21 September 2005

Rita Madness

I went out this morning to prepare myself a bit for a truly annoying visitor who may or may not drop in this weekend. She's the type who just blows in, makes a total mess of the house, then blows out with nary a "hi -- bye."

Rita, they call her. She's a hurricane. A big 'un, they say. Category 4 so far, and still whirling away in the Gulf of Mexico.

The last one I saw was Alicia, a hellacious brat who landed on Galveston Island back in 1983. She was a comparative baby, a Category 3 at landfall, with gusts on land over 100 mph but sustained winds of 'only' 90-something mph.

I saw Alicia, literally, through the floor-to-ceiling windows on the 5th floor of the Houston Chronicle building downtown. I was a reporter there at the time, and I spent the night not sleeping in an uncomfortable chair there in the office. Mostly I watched Alicia rip gravel from the roofs of the downtown buildings and fling it through other buildings' windows. Oh, and I watched our windows bulging from the wind and pressure, praying they would hold. They did.

I don't even recall losing power; the newspaper came out 'as usual' the next morning, but so many trees were down that home delivery was nigh on impossible. I remember driving home on Memorial Drive or maybe Allen Parkway (the interstate must have been closed) and seeing all the underpasses flooded. But I made it home without any major issues.

At home, we had some trees down, but no significant damage. Memory says one of our trees fell on the neighbor's house, causing some damage there, but memory is as unreliable as a hurricane, and it may have been in another storm.

Home at the time was in the Spring Branch area, 15 miles or so west of downtown, which is some 48 miles inland from Galveston. I now live another 40-ish miles north, almost 90 miles from the closest 'landfall' point for Ms. Rita. Uphill, too.

The thing is, hurricanes don't just do their own damage; they also spawn tornadoes. My recollection (possibly wrong) is that the tornados from Alicia killed more people and did more damage than the hurricane itself. We have no basements to hide in here. So even though I'm not particularly worried about Rita, her offspring scare the daylights out of me.

I expect to lose power, so I'm charging the flashlights, stocking water, making sure the candles ae handy, etc. I got a fresh bag of dogfood, some bagels and crackers (colored Goldfish were on sale at Kroger but I'll probably finish the box before Rita even gets here). I thought about buying some bread, but Kroger had NONE. They were also out of bottled water. And low on soft drinks. No kidding.

Anyway, as of today, it looks like Rita will hit pretty far south of Galveston, but we will still be on the 'dirty side' of the storm, meaning lots of rain & wind. Lakrids hates storms. :( Wish us luck.