Hurricane season gets interesting in September

By John Toth

As I write, they’re lined up like planes waiting to take off – Earl, Fiona, Gaston, and a newcomer behind them yet (at column writing time) without a name.

We’re in rush hour of hurricane season, and it’s getting interesting as we wait along the Gulf Coast to see if we can get away this year without a visit or even a close call while the Atlantic coast is on the alert.

I can’t imagine New York City with 100 mph winds. I certainly would not stay on the top floors of one of those skinny high-rises. They may be safe, but I would feel better being on the ground floor.

Those early bird hurricanes don’t worry me as much as the major players that pop up about this time each year. These are the ones that can put some hurt on an area. Katrina, Rita, Ike, to name the most recent, all paid visits around this time.

In 2005, they were all lined up in our direction, heading into the Gulf one after the other. Katrina missed our area, but there was Rita right behind it, forecast for a while to make a direct hit on Freeport.

Of course, after what Katrina did to Louisiana and Mississippi, most of us didn’t need a lot of convincing to pull up our tents and head to safer grounds. Then, Rita turned and left us mostly unscathed, except for the bad memories of 30-hour traffic jams as Houston became one big parking lot.

Our family headed west, but had to run a road block to do it. Authorities wanted everyone to head north, where the traffic jams were, and blocked all the routes leading west. One peek at the hurricane map could have told them that even if a few evacuees made it all the way up north to the Dallas area, Rita would be right behind them as it was making an easterly turn.

After technically becoming traffic law criminals, we headed uneventfully towards the San Antonio area, where life was as normal as could be. My destination was an RV resort in the Texas Hill Country, but 15 minutes from camp and close to midnight, a big wild boar decided to stand in the middle of the road and have me hit it with my bumper while going 55 MPH. (It survived and ran off into the woods as if barely scathed.) Then we had to pick up a bucket of softballs that spilled out of one of the camper’s outside hatches onto the roadway.

That was as exciting as my evacuation got. The next morning we logged onto the RV resort’s wi-fi and saw the huge parking lot Houston had become and the tragedies that were taking place.

Residents along the Atlantic coast experienced what we have gone through year after year this time – the uncertainty. It is frustrating to follow these storms and try to decide what to do and when to do it.

Rita was forecast to go all over the place. We let our guard down one day, and it was back heading straight for us the next. Some of our friends in Galveston rode out the storm in their house, which had about 4 feet of water standing in it when the storm left. It was a long night, and the last one they would spend riding out a hurricane. No. They’re fine. The house was remodeled and looks great. It’s just that they say the next time they’re out of there.

I wound up in the Hill Country again, taking a mini vacation, wondering how my roof would hold up. It was 25 years old and needed replacing, but I kept postponing shelling out the several thousand dollars it would require. When I pulled up in my driveway, I saw the most beautiful sight I could have hoped for – half the roof was gone. Time for home insurance to kick in and buy a new one.

There are some perks to living near the coast.

It’s time to sit back and watch the hurricane on TV. I like to watch as reporters blow in the wind, hold on to some speed limit sign and scream into their microphones.