Saturday, September 23, 2006

remembering rita one year later

Today is the one year anniversary of Hurricane Rita hitting the Gulf Coast near mine and Greg's hometowns.

We were on vacation last year at Disneyland having a fun time not really thinking of sad things since we were at the happiest place on Earth. We had gone to California knowing the storm was a threat to our families but never thought they would personally be affected by it. We had evacuated several times while growing up and the storms either weakened or turned missing us and our homes. We were in touch with my family and Greg's constantly, while they evacuated. My parents, grandmother, brother & sister in law and their two kids, as well as my sister and her two girls all left together expecting to drive north about 100 miles and find a place to camp(my parents pulled their camp trailer). Well what would have taken less than two hours ended up taking about 10 hours. They all crammed themselves in the camper and tried to get some rest not knowing what the next day would encounter.

I stayed up all night that night watching CNN and Fox News so I could then get intouch with them by cell phone. They didn't have access to TV so they had no idea of where the storm was going and how high the wind speeds were... I call them early Saturday morning and warned them of the, then catergory 5 hurricane, and encouraged them to leave and just start driving and head towards our home in San Antonio. I knew they wouldn't be safe in the camper even being so far from the coast but knew the storm surge and wind they would come along with a 5 storm would be terrible. They decided to leave the camper(knowing it would slow them down) and make a long round about trip to San Antonio. I can't remember how long it took them but it was pretty much all day. They were stuck in traffic jams on small Texas roads, long lines waiting for gas not knowing if the gas pumps would still have gas once they reached the front of the lines, and some hours only traveling only five miles the entire hour. They finally reached our home and let themselves in and were all safe and able to rest even though they were trying to watch the live coverage on TV. They were terrified of what the damage would be even thought the Hurricane made land fall as a catergory 3 storm. At this point it was a hurry up and wait game.
(note wrong date on pictures)

We arrived home on Monday morning from California to a house full of family. It was a bitter sweet reuinion for us. We were so glad to see them all okay as they were to see us, but there were few smiles in our home that day still wandering what the storm had done to their homes. It was a bit cramped in our 1500 square foot home with 15 people staying there, 8 adults and 7 kids that were 8 years old and under.

Dad's workshop

Finally they got a phone call from a cousin that had rode out the storm, that there were three trees on my parents house and one one my dad's workshop. It was devestating to see my parents as they revealed this news and to know the house they raised us in was severely damaged. Since they were unable to drive home(noone that didn't remain in the area were not allowed to come back). My mom being a nurse was let back in so she could go back to work.A few of the people that had stayed went to my parents and tried to clean up some and cut the trees off the house and cover the holes that were in the roof with tarps so any rain that would contiue to fall would not damage the stuff they had.

Huge oak tree on the middle of their home

Both my brother and sister's homes were spared heavy damage. They both had minimal roof damage as did Greg's parents' home. How grateful we are that no one in our family was physically injured in this horrific natural disaster.

After about a week they were able to move into an extended stay hotel that FEMA paid for. We continued to seet them daily and my nephew even enrolled in school with Mackenzi & Maci for a few weeks.

My dad went back and forth periodically working on trying to clean up around the house. With all of the dwon trees and power lines and debris everywhere there lots of people trying to clean up their land. One of the people that live not too far from my parents house decided to brun some of the stuff that was on his land. Yes, this sound crazy knowing there was so many trees and so much under brush that in a plit second could catch fire and burn until ther ewas nothing left in its path. With there home on a piece of land that was pine tree after pine tree wth oak trees all inbetween it was food for any fire that could have started. The neoghbor finished his work and them left town. Well the fire that he thought had burned out relit itself and roared through our forest. My dad wasn't home but my grandmother whomlived next door heard an explosion and called my dad on his cell phone. He was about thirty miles away. He turned his truck around, turned on his emergency flashers, and sped home as fast as he could. When her arrived the fire department was there but fe drove up to find his workshop(that had been smashed by a tree) was totally burned down and the end of their house had recieved minor damage from the heat from the fire. Thankfully the fire department was there and able to put the fire out before it reached the house.

workshop after fire

One year later, my parents home is still not back to completely normal. With all of the damage from Katrina and Rita, the repair process is very slow going. Most people were waiting 9 months for new roofs to be done by companies. My dad tackled there home himself and has fixed most of where the trees had gone through. They still are living without any type of flooring. They are still walking around on cement floors and you can still see water damage spots on the ceiling and wall. My dad's workshop was finished just last week but everything else is, slowly but surely, getting back to normal.

What an experience this was to go through with them. We continue to hope and pray for them to get their lives and home back to normal sometime soon.


Bridget said...

I knew your parents house had been hit by the hurricane but didn't know about the fire. What a disaster!

Mindy said...

What a story! My heavens that is so sad. I can hardly look at pictures of our old home that was totally ruined from Katrina. Makes me want to cry. I hope your parents' home gets finished and fixed soon!

Anonymous said...

Those pictures are crazy. I can't believe about the fire after the hurricane as well- I mean add insult to injury! Glad they are picking up the pieces.

Jenny said...

It's so hard to believe that its been a year. I keep telling you guys you need to sign up for Extreme Makeover!! It breaks my heart to see your parents house so torn up. They are the most wonderful people-- you often wonder why things like that happen.

pam said...

What a trial. I'm so thankful for your families safety. The fire could have been the straw that broke the camels back but it sounds as if they just kept going. What strong people your parents are.

Thank you for sharing your/their journey. Good luck to your parents and their rebuilding efforts.

grammy said...

at least we are all safe and sound, besides it is only stuff!! love you bunches...