Natural Disasters

Apocalypse Report

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Matt Taibbi on Katrina:

For most of the country it was like going to bed one night with a mild toothache and waking up the next morning to find your balls smashed with a sledgehammer.

With Rita, by contrast, the nation's testicles are already wincing in anticipation of the blow. The highways are gridlocked from Galveston to Dallas. They're backed up in Louisiana, too, and the latest forecast I saw showed some of the traffic headed into the likely path of the storm. Gasless drivers are stranded on the side of the road. A bus full of elderly evacuees just exploded. And now they say there's a 50% chance the storm will be a Cat 5 again when it hits the shore.

My Galvestonian parents are holed up in a motel in Jewett, Texas, about 180 miles inland. Unfortunately, this is still in Rita's path, though by the time it gets there it should be a tropical storm, not a hurricane. That's fine for them; they've got a small but solid first-floor room. It's not so great for the refugees camped out in the nearby state park.

From another Texas city, my friend Scooter writes:

If it hits Houston, with 200 mph winds, all of our windows will blow out, and our cool shit will all be trashed.

We will huddle in a closet under the stairway and avoid the flying glass, and we will be fine, because I am an evil and stubborn sunuvabitch, and my wife is even more honorary, and we have spawned children who spit in the eyes of hurricanes, teachers and their own parents.

All this crap laying around has to go anyway.

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  1. We should all be blessed with honorary wives.

  2. In rural Utah, I think that some of the polygamists have honorary wives.

    Is Sandy going to be OK? (That’s Sponge Bob Squarepants’ girlfiend. She’s a squirrel from Texas)

  3. better to have an honorary wife than an ornery one

  4. Oh! Was that supposed to be ‘ornery’? I couldn’t figure it out! Thanks, Mr. X.

  5. It looks like its going to be a Catagory 3 and hit Port Arther instead of Houston. Other than reflooding parts of New Orleans already destroyed and severly damaging some small cities in east Texas and Lousianna, it won’t do anything like Katrina. But of course, this is a “super hurricane” caused by global warming and the spells of angry Gia worshipers punishing evil Americans. Or at least that is what the UK minister of the environment is claiming this morning.

  6. Thousands from Houston have driven to Austin – normally a 3 hour trip or less. The drive is taking them 18-24 hours! When they get here they find that the locals are treating them like lepers. My kids were supposed to attend school this morning and get released at noon to accommodate the evacuees. Plans were changed overnight when frightened parents pressured the school administrators to cancel classes. Their concern was that the evacuees would include sex offenders and other undesireables (not to mention people with exceedingly dark skin!).

    The myth of warm Texan hospitality has been debunked. After our untrustworthy visitors have returned to their sinful big city, I am sure the Austin locals will paste on their insincere smiles and offer their superficial “Howdy Howdy” greetings to strangers. During normal times they put on a good act here. When confronted by a crisis their true innermost xenophobia takes control of their behavior.

  7. “Honorary” must be a deliberate malapropism, in place of “ornery”; I can’t find any sense of the word that would fit where it was used.

    I was amused to find that the first comments on this item were about that usage, just as I was planning on.

  8. With Rita (at one point) heading for Houston, where all the NO folks ended up, does this mean that the groups who say that Katrina was God’s way of punishing the people of NO for their sinful ways now get to say that god is trying to finish the job?

  9. New Orleans already is experiencing levee failures and flooding from Rita-related rains.

  10. God clearly hates oil refineries.

  11. People have truly gone nuts over this storm. The news media keeps on reporting that Houston is evacuating, but only a small part of the Houston metro-area needs to evacuate. Normally the problem is that not enough people evacuate, but in this case way too many people are evacuating.

    I would guess that most evacuation planning has been focused to the SE of the metro area. I remember that in those areas in the evacuation zones or near the evacuation zones had evacuation signage. It appears that the roads are pretty good in those areas. It’s the areas north and west of Houston, which probably didn’t have a lot of evacuation planning, that are the problem.

    As long as you live outside the evacuation area in a place that doesn’t flood, you should probably stay in your house (or possibly go to a strong public building). Getting out on the roads puts you at risk of flooding, problems in traffic jams, and having nowhere but your car for shelter, plus it clogs up the roads for people whose homes would be destroyed in the hurricane.

    Crushinator: I often hear people from Austin saying that it’s not really Texas. So don’t blame Texan Hospitality if they aren’t nice.

  12. This is a really dumb question. I have only been in Texas to change planes or drive on Interstate 40 through Amarillo.

    But might this be one of the few times when public transportation is efficient?

    -Doesn’t Houston have a light rail system?

    -Could they have taken its trains & sent them down to Galveston to evacuate people?

    -Packing people into box cars has some really ugly symbolism. But I know for a fact that Houston has lots of rail cars. Could they used empty box cars to take people a few miles inland; then loaded them on to buses?

  13. But of course, this is a “super hurricane” caused by global warming and the spells of angry Gia worshipers punishing evil Americans.

    If you had seen Angelina Jolie in Gia (“To beautiful to die. To wild to live”), you’d worship her too!

    http://images.google.com/images?q=angelina+jolie+gia

    NSFW!

  14. John

    Houston is building a light rail system but it is years from completion. The problem is that the whole area has gone nuts. People in areas that are in no danger of flooding or storm surge even after a catagory 5 storm are all panicing and hitting the road. Its crazy. If you live in Galvaston, Kemah, or Clearlake, you need to hit streets, otherwise, you can ride it out fine. Houston was built inland to avoid hurricanes and is anywhere from 40 to 60 miles inland.

  15. Houston does have a seaport.

    But there’s no danger of a storm surge coming up that channel and into Houston?

    People are just being stupid in other words?

  16. The other John,

    There is the Houston Shipchanel which was built after the 1900 Galvaston hurricane. It goes into the SE part of the City and those areas are in danger of flooding from a storm surge and should be evacuated. But there is a huge city of people outside those areas who seem to be going crazy and clogging the roads.

  17. Update to the blatherers with no background:

    Rita was at its peak a class 5 storm with gusts up to 215 miles per hour – and was predicted to make landfall more or less directly on Galveston. High-end storm surge models showed that island all but being washed away.

    People evacuated who were near shorelines, levees, ship channels, or areas that often flood in heavy rain – or who were concerned their houses wouldn’t stand up to Cat 5 winds (or even lower hurricane-force winds that would have hit quite a ways inland).

    Fortunately, the storm dropped down to a high Cat 3 and veered off to strike near the TX-LA border. Massive flooding and wind damage ensued in the areas Rita hit directly. Tropical storm-force winds (as in, anything up to 70 mph) hit the Houston region and eastward, causing damage and wide-scale power outages.

    Now, it would have been great to have known that the storm was going to weaken and veer off – millions of people wouldn’t have had to evacuate the city on the days leading up to the storm, much less sit in their cars and bake on the hottest days of the year.

    But no one knew this.

  18. The hell they didn’t. I heard between two and three days before it actually hit that it would only be a Cat 3 and it was heading east. People did know it but the sensationalist media didn’t talk about that. Only one newscaster even metioned it. Basically, they created mass hysteria so they could have a story.

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