Well, here is the account from my perspective as a FF/Paramedic facing an evac of this size.
First we had a really decent plan. We have had evacuations before and we still had about 200 Katrina victims in town. Houston was ordered evac'ed and alot of people in town went and filled their tanks up first and got some generator gas. The stations in town got gas tankers in town before the traffic hit town and topped off the tanks. Our little town is a crossroads for traveling out of Houston and the Beaumont/Port Arthur area so we always have alot of traffic. Well, we had no idea what was about to happen.
The Houston folks came, and they came, and they came. I guess half of Houston figured that I45 would be busy so we will just go to us. Well, we have a municipal population of about 40,000 and a county population of about 100,000. Now think about the population of Houston. They get to town and are mad that we don't have 100 gas stations that can accomodate them. So they buy most of the gas in town and hit the grocery stores and get all their basics. But we handle it.....
Well, then the national weather service advises that Rita is going to likely hit Beaumont/ Port Arthur mostly and those people need to completely evac as well. So now here comes all the people from that area. US 69 is about the only road north out of that area and comes into our town. So the Houston evacs meet up with the B/PA evacs and thats when all hell breaks loose. Because they get into town and begin blocking roads and trying to shop, they tied up all the traffic that was moving slowly and now not moving at all. We are a small department, about 75 line and 6 staff with 5 stations. We also run the 911 EMS in the county.
Now we are all waiting on Rita to hit. We have a town full of angry, tired and hot drivers who demand to have a full tank of fuel, an air-conditioned restroom, and someone to handle their medical complaints. Well, didn't take long before the fights, road rage incidents, and the like to start occuring. Our PD and SO got some help from the State Troopers that were shipped into town. It got to the point they didn't even bother with reports. Break up the fights and send them on the way. We had a single alarm structure fire just to help things get started off right. EMS was a nightmare! In addition to our "regulars", we had all our heart patients, respiratory patients, and mental healths go bad on us. Throw in about 100,000 cars full of people and things really start going bad. Now on top of this, the buses full of nursing home patients, special needs, folks and those traveling by bus all start making their arrivals. Every chuch, school, convention center, and mass gathering site is now full of hot, tired, and angry people. It is truly amazing how when someone enters a shelter that they forget to do basic things for themselves. Always nice to get cursed when you refuse to fetch someone a bottle of water even when they are capable of walking the 30 feet to the cooler. Oh and the animals obviously sense the storm is coming. Dramatic increase in snake bites and dog bites during the afternoon.
Friday morning comes and we have all been running back to back EMS calls. But now a different dimension to all this. Elderly people with real medical conditions have been in cars for 20-30 hours for a 75-120 mile trip. Lufkin is the first place where they can get out, get some water, or do whatever. This is when the cardiac arrest calls start coming. One right after the other it seems. Now more fights and road rage as businesses start opening as well. A 2 year-old girl is killed because some idiot is mad he can't go and decides to start ramming cars. She was sitting outside a car with her family and never had a chance. Nice guy, ehhh. This pattern continues for the rest of the day. Thousands of people just sitting in cars because they are too tired or out of gas to go on through our town.
Rita hits us early Saturday morning. This is when we actually get a little break. Our little break lasts about 2 hours then the trees start hitting power lines and falling into/onto houses. Calls are steady for us now and as the storm slowly fades north we are left to pick up the pieces. Now people decide they are tired of sitting where they currently are and want us to take the to the hospital for a wide variety of complaints. Our 2 hospitals were already overwhelmed on Thursday. So we went from bad to worse, then worse to "you gotta be kidding". Our basic advise for many of these was "grow up and take care of yourself and your ingrown toenail for a few hours". Rita is now gone and we are left without power, limited fuel, and limited med supplies.
Sunday morning arrives and we are now faced with people coming back through our town going back to Houston or B/PA. Again, limited fuel and no electricity brings their anger toward us and our citizens. Most of our guys have been on duty for 4-6 days straight. We are a little tired by now to say the least. But we pull guys out of shelters and let other people bear some of the load for a while. I get to come home for about 14 hours and get a little down time. My place is a little damaged and we got power back here just a few hours ago. So I share my experience with you.....
I go back in the morning so my other brothers and sisters can get some rest. Throw a little nod to God for us and stay safe!
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Thread: First hand look at an evacuation
09-25-2005, 11:05 PM #1
- Join Date
- Sep 2005
- Lufkin TX
First hand look at an evacuation
09-26-2005, 12:08 AM #2
Well, look on the bright side. At least most of these morons were't running around with automatic machine guns.Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.
09-27-2005, 09:57 AM #3
- Join Date
- Sep 2005
- Lufkin TX
Just got back in for a day off.
Things better now. Oh yeah, we were thankful that the only automatics we saw were being carried by our PD, SO and a few state troopers. Still busy but not like before. Now we are mostly dealing with heat related issues since alot of people are without electricity and the heat index yesterday was 102. But as a whole we are doing OK. FEMA is doing a good job for the most part. Still some politics at times but the actual FEMA crews are wonderful. We housed some troopers last night so they could sleep somewhere other than their patrol cars. FEMA and Texas Guard guys came by and got a shower. We didn't really get to see much of them as we were busy. My captain said probably 15 or so.
Well we really feel fortunate around here. We didn't have much looting or actual gun play. We did have a lot of people pulling guns on each other at the gas stations but the troopers are now at the gas pumps keeping peace. We here south of us the residents are really searching for basic things and FEMA is working their way toward them. PIKE energy and several others are working their butts off to try and get power back up. Should be interesting to see how the next few days play out. Off to bed now!
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