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Location:near Houston, Gulf Coast, United States

Conservatively liberal, moderately well-educated, and highly opinionated...

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Friday, September 23, 2005

The Katrita Phenomenon

Since I can’t distinguish the panic surrounding Rita from the psychological horrors of Katrina, I’ve started thinking of this whole debacle as the "Katrita" Phenomenon. The entire Texas coastal region is suffering from its effects, and it’s absolutely astonishing.

I’ve been reading through my blog entries over the last week, and can easily see my own affliction, right from the start. Why else would a seasoned hurricane “survivor” (we all are down here) have written a post called, “
Me? Nervous? U Betcha!” for a tropical depression?

Intellectually, I and other long-term Gulf Coast dwellers know that Katrina's impact on New Orleans was unique, and that the vast damage elsewhere was primarily right along the coast. Emotionally, the images are too fresh in our minds to separate from the current reality.

Under normal circumstances (sans Katrina), we’d likely have started watching Rita very carefully sometime on Tuesday – but by Tuesday, people were full-tilt into the evacuation. This behavior varies so widely from the normal mode, I can hardly comprehend it.

By Wednesday night, Rita was one of the scariest storms I’ve ever seen - but still days away. That was the night I considered leaving – and might have, had the evacuation routes out of the Houston metro area not already been grid-locked. That night, I was really scared – because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to leave. Two days yet to go, and the routes out were at a stand-still.

Since that terrifying Wednesday night, my area has watched Rita turn to the northeast, not only taking us out of the direct path, but also putting the Houston area on the “good side” of the storm. Coastal areas are still at risk, of course, by their very nature, proximity notwithstanding.

I still see neighbors leaving this morning, although I really can’t understand what destination might be achievable. More to the point - what is it that they're fleeing? Conditions on the roads are likely far worse than here at home, regardless of Rita’s landfall. I’d much rather be in my house than out of gas, or overheated and stalled, on a congested highway. Is that what happened
to this bus?

The panic has driven incredible numbers of people from homes that are not threatened substantially, impeding (and possibly endangering) the mandatory evacuees from the lower-lying coastal communities.

Why are so many people still fleeing my area? The Katrita Phenomenon. For the next decade, psychologists and sociologists are going to have an absolute field day.