyShot on September 22, 2005 9:01 AM


If ya'll make it up to Denton, email me and you
are welcome to stay here. Our kids would love each other. We Trinity alums
have to stick together!

Or look me up at the computing center at the
University of North Texas: in the Information Science Building.

Elizabeth H-T

Posted by: Elizabeth Hinkle on September 22, 2005 12:11 PM