Rita redux

A boat carried a mile or so by Rita from the water near Sabine Pass.
I just finished watching a special our local KFDM-TV 6 that looked back at Hurricane Rita in Southeast Texas. Lately all three local TV stations have had these annoying promo ads to claim they were there during the crunch time of the storm for the viewers. Maybe so. But I wonder how many viewers were left to see the local reports, especially when nearly all of the electricity was clobbered throughout these stations’ viewing area? Not to mention probably most of those viewers were hundreds of miles away from the local TV signals in safe places watching people like Fox News’ Shepherd Smith getting blown down by Rita’s wind in their home environs.

With that said and realizing that it is November “Sweeps” time for local stations, I did find the Channel 6 special to be a good recap of what happened during those first few days of the storm.

After some time to reflect on the storm I think maybe I really would have been safer at my apartment 45 miles from the coast than at my brother’s home almost 80 miles away from the Gulf. That sounds kind of weird I suppose. But Rita turned out to be hell on trees. And although you can still see blue tarps covering probably an average of every 10th house on my street for a two-mile stretch, this area was not then — and certainly not now — as covered with timber as where I rode out the storm. And the wind turned out be just as fierce where I “evacuated” as it was here in Beaumont at my apartment.

Theoretically no one was safe near where Rita made landfall. The photo I took above of the boat at Sabine Pass and quite a distance from the water is a good example. The Channel 6 report told of a couple of people who emerged from the hurricane at Sabine Pass, not too far west of where Rita came on shore, who were dazed and very lucky to be alive.

Alive is the operative word. No accurate death count exists that I have heard as to Rita’s damage. Channel 6 said something like 119. That is the most I’ve heard so far. I’ve also heard figures given for many less casualties. Very few died from the direct effects of the storm. That is not to lessen the sadness of those who lost loved ones.

But really, I said this just after Rita and I will say it forever: “We were fortunate.” And unfortunately part of that fortune stems from nearby Hurricane Katrina that preceded Rita by a week or two. We are still trying to figure out all that happened during Katrina. However, a lot of people here in Southeast Texas — from Western Louisiana to Surfside Beach near the southwest of Houston — took notice of Katrina. And they got out of Rita’s way.

One thing the TV report I saw tonight brought back was just how long this storm went on. Hurricanes are slow and noisy creatures. I have said before that I wasn’t really scared during the hurricane. If I had been able to fully hear, however, the huge trees in my brother’s yard being uprooted during that howling storm I can’t say how I might have felt then. That is of little consequence though. All that matters is that I’m here today. My family is here today. And although a lot of people lost stuff, that is all many of them lost, stuff.

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