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The material contained in these pages are the author's opinions, and do not reflect that of any other person or entity.  You are advised to seek expert opinion if you have questions or concerns about your specific emergency preparedness situation.

Evacuation Preparation Overview
Many of us who endured the mass evacuation before Hurricane Rita don't necessarily have fond memories of that experience.  The Rita evacuation was the largest mass evacuation in the history of the United States.  Many folks spent 24 hours or more in their vehicle as they sought refuge from the deadly storm.  I received several first-hand reports from individuals who spent 18 or more hours just to get from Houston to Dallas.  During normal conditions, that trip usually only takes about four hours. 

Personally, I'd rather not relive that event.  However, given the information I had at the timea major hurricane predicted to hit Harris County dead onI'd probably make the same decision again.  City, County and State officials are claiming that they have a much better plan in place should this occur again.  

It's a sad but noteworthy statistic that the vast majority of fatalities associated with Hurricane Rita were related to the evacuation.  Many persons died from the heat or stress as they tried to flee the city.  Most of those deaths could have been prevented if those persons had followed the tips on this page.

Essentials For Your Vehicle
When my family began our evacuation from Hurricane Rita, I was soon very glad that I had taken the time to prepare before leaving home.  For our first four hours on the highway, we averaged a speed of only 1.5 miles per hour!  I witnessed hundreds of vehicles broken down, overheated, and out of gas.    It became obvious to me that most folks were ill-prepared for any kind evacuation, much less one as extreme as this!

If you decide to evacuate, you should start by taking a look at the checklist further down this page.  It would be wise to have enough food, drink and supplies for your family and pets for at least three days.  Even though you may make it to a shelter or safe destination within 24 hours, it's always best to be prepared if the shelter doesn't have adequate supplies for the initial wave of refugees.

It's also a good idea to keep a "Go Bag" that's stocked up and ready to go on very short notice.  Though we've become accustomed to hurricanes coming in via the Atlantic Basin giving us substantial lead time, Category 3 Hurricane Alicia formed in the Gulf Of Mexico and hit Houston in just three days!  So during hurricane season, you should always be prepared for a quick evacuation.

Your Go Bag should contain many of the essentials that you may need in your car, such as emergency food, water, and a first aid kit.  Though this may not be adequate to feed an entire family for several days, it will at least provide some level of preparedness should you have to hit the road in a hurry.  Personally,  I'm a big advocate of making your own customized Go Bag.  But buying a ready-made kit may be best if you're prone to procrastination.  I've looked high and low for a good, ready-made bag, and the best one I've found is Uncle Bob's Go Bag.  I was pleasantly surprised to see the quality of products in this bag, and how close it was to what I have in mine.

To Stay or Go?
One of the most difficult decisions you will be faced with is whether or not you should stay put and ride out the storm at home, or to evacuate and take your chances on the freeways.  As you decide to either stay or leave, there are several factors that should help you make your decision:

  • How big and powerful is the storm?  There's a huge difference in a small, Category One hurricane and a monster Category Five!  

  • Do you have a place to go should you choose to evacuate?  Do you even know where the shelters are along your evacuation path?

  • How secure is your home, and how safe do you believe you will be if you don't evacuate?  Are you in an old home, in a low-lying area prone to flooding?  

  • How prepared are you to care for yourself before, during, and after a storm and possible protracted power outage?

  • How far are you from where the storm will make landfall?  The inland winds from a hurricane may be much greater than you think.  Use the software at this National Hurricane Center's High Wind Risk Area web page to view the computer models for where you live.

 As you make your decisions based on the size and Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, remember that a hurricane can strengthen a full category just twelve hours before landfall.  So if a Category Three hurricane is more than  think your residence can sustain, you might want to be prepared to evacuate if it is predicted to be a Category Two at landfall.

