I get settled at Sean and Bethany’s (thanks for taking me in!) and take a much-needed shower. Bethany fixed a great dinner, and we settled in for the night.
I wanted to go to sleep early, as it had been quite a stressful day, and Eric and Sean and Bethany stayed up playing a game. Sleep was eluding me, and so I was still awake when they finished the game.
We watched the 10:00 PM news and discovered that residents could get back into Orange to check on their homes. Eric’s house is in Orange. Beaumont residents were prohibited from returning home at this time. Eric said that he wouldn’t be able to sleep until he knew about his house, so at 1 AM on Monday morning, we set off to Orange.
After we got out of Houston on I10, I got that feeling again that we were in refugee land. There were no lights anywhere, as no one had power, and nothing was open for business. We were just one of a handful of cars on the freeway. It was this way for the next 80 or so miles.
We weren’t able to see much damage on the freeway, other than a few damaged highway signs, and lots of vehicles left stranded on the side of the road. As we entered the Beaumont city limits, we discovered that all the exits off the freeway into the city were blocked by DPS officers. I guess they were serious when they said no one was permitted back into town.
We continued east to Orange, about 30 miles outside of Beaumont. We took the exit for Eric’s street, and had to proceed VERY slowly around the downed power lines, downed poles, and downed trees. We eventually made it to his house, and discovered, much to our relief, that it was still standing and appeared to have little damage. One house down and one to go. We inspected the outside of the house, and other than limbs down around the yard and a missing screen and some missing gutters, Eric’s house appeared ok. His yard had become a shingle garden, so we assumed the top layer of shingles had come off of his roof, although the roof appeared fine. We then realized, when we found a vent in his yard that wasn’t his, that the shingles must be from his neighbor’s homes.
We took a look around inside, and everything seemed ok. Eric loaded up some more stuff, as we had heard by then that it would be 2-8 weeks before power would be restored. We then headed back toward Beaumont to try our luck there.
Upon reaching the Beaumont city limits, I decided to pull into one of the exits and talk to the DPS officer stationed there. I discovered he knew little more than I did, as he had been brought in from the Austin area the night before and knew nothing about what was going on locally. All he could tell me was that he couldn’t let me in to get to my home.
We drove off, resigned to the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to check out my house. Just as I was about to turn toward Houston, I wanted to check out and see if the DPS officers were also blocking the exits along US 69/96. We exited north and discovered that the DPS was very thorough — those exits were covered as well. At that point, I thought I was going to have to go into the next town to turn around, as I couldn’t do that from the freeway. Suddenly, I spotted an exit that wasn’t being blocked by the DPS. I guess he must’ve been on a bathroom break or something..:)
I asked Eric if I should take it and go to my house — I was quickly chickening out. He said that I should and we did. It was really tough to see, as there were no streetlights on, and I had to be very careful of more downed trees and power lines. About 2 minutes after exiting, we were stopped by a DPS officer, who informed us that the city was under curfew and wanted to know how we breached the security perimeter. We didn’t know about the curfew, and I played ignorant about the security perimeter, telling the officer that I had evacuated to Jasper and I wanted to get back to my house to pick up stuff and then return to Jasper and that I had simply exited where I usually did and said that I had no problem doing so. OK, so I told a few half-truths in the process here..<g> He then told me to go straight home and not try to leave again until the curfew was lifted at 6 AM.
We drove another 2 minutes and saw a swarm of DPS officers in the area. I started to freak out, and Eric said to just be calm and keep driving until we were stopped. Sure enough, we were pulled over again by another DPS officer. This time I was asked for ID to prove I was a Beaumont resident, and fortunately, my driver’s license had the address of the place where I’d been a housesitter earlier in the summer. I didn’t have anything to prove I lived at my current location, as I’d only been there 3 weeks. I didn’t even have a lease, as my landlord had been sick and I’d never signed one. So, I pulled out my tattered index card with my list of addresses and phone numbers for the past 2 months and said the top address was my current one and was where I was headed. I think my story was so pathetic that it had to be true..LOL He told us about the curfew and said that the Beaumont Police Dept. was strictly enforcing curfew and was arresting people. I told him that this was the 2nd time we had been stopped, all I wanted to do was go home, and would he give me a personal escort so I wouldn’t be stopped again? He turned me down for the personal escort, so we were on our own once again.
We drove a bit further, and passed Wal-Mart, and was amazed that their entire parking lot was lit. Only Wally World could pull that off when no one else could..LOL I told Eric that I wanted to hide out until the curfew lifted, as I was afraid out luck would run out and we’d be arrested, so we pulled into a damaged car wash and "went to ground", as Eric called it. It was 5:15 AM by then, and we had to hang out for 45 minutes. I kept the car on to run the AC, as the humidity had seriously reached 100% and it was hotter than hell, even at 5 AM. The mosquitos were out in full force, and I kept talking about the irony of surviving the hurricane but dying of West Nile virus, which is carried by mosquitoes.
Just before 6 AM, we saw all the DPS officers make a mass exodus from the street. About 6:10 AM, we came out of hiding and proceeded to my house — a trip that would normally only take 15 minutes or so from our current location took at least twice that. We arrived at my house and found, to my great relief, that it was still standing and was still intact. Not even a window was broken! I loaded up some more computer equipment and clothing, and we left Beaumont around 7 AM Monday morning. The DPS officers were still stationed at all the exits, but no one stopped us again, and we headed back to Houston.
Life was good–both houses survived pretty intact. Power would be off for awhile, and we’d have to find temporary lodgings, but things could be so much worse. We arrived back in Houston, slept all day, and then got up and started playing dialing for housing to find a place to live.
Around 8 PM we hit paydirt. Extended stay hotel rooms with broadband Internet and a kitchen were in short supply, as many Hurricane Katrina evacuees were still in the Houston area. We found a hotel in Clear Lake, south of Houston, and made a reservation for a month, just to be safe.
On Wednesday, we moved into the hotel, and I got my biz back up and running that Thursday. Thank goodness for my virtual biz–I have friends with brick and mortar businesses who were out of business for the time being until power is restored.
I hope never to have to evacuate for a hurricane again–once was quite enough!
Best-selling author Donna Gunter works with successful business owners who are experts in their fields and established in their industry and are seeking a way to stand out from their competitors. Using her Ideal Clients on Autopilot System©, she helps them determine the exact strategies to generate more qualified leads and better-paying clients with automated systems. This proven system makes all their marketing easier and more effective and they find themselves positioned as the only choice for their clients.