This blog is about yesterday, 1 Sep 2017. So this is my second blog post – never in a million years would I have ever imagined saying or typing that! Friday morning for me started at 0400 when I awoke – I thought I had heard the sound of water… really! I used the bathroom just outside Emily’s room and refilled the flush tank with a bucket of water from the pool for the next user. It was a little weird to have been back in “civilization” now for 2 nights but having no running water. I took my second outdoor shower of the week. I then made some coffee and took a look at my phone at the many texts, voicemails and missed calls I had yet to respond to. I had just told my brother, Robert, the night before my story, and it was the first time I had revealed it to anyone other than my wife and kids – and I have yet to talk to my brother, Edgar, or my sister, Veronica. I decided to reply to the first text I came to and started typing one to my Civil Air Patrol squadron. Well, the text started getting longer and longer, and so I switched to my laptop and just figured I could transfer it to text afterward. When Deverie came and found me out on the Young’s back porch typing away, she suggested I publish a blog post on her website. I scoffed at first, but then warmed to the idea. Hence, my story yesterday.
As soon as I finished, a little before noon, my son and I went on a search-and-purchase expedition for anything that could function as a cargo carrier for the roof of our GMC Yukon, the only vehicle we had that survived the flood and which had been the family’s escape vehicle on Monday. We were planning to head up to Saginaw, Texas, just north of Fort Worth, to stay with my sister, Sonia, for a few days and then on up to my brothers in Tulsa and Bartlesville, OK. Our eventual destination was going to Utah, where our dear Air Force friends, Todd & Teresa Rotramel, have their motor home waiting for us to drive down to Texas and use as a temporary home during our rebuild. Todd is currently deployed, or he would’ve already driven it down here himself, I’m sure. The outpouring of tangible support from our friends, family, and complete strangers is so overwhelming, I could not possibly address that in many posts — although I will try to in future ones. But I will say it has brought tears to my eyes many times this week.
Jake and I initially went to Wal-Mart, but the lines to get in were long. We decided to go to Lowe’s across the street where we figured we could walk right in since they’re not a grocery store. But we were surprised to find a line there, too, although much shorter. We found out the reason for the lines was that Lowe’s had bottled water for sale. It was odd to see and realize that an entire town could be shut down by the loss of a single utility, running water. The vast majority of businesses were closed, and the few that were open were not fully staffed; thus the limited number of customers allowed into the store to purchase a rationed amount of water. Lowe’s was allowing 5 cases of water per family. Since we had bought 2 cases early Thurs morning from Kroger and weren’t planning to stick around in Beaumont, we weren’t there for the water. I asked if we could purchase items other than water, and the doorkeeper said, yes, but only things that we could handle ourselves since there was no one available for big things like lumber, etc. Jake & I went straight to the aisle with the large rugged lockable tote boxes, but the two at ground level were slightly damaged. I told Jake that we were allowed to buy anything we could get ourselves, so he climbed up the shelf racks. While he was lowering one down to me, an employee came by and said you’re not supposed to be up there. After explaining our situation, she kindly offered us her prayers and bid us Godspeed. There are so many instances I have come across of people here in Beaumont extending kindness to one another.
We then made a trip to AdvanceAuto to pick up a small power inverter for our trip to Saginaw – which we knew was going to be a long one since we would first have to go south to Port Arthur, cross the bridge over the Neches River at Bridge City, then get onto I-10 East to Lake Charles, LA, where we would then turn north to Shreveport, LA, before turning west to go to DFW — talk about going around your elbow to get to your thumb! On our way out of the AdvanceAuto parking lot, Jake and I saw a most amazing sight — a huge convoy of over 20 HEB trucks, obviously having just braved the flood waters between Beaumont and Houston to bring us water and free meals (I found out later). This sight welled up tears for me again – especially in light of what else had really impressed Jake and I earlier during our drive around Beaumont. We had noticed that most gas stations had modestly increased their gas prices by 10 to 30 cents or much more in a few instances (BTW, I don’t think the smaller upticks were necessarily related to Harvey, though — just normal market fluctuations). However, HEB still had their gas prices at pre-Harvey prices, $1.96 per gallon of regular unleaded!
When we got back home, we loaded up, left a thank you note for the Young’s, and departed south for Port Arthur. Well, we didn’t make it far. The traffic to get onto the bridge to cross over the Neches River was miles long, and Deverie and I knew that there were many more stretches of flooded roadways to traverse before us that were going to add many many hours to an already long trip. We directed Amber (she was driving) to turn off on a one-way going the other way and we turned back to Beaumont. On the way back, Deverie found on drivetexas.org that an alternate route using Highway 90 to the east had opened up for higher clearance vehicles. I guesstimate that this route would save us 6 or more hours of driving time. We headed west.
When we hit the slow moving parking lot in China, Texas, we slowed to a stop. It was not a crawl. We would move up a few car lengths every 5 to 10 minutes. By this time, the sun had set, but it was still hot and humid outside. I then remembered that our old Yukon has a bad habit of overheating in completely stopped traffic with the A/C on. The family decided to soldier on, and just shut the A/C off and open the windows as we now had a slightly cooler breeze blowing with darkness setting in. But with 6 people, 3 dogs and a cat crammed in, the heat inside quickly became unbearable.
Eventually, we all spilled out onto the side of the road and took turns walking the dogs. After a couple hours of this, the rate of inching forward was starting to speed up. Up until now, we would walk ahead to the next turnaround on the divided highway and wait for whoever was driving the Yukon to catch up. But then we had to start jogging to catch up and then running to get to it ahead of us. I knew to tell Deverie that she needed to pull over immediately at the turnaround she happened to be on then, or we would not be able to keep up anymore without her having to hold up traffic (there was no shoulder for the left lane). She did and then we all saw that our little lap dog Millie was becoming overheated and would not drink water. We poured cool water on her and got her cooled off.
And then all of the sudden Deverie started crying from the intense pain she was feeling on her head and legs. With Deverie’s MS and other severe complications from a car accident and 2 spinal surgeries she had gone through 4 years ago, her health can deteriorate almost instantly! We all saw that we had a severe medical emergency on our hands and momentarily contemplated dialing 911 for an ambulance. But with emergency services certainly stretched thin and the closures of most of the area hospitals due to lack of water, we knew it would be best to just head straight back into town. We all jumped back in and headed back home to the Young residence. The cold A/C was an immediate relief on all and Deverie’s condition stabilized. We got back home and with a dosage of steroids, Deverie began to feel much better. Thank God we were pulled over at that turnaround as I don’t even want to think about what could’ve happened. God is good.
Over all, we had been on the road for 5 hours and didn’t go anywhere yesterday. 1400, 2 Sep 2017