Making A Portable Toilet For Your Car or Truck
Those who evacuated from Houston during Hurricane Rita will surely remember the endless  hours spent in their cars, stuck in what was probably the world's longest traffic jam!  Toilet facilities were few and far between, and those that were open were sure to be out of toilet paper.  So at a minimum, pack a roll or two with you in your car.  However, to be assured some semblance privacy should you be unable to find a toilet, you should consider building a portable toilet for your car or truck.  I personally like the Reliance Luggable Loo.  In your potty, you should also include a non-transparent shower curtain with either a couple of powerful magnets or suction cups attached to the top corners (you may wish to also add a couple to the sides as well).  If you use magnets, be careful to not scratch your vehicle when setting up or taking down your privacy curtain.  In addition to the Luggable Loo, you should bring along several 13 gallon plastic garbage bags.  Just stretch the trash bags over the rim of the Luggable Loo and place the toilet seat on top.  A bottle of hand sanitizer is also a good idea for cleanup afterwards.  For those on a tight budget, a Homer Bucket from Home Depot (with lid) will also work, but it's a lot less comfortable.  After you've "done your business," just knot up the garbage bag and place it in the bucket and dispose of properly when you arrive at your destination.

  
The Reliance Luggable Loo and the privacy curtain in use


Evacuation Routes

The Texas Department of Transportation has designated several evacuation routes away from the coast and low lying areas.  This also includes plans to contra-flow several of the freeways to move more vehicles in less time. 
Detailed plans for the various evacuation routes can be found at the following links:

Freeway Evacuation Information: Interstate 10

Freeway Evacuation Information: Interstate 37

Freeway Evacuation Information: Interstate 45

Freeway Evacuation Information: US 59

Freeway Evacuation Information: US 290

Freeway Evacuation Information: Rio Grande Valley


Evacuation Checklist

Item Comments
Back pack For carrying items in case you have to leave the car.
Butane lighter  
Candy and/or snacks  
Cap with a bill to help keep the rain out of your eyes  
Cell phone with full battery Mobile charger would be very helpful.  
Change for pay phones  
Duct tape For miscellaneous repairs
Fix-A-Flat A flat tire could be real trouble at a time like this.
Flares or light sticks  
Flashlight Be sure to have an extra set of fresh batteries.
Food and snacks  
Gas--full tank You may get stuck in traffic like the Houston Rita evacuation.  Many people were in traffic for sixteen hours or more!
Gloves: leather  
Handkerchief To wipe off face or clean glasses.
Hotel list for places to stay along route.  If you have pets, check for pet friendly hotels ahead of time.  
Insect repellant  
Jumper cables  
Kleenex  
Leatherman universal tool Great for making emergency repairs
Maps Maps of local area, county and state.  The more, the better!
Paper towels You may be eating in the car.  Paper towels are essential!
Power Bars or similar meal replacement bars  
Radio: Portable battery powered If you are unable to use your car radio, a portable may be useful. 
Rain jacket or poncho  
Reading material for yourself, family and kids If you get stuck in a shelter, you may have a LOT of time on your hands.
Rope: Nylon This may be necessary to rescue someone from the water--or maybe you!
Shoes: Old shoes that you don't mind ruining  
Small first aid kit  
Socks  Extra socks in case you get wet feet
Toilet paper If you can find a bathroom, the toilet paper will probably be long gone!
Tools Various tools for emergency repairs
Towels It may be raining when you make your exit, and there's a chance you may have to get out of the car at some point.  Also, if it's really hot, it may be good to be able to dry off the perspiration.
Umbrella  Preferably a strong, dependable one
Wash clothes (wet) in zip lock bags  
Water and soft drinks Many people died of heat-related illnesses during the Hurricane Rita evacuations.  Be sure to stay well hydrated
Whistle Whistles will last longer and louder than your lungs
Zip lock bags For sensitive items (such as wallet) if you have to get out in water.

 

 

Owner: Haskell L. Moore
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Email me at: HurricaneHaskell@gmail.com