A Letter from Dallas and Karen Ives
a report on their travails in preparation for Hurricane Rita

Editor's note: Dallas Ives is a 1963 graduate of Rolfe High School and a 1967 graduate of Iowa State University. He went directly from Iowa State with physics degree in hand to work at NASA where he was an engineer for his entire career, retiring a couple of years ago. Dallas and Karen Ives, a software manager at NASA, live in Seabrook with their two cats, Nicki and Tonto. Seabrook is halfway between Galveston and Houston.

From: "Dallas & Karen Ives" <dives@houston.rr.com>
Subject: Dallas & Karen's Rita redeaux
Date: Mon, 26 Sep 2005 14:28:21 -0500

Hi all,

Turns out when all was said and done our Hurricane Rita experience wasn't too bad (or too exciting). But I'm sure some of you are wondering, so here's the story:

It all started with some of the worst timing in history as Dallas scheduled some minor arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder (a nagging problem for a number of years) for Tuesday 9/20 (timed to be right after we got back from a 2 week hiking vacation in Europe). It was only on Monday, just when it was too late to reschedule, that we realized that Rita was finally coming on a track right toward Houston. The operation went smoothly although when we got home from the surgery center on Tuesday afternoon he could only wander around the house in a drug-induced daze. On Wednesday we started to seriously pack to evacuate. Mostly we packed up photo albums and old financial records, plus the 2 reluctant cats of course. Dallas did what he could one-handed and Karen got to do all the heavy lifting. After loading both cars we moved as much stuff as we could away from the windows, out of the basement, and covered what furniture we could with tarps or plastic. Predictions of Rita's landfall at that point were pretty grim, so we wondered if we'd have a home to come back to.

Then about 3:30 p.m. we headed for a friend's house on the other side of Houston, normally about an hour drive from our place near the coast. We soon hit Beltway 8 around Houston and it was an absolute parking lot. After not moving for about 15 minutes, we got off the Beltway and cut cross town on surface roads. Four hours later we reached our destination; seemed like an eternity to us at the time, but after a few days of hearing stories of people spending 24 hours to get to Austin and other places out-of-town we decided we were pretty lucky.

We spent the next 3 days mostly watching hurricane coverage on TV in air conditioned comfort while eating steaks and drinking expensive wine that another set of evacuee friends had brought instead of leaving it at home to be ruined by Rita. In that period we went from the depths of despair as we watched Rita grow into a category 5 monster storm headed almost directly at Houston (with a 20 foot storm surge predicted in the Galveston Bay area, where our home sits at about 10-12 feet) to finally a much better mood as Rita changed to a smaller storm that not only missed Houston, but shifted from the west to the east side of us (so we moved from the "dirty" side to the "clean" side of the storm).

On Saturday morning we got a call from our next-door neighbor who was already home and reported little damage. Even though our house had no electricity we decided to head home as quickly as possible to avoid the expected traffic jams going in that direction as 1-2 million Houston evacuees returned home. We zoomed home in only an hour, and even the cats seemed to not mind the drive as much this time. We found a few mid-size branches down in the yard but all our big old trees intact, and only a few inches of water in the garage and basement. Luckily one neighbor had electricity, so we were able to run an extension cord from his house to our guest room, which we used to alternatively run a small window AC in the guest room and our refrigerator. Again poor Karen got to carry all the heavy stuff from the car to the house while Dallas helped out where he could.

On Saturday the house "only" got to about 84 degrees inside. By the end of Sunday it was up to 89 and the small window unit was barely offering a little relief in the guest room. However, just as we were deciding we would have to make other arrangements for spending the night the electricity finally came back on - alleluia!

So we're pretty much back to normal now. Thanks very much to everyone for their thoughts, prayers and offers of help. We dodged a real bullet this time, and hope next time isn't for quite awhile.

Dallas & Karen

P.S. Today we made it outside for a few hours of cleaning up all the branches and leaves in the yard. Again Karen and a volunteer friend did most of the hard yard work while Dallas supervised and claimed his shoulder hurt. Hmmmmmmm...maybe that surgery wasn't such bad timing after all...