Here’s another look at the massive traffic jam that took place during the Rita evacuation, focusing on households that left with more than one car.

Although no statistical data is available yet on the massive evacuation, “there were certainly more vehicles utilized than were necessary to carry these individuals out of town,” said Janelle Gbur of the Texas Department of Transportation office here.

“It probably shouldn’t surprise us. For many people a car is the second-biggest investment in the household,” Gbur said.


Mayor Bill White said he repeatedly asked that people with space in their vehicles take other riders along. He and County Judge Robert Eckels also did what they could to provide mass transit on Metropolitan Transit Authority buses or Amtrak train lines, he said.

“I doubt whether the government can or should tell people or mandate how many vehicles can get out,” White said, “but we do need to educate people and ask that they be considerate to their neighbors.”

Eckels said he and other officials will study how many vehicles it takes before a route becomes congested, and future evacuation plans will be designed with that information.

According to a Houston Chronicle/KHOU-TV Channel 11 poll, almost half of the evacuees said they stayed in caravans of more than one car.

Thirty percent who said they left with three companions or fewer, a group that could have fit into most cars, left in multiple vehicles, the poll found.

For what it’s worth, during the many hours that we sat on I-45 south of Spring, I saw a lot of people exiting vehicles and walking around on the highway. Some were probably just stretching their legs, but many of them appeared to me to be going from one car to another. For a variety of reasons, it never occurred to us to take both cars – among other things, we wanted to ensure that we had one nondriver to deal with Olivia when she fussed. The car we did take was packed full, including a spot in the back for the dog. If we’d had a second kid with us, we probably would have needed two cars. I just hope like hell I’ll never have to find that out.

Regarding the poll finding that 42 percent of residents evacuated from areas that were not in storm surge zones, White said that was “perfectly reasonable for many people, based on the information known to all of us on Tuesday and Wednesday and well into Thursday.

“We need to have better plans, particularly at the state level, to allow people to have fuel and more exit lanes and better traffic control,” he said.

Eckels said he wasn’t surprised that 53 percent of the evacuees said they left Thursday, Sept. 22, since traffic became so much worse then, nor that 61 percent said they would evacuate again if a Category 4 hurricane were coming.

“I think people will leave a lot earlier next time, and I think the system will work a lot more smoothly next time,” he said.

If there is a provision in place to ensure adequate fuel supplies and more available lanes, and if the evacuation itself can be spread out over more time, with no single day bearing the majority of it, then I agree that things will work more smoothly next time. Without those items, I fear we’ll have a rerun. Alternately, we may see fewer people than appropriate leaving, which risks greater problems in the event that we’re not so lucky about where the storm hits. I’m glad there’s still a lot of talk about this, but I want to see specifics. Stace, for his part, is unimpressed.

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4 Responses to Caravanning

  1. Preventing the next cluster

    That’s the traffic jam I was in a couple of weeks ago — I-45 northbound, from Houston to Dallas. Apparently there’s going to be task forces and committees and meetings to talk about improving the process of evacuating millions of people the next tim…

  2. Patrick says:

    When we bugged out we left with both cars, my wife and the dog in one car and I alone in the other. We did so for two reasons. Trish’s company offered to accomodate her at the company’s home office in the Dallas area should we be forced to stay out of Houston for a while. I felt certain that I would need to get back to Houston to work pretty quickly. So we’d need one car for each city.

    Secondly we’d just watched my cousin have to figure out a way to get back to Metarie to pick up his second car. At one point there was some talk of an amphibious landing, a two mile trek all with the hope that his car had not been “liberated” and they could find a dry route out.

    Besides taking 2 cars allowed us to take more stuff like my rare books and 18 bottles of wine. Yum.

  3. Katie says:

    I was amazed at the few things we took with us. Two boxes of pictures, important documents, and journals. The rest could have floated away, we just wanted to be safe. We took one car, two dogs and a cat. We made it as far as the Woodlands. Besides too many cars, another problem was that people took huge trailers with boats and some moved all of the valuable appliances out of their house and took those too. If I’m not mistaken, that is against the law in Florida (to evacuate with a trailer or a boat).

  4. There is a simple rule to employ with Gbur: whatever she says is a lie or an attempt to misdirect from the truth.

    Contraflow was TXDOT’s responsibility and they failed to implement it quickly and efficiently. So she’s laying blame on multicar families.

    I look forward to the next lie from Gbur. It should be entertaining.

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