September 23rd, 2005

abstract butterfly

anticipating rita

It's an odd sense of deja vu, watching the news of another hurricane approaching. We're ordinarily quite safe, of course, up here in north Texas, but the idea of Rita barraging our state and Louisiana nonetheless holds the interest. This time, instead of watching CNN and the other "mug a minute" talking heads, I'm heading straight to the National Weather Service storm advisory for Hurricane Rita, which at 4 a.m. continued to predict the upper Texas coast and southwestern Louisiana coast will bear the brunt of it, but with arms and rains enough for all surrounding. The city of Beaumont, Texas, almost on the Louisiana border, is a quiet but cool little place that is a great place to get red beans and rice. Port Arthur is, of course, famous as the home town of Janis Joplin. All this area has lots of oil industry support stuff all around, so that in addition to the potential disruption of peoples' lives and injuries through direct damage, there is the potential for enormous collateral disruption of peoples' lives through harm to the places where people work. Still, we have seen approaching storms of this type veer and avoid the most harmful landfalls. Perhaps Hurricane Rita will follow that established precedent rather than the new line of analysis set forth by Katrina.

I'm pleased that in Texas we are not entirely without our own social support network for things like Texas guards to address relief and good order in the aftermath of a storm. I do not think anyone can count on FEMA right now to do anything worthy of its name as to a second storm crisis. I have an odd mental picture of Mr. Bush giving some speech in which he posits that he "can't imagine life without a Beaumont", and then advises that he will cut veterans' benefits and social security cost of living adjustments to pay for its reconstruction, so that more tax cuts for the wealthy can be made permanent.

It's a bit surreal, really, sitting at five in the morning in a home quite warm because it's in the 90s or 100s outdoors, knowing that within twenty four hours the tendrils of a tropical storm may douse rain here, and far worse than rain everywhere else. We'll welcome the break from the heat--the time of year the rains spiraling up from a coastal tropical storm or depression on the coast usually marks a kind of informal "end of Summer" for us.
But we'd prefer it not come at the expense of a Category Four hurricane hitting our neighbors to the south. Further, while we would welcome the rain here in north Texas, our friends in Louisiana have had quite enough.
So I wish we could somehow move the storm to a remote area for landfall, and then dissipate it into rain for the prairie. We may have the worst of both worlds--a difficult landfall for some Texas and Louisiana towns, and the rain going not to alleviate our minor drought conditions, but to flood people who need no more rain. But we shall see what we shall see.

Now begins the time when a few days will be required to know just what will happen. If, as with most storms,
landfall proves be less calamitous than the worst case scenario, then we'll remember the way Rita "felt" coming in, but hopefully have no other memories of her. If Rita is another Katrina-type storm, then the timing could make relief more challenging. I hope for the best--it's a bit like sitting in the nearby dugout, watching the game begin, and the other side's pitcher is hurling smoking fastballs.

I am ready for January, when I can go at lunch to hike through the nearby wildlife preserve, and watch robins forage in chill, safe weather.