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
Personally, I'd rather not
relive that event. However, given the information I had at
the time—a major hurricane predicted to hit Harris County dead
on—I'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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
Luggable Loo and the privacy curtain in use
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:
Evacuation Information: Interstate 10
Evacuation Information: Interstate 37
Evacuation Information: Interstate 45
Evacuation Information: US 59
Evacuation Information: US 290
Evacuation Information: Rio Grande Valley
carrying items in case you have to leave the car.
|Candy and/or snacks
|Cap with a bill to help keep the rain out of your
|Cell phone with full battery
charger would be very helpful.
|Change for pay phones
flat tire could be real trouble at a time like this.
|Flares or light sticks
sure to have an extra set of fresh batteries.
|Food and snacks
may get stuck in traffic like the Houston Rita evacuation.
Many people were in traffic for sixteen hours or more!
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
|Leatherman universal tool
for making emergency repairs
of local area, county and state.
The more, the better!
may be eating in the car. Paper
towels are essential!
|Power Bars or similar meal replacement bars
|Radio: Portable battery powered
you are unable to use your car radio, a portable may be useful.
|Rain jacket or poncho
|Reading material for yourself, family and kids
you get stuck in a shelter, you may have a LOT of time on your
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 in case you get wet feet
you can find a bathroom, the toilet paper will probably be long
tools for emergency repairs
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.
a strong, dependable one
|Wash clothes (wet) in zip lock bags
|Water and soft drinks
people died of heat-related illnesses during the Hurricane Rita
evacuations. Be sure to stay well
will last longer and louder than your lungs
|Zip lock bags
sensitive items (such as wallet) if you have to get out in water.