Well, we are safe and sound, if exhausted. We never made it to Carlsbad, unfortunately. After driving for about 12 straight hours and only getting to Ozona, TX, we realized we were too exhausted to try and make it to New Mexico. Except for a short one hour nap in a parking lot, we'd been up for twenty-four hours. After packing all of our possessions that would fit in our SUV and saying goodbye to our neighbor who decided to try to sit it out because his boss refused to let his people go until Saturday (projected landfall), we were beat before we even took off. Then sitting in the parking lot that was the freeway for hours didn't help. We did fine on gas, though, and took turns driving, and tried to push on, but we knew we were done for.
We used our cell to find a Holiday Inn closer in, and got one of the last rooms. Almost everyone we met in the gas stations, rest stops, and in the hotel line was fleeing the Texas coast. Reports from the papers estimated that over a million people were on the roads, and I believe it. Once we got west of Austin, however, things thinned out.
Everyone has the same dazed look on their face, and many are accepting that they may not see their homes again. Even if the projected landfall turns out to be farther east than predicted, we'll probably still see significant damage. Our property is heavily wooded (as is our whole town), and the officials were recommending voluntary evacuation for our area as a result of danger from falling trees and power lines. Since we couldn't find anything closer, we had to press on.
Even if the house survives, the fact that the electricity, gas, and water will be shut down for up to two weeks means we probably won't be able to go back into the house for a while. We work an hour away from where we live, and though they shut down the campus we teach at for Thursday and Friday, school will be in session again next week (unless the city is underwater, of course). So, we have to find a way to get close enough to work to continue to do our jobs while we wait for our home to be habitable. And I still have 75 papers to grade! Reckon I'll be sitting in front of the big screen TV in the lobby of the Holiday Inn tomorrow, grading papers and waiting to see where Rita makes landfall.
I think, BTW, we saw every small town West Texas has to offer. Most everyone was friendly, and I had to laugh at some of the old-style gas stations and businesses we saw. In one tiny town, right across the street from each other (Main Street, and the ONLY street), were two businesses that made me go "hmmmm"--the Doughnut and Seafood Shop (yuck) and the Drive-Thru Liquor Depot. Can anyone think of two combinations of things that go together less? And I lost count of the number of pawn and gun shops. Deer processing is apparently a big business in west Texas, too. And speaking of the roads, I've never seen so much road kill in my life, including a few Bambis. The skunks, rodents, raccoons, etc go without saying, but when we saw the vultures, I knew we'd seen it all. I expected to hear that music that always precedes Clint Eastwood's entrance in those old spaghetti westerns at that point.
Well, that's it from the front. Keep those prayers coming that our home will be spared, as well as no lives lost from this killer storm.