Here in Waco, Texas, we're getting a closer view of what those poor people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama suffered three weeks ago when Hurricane Katrina blew in. As I write this, Hurricane Rita is making a beeline for Galveston, and there's a decent chance that it will hit Waco on its way through Texas. Let me take a few moments to describe some goings on here.
First of all, speculation is rife. We've been hearing one disaster scenario after another for tbe past three days on local news. The latest scenarios have the main part of Rita going up through East Texas, which means that Waco would get only heavy rain and higher than usual winds. But no one really knows for sure except God.
If it wasn't so serious, some of the speculation would be hilarious. The other day, my wife and I were listening to the local morning news, and one excitable weather personality came on to describe what "might" happen to Waco if we got hit head on with Rita. He decribed an almost apocalyptic scene with water and power out, trees uprooted, food supplies cleaned out, and no help for days. I swear, I was expecting him to end the report with either an alien attack or Jesus coming again through the parting clouds.
We did the things that they recommended -- went to the store and stocked up on things we might need (like bottled water, which was cleaned out by Tuesday morning), contacted relatives in harm's way, and prayed.
My parents live in Friendswood, which is almost halfway between Houston and Galveston on I-45. Residents of Friendswood and surrounding towns are under a mandatory evacuation order to leave by noon today, so my parents are leaving this morning to try and make it to Waco, where they'll stay with us. I have no idea how long it will take them to get to us. Interstate 45 is pretty much jammed between Houston and Dallas, and I've heard that the trip from Houston to Waco, which normally takes 3 1/2 to 4 hours, is now taking as much as 12 hours to make. Cars are on the side of the Interstate, stranded, because they ran out of gas waiting in the unmoving traffic.
My brother, meanwhile, who still lives with my parents in an upstairs garage apartment, has decided for some reason to stay and wait it out. Maybe he thinks he'll be there to get started on any needed repairs after the storm hits, I don't know. He's a grown man, so there's little chance of persuading him to do what he doesn't want to do.
Meanwhile, my brother- and sister-in-law and their family live in Humble, which is a northern suburb of Houston. They have been battling traffic trying to get loaded up and leave town since yesterday. It took my brother-in-law four hours just to drive home from work across Houston yesterday, a trip that normally takes him just 45 minutes to make.
They must also head out north on I-45, which I hear that officials are about to make one-way most of the way to Dallas to get more lanes in use. I imagine the wait on that road will be maddening.
Their teenaged son -- my nephew -- works in the local HEB grocery store, and he described a scene of pandemonium a few days ago as people came in and quickly cleaned out much of the stock. (I'm not sure if the sauerkraut sold out -- does anyone ever really eat that?) The bottled water went first, but my nephew got to unload a truck delivering new bottles, so he was able to buy some for his family.
Here at Baylor, the university has cancelled classes tomorrow, but I'm not sure yet whether staffers such as myself will be required to come in. There's also a good chance that some of the university buildings could be used for refugee shelters, but I'll know more after an announcement they're making at noon today.
So, for now it's wait and see. I was at my childhood home in Friendswood when Alicia hit there in 1983, dropping more than 20 inches of rain in a very short time. Our house was in the 100-year floodplain, but it still managed to get about six inches of water. We did much better than the houses across the creek -- the water was up to the roofs. So, I've lived through this before, and know how vulnerable the Houston-Galveston area is to a hurricane and the flooding and destruction it causes.
Hopefully, everyone has had enough notice to allow them to get out of harm's way in time. The lessons taught by Katrina have been invaluable in this sense. I'll keep my eyes and ears open and let you know what happens in a later post (assuming that Jesus does not come. If he does, I won't be posting).
By the way, speaking of Jesus, I must throw in a joke I heard recently to introduce a little levity.
Two men, Harry and Fred, were ardent church choir members who often discussed whether there truly was a choir in heaven. The men made a pact that the first one of them to die would come back and somehow tell the other if a heavenly choir did indeed exist.
Well, as luck would have it, Harry died suddenly a few months later. The night after the funeral, Fred was awakened by the sight of his deceased friend hovering in his bedroom like an angel.
As soon as he recovered his senses, Fred said "Harry, it's good to see you! So tell me, is it true? Is there a choir in heaven?"
Harry said, "Fred, I have good and bad news. The good news is that there most definitely is a choir in heaven, and it's a doozy -- the most wonderful choir I've ever heard."
"What's the bad news?" Fred asked.
"You're scheduled to sing a solo in it tomorrow," Harry said.