My Ike Evacuation story

Written by Bob McCormick on 9/15/2008 09:24:00 PM

I'd been keeping my eye on Hurricane Ike when it was in the Atlantic Ocean. As everyone knows, it took an unfortunate turn into the Gulf of Mexico, and ultimately, right on top of where I live!

I also had the "opportunity" to be on console during the runup to Ike's landing. Per NASA rules, we started making preparations for shutting down JSC (and Mission Control), and relinquish ISS control to a control center close to Austin, as well as to Huntsville, Alabama. During my shift, the predictions were such that the eye of the storm would pass over the far eastern corner of Matagorda Bay, which, given the predicted storm intensity, was just on the edge of my decision to evacuate. I figured if the track went any further east, Seabrook would not be safe.

In Mission Control, we wound up handing over ISS control at 4 AM on Thursday, but my last shift ended at midnight Wednesday. During my last shift, my wife called to tell me that there was a local run on gas, as everyone was topping off their cars, per local government direction. As a result, I made sure to do the same thing before I got home. But I was kind of wound up with the day's events ... I checked too many things out on the Internet. As a result, I didn't get to sleep until about 3 AM.

At about 7:30 in the morning, my supervisor called up to let me know that JSC was taking administrative leave to shut down the center, and that if I left, I should call him so that he could keep track of who evacuated or not. Just after I hung up the phone, the local news reported that our zip code was in a mandatory evacuation area, and that the predicted track was going to go over Galveston. My wife and I had seen enough, so we started to make plans to head to
New Waverly where my Mother and Father in law live, just as we had for Hurricane Rita, and I called my supervisor back to let him know. However, we also realized that the track was probably going to take the storm in that direction. In the process of letting everyone know where we were going, my wife called up her sister in Austin, who offered to take us in. We took her up on her offer, as we realized it would be safer than New Waverly (and definitely safer than Seabrook), and I called my supervisor back again. My wife and I decided not to pack as much as we had for the Hurricane Rita evacuation, but still would up taking 6 hours to pack. So, we took off for Austin at 2:30. We knew from our past evacuation that we wanted to avoid crowds, but we headed up Interstate 45, then turned west down Beltway 8 - and that's where the traffic started.

However, both us had our cell phones and Key Maps, and were able to stay on side streets parallel with Beltway 8 until we got to the southwest side of Houston. From there, we saw that Beltway 8 traffic was light, so we got back on Beltway 8. We thought we would do well to get on the Westpark tollway, but it was backed down right at the Beltway 8 intersection. So we came up with an alternate plan - go up to Hwy 290, then proceed west on FM 529 all the way to Bellville.

Things seemed to take forever to get through Houston, but once we got past the Cypress-Fairbanks area and were in the country, there was no problem. Of course, this was at 6:30 - we had already been on the road for 4 hours. We pulled into Bellville and had dinner at a Dairy Queen with a number of other people who also seemed to be evacuating the Clear Lake area.

After dinner at the DQ, we decided we'd drive up Texas 35 to Milano, and then come down US79 to get to Austin. This route would take us into Austin from the north - we figured the southern approaches to Austin from Houston would be crowded with Houston traffic. And indeed, it did - we are now staying to the west of Austin, in the Lake Travis area.

Before we had left home, we had registered our cell phones and e-mail addresses with the El Lago City Website. Now, we're getting e-mails and phone calls from the city of El Lago and from the Johnson Space Center which tell us when and where things are gonna opening. It doesn't look like JSC is going to open till Thursday. Furthermore, the reports indicate that there's no power into El Lago, and news reports indicate that gas, ice, and food are in short supply. Since I don't need to get back to town until Thursday at the earliest, I'm in no rush to get home, just to sweat it out with now power/Air Conditioning.

While all these was happening. my mom and dad evacuated to where my brother lives in the woodlands. Apparently they lost power, and things got a little rough for them. But my brother brought them to where he works at Fox Sports, and they stayed there overnight.

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