Thursday, September 22, 2005

"We Can't Figure Out Why It's Not Moving At All"

So the people entrusted with coordinating the evacuation of Houston - did not expect traffic jams to happen as a result of having the entire population moving in one direction at once.

Have these people ever been to Houston? The mind boggles..


Blogger Management said...

Rita evacuation turns into traffic nightmare
Thu Sep 22, 2005 5:59 PM ET

By Jeff Franks

HOUSTON (Reuters) - A mass evacuation ahead of Hurricane Rita became its own disaster on Thursday as traffic backed up for at least 100 miles when a million people tried to flee the Texas coast.

Tempers flared in the 97 degree Fahrenheit (36 Celsius) heat at the few gas stations that still had gas, overheated cars lined the freeways and trips that normally take 15 minutes stretched into hours.

Texas officials called for evacuation of the Houston area, including the city of Galveston, on Wednesday as Rita, now a Category 4 storm with 150 mile per hour (241.4-kph) winds, took aim from the Gulf of Mexico.

In the exodus that ensued, cars moved so slowly on Interstate 45, the main road to Dallas 240 miles north, that people had time to get out of their cars, walk to nearby stores, wait in long lines at restrooms and return to vehicles that had not moved.

Evacuee Peggy Hill told a local television station she had been on the road 20 hours, departing from League City 10 miles

southeast of Houston and had not yet gotten across the nation's fourth largest city.

"I was finally able to get from Beltway 8 to Highway 290, so now we're on the 290 parking lot instead of the Beltway 8 parking lot," she said.

John Griffin, 37, Houston, his wife and two young daughters turned back to Houston after several hours on the road trying to move away from the coast.

"It's an absolute nightmare," he said. "I'm worried about the storm, but you have to pick your poison -- stay and deal with wind and rain here or get out on the road and deal with what are already catastrophic conditions on the highway. I've never seen anything like this."

Ella Corder told the Houston Chronicle in a call from her cell phone she had gone just five miles in 12 hours.

"All I want to do is go home," she said tearfully. "Can't anyone get me out of here?"

State highway officials at midday on Thursday finally shut down inbound traffic on Interstate 45 and opened all lanes to cars headed out, saying that logistical problems had prevented them from doing it before.

But traffic was so hopelessly backed up, the highways continued to be choked.

"This was not in the plan," Harris County Judge Robert Eckels said in a news conference.

Shannon Myatt, a Reuters sales executive, got caught in the traffic trying to the get the airport -- where travelers had to wait hours to get on to planes -- and said her taxi had gone 1/8 of a mile in 1 1/2 hours.

"We can't figure out why it's not moving at all," she said.

Myatt said people who did not get out and go to bathrooms in nearby stores were urinating in whatever they could find in their cars.

"They're peeing in cups and throwing it out the window. We just saw somebody do that," she said.

Officials offered no quick fixes, but said they would provide free gasoline to people who ran out of gas while waiting in the traffic.

(Additional reporting by Matt Daily and Mark Babineck)

10:38 PM  

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