CJ Experience: Preparing for Hurricane Rita

MSNBC is asking readers to share their experiences preparing for Hurricane Rita.

Submissions received Friday, Sept. 23:

A new friend
Finding a new friend As we were preparing to hunker down for the storm this morning, my 17 year old took my grandson for a bike ride. They returned with a wonderful man who was fleeing again. A resident of New Orleans, Myron was out of town when Katrina struck. He was preparing to return when he was evacuated from Lake Charles. Arriving at the assigned shelter in DeRidder, he found it extremely rough and took a walk. My son, David, spoke to Myron and brought him home. Myron is now riding out the storm with us, instead of in a cramped and crowded shelter. He has been a blessing in our home and is a gracious guest. It has broken my heart to see him listening to reports of home being flooded again. But we will extend our hospitality and offer what assistance we can to this one individual.
--Maria Sanchez, DeRidder, La.

Thinking of home far from home
When our future is left up to Mother Nature, there's really not much we can do to prepare. My husband is a Houston Police Officer, therefore he is not able to evacuate. The officers have set up home inside of the sub-stations and they're just holding on tight. We boarded up our windows, closed storm shutters, and gathered necessities (food, electronics, pictures, etc.), packed both of our vehicles to the brim, and parted ways. He went to work, I left with our twins and am now in Alabama. Have you ever tried fitting a 120 lb German Sheppard into the backseat of a fully packed car with 5 year old twins? We certainly couldn't leave him. Please keep us and everyone else in your prayers. At least I was able to give my husband a kiss before I left, there were others who weren't so lucky.
--Wendy Kelley, Hitchcock, Texas

Forty minute trip takes eight hours
I live in Sugar Land, Texas but I left and went to my dad's place in Conroe.  I left Friday night at around 8:30 p.m. and it took exactly three hours to get there, usually it only takes about an hour.  I work for Christus Health System, which is a Catholic health system, I was scheduled to be at work at 6:30 a.m. on Thursday, when I got there I was not able to get into the building with my ID badge for some reason, so I decided to head home, back to Conroe.  Usually the trip would only take 40 minutes but due to the intense traffic, it took me around eight hours. 

On the way home, I saw a lot of people standing outside of their cars walking the dogs, some of the cars simply ran out of gas or broke down in the middle of the highway.  The frustrating thing is that the traffic was hardly moving at all, you can see children without shirts on or infants in diapers because the weather was too hot, some simply decided to pull into a gas station or parking lot because they either ran out of gas or have no money left.  But everybody was very calm & very helpful to each other.
--Quan Vu, Sugar Land, Texas

Too late, and too little resources
Melissa my daughter, Josh my grandson and myself are hanging in here, watching the progress of Rita. Too late to evacuate, no gas, no money to buy gas. Old truck gets about 7.5 miles per gallon. I am an apartment maintenance man, I need to be here so I can try to put a band-aid on it temporarily. We have frozen water for drinking, for the ice chest to keep our food. We have a grill and charcoal. I am a little worried about Josh, this is his first hurricane, shucks he will hold up if for no other reason than being my grandson. My daughter is a rock, she is like a mother hen. We are looking after each other. With God all things are possible. Should things not turn out like we think it should, our God has his reasons. I am not going to question Him.
--Wesley P. Taylor, De Ridder, Louisiana

A frustrating, hot and scary drive
I live in Houston, which floods in a good rainstorm. I work in a restaurant with a glass frontage, which is great in nice weather, but poses a serious risk in this type of storm. We taped the windows, the only business in our little center to do so. I left there yesterday morning at 11, heading north to my grandmother's house in Clifton, Texas, a small town west of Waco. It took me eight hours to clear the Houston area and I arrived this morning at 5 a.m. at my destination. I brought my animals with me, as predictions of power outages range from several days to two weeks in Houston. The drive was frustrating, HOT and scary for a woman driving alone, not knowing if there would be gas when I needed it. I am grateful to be safe now but worry about my apartment, which is in an area usually ok with flooding but is an older place. The landlord would not board windows and I put plastic over them on the inside to try to prevent too much damage.
--Nicole Goodrow, Houston, Texas

On second thought…
We live in the Highlands section of Houston, near the inlet of water coming in from the Gulf. We live in a restored Victorian, and had no plans to evacuate. On Monday this week we were laughing that the media was making so much hype about what Rita could do to Houston; Tuesday we were paying more attention and by early Wednesday some friends in Galvestion and Port Bolivar had run for cover. Wednesday night we shopped for 2 large coolers, gas cans, ice, batteries, candles and spent $290 on food for 4 people. We have a 9 year old twins and are not taking any chances. We are on the way to Boston, MA to visit my sister and her family. We hope our beautiful Victorian will be there when we return...if we can return. God be with us all.
--Karan, Houston, Texas

A fact of life
We are in Lafayette, La., where we are expecting 50-70 mph winds tomorrow. Some of our friends who live to the south and/or west are leaving. We are choosing to stay and ride out the storm. When you grow up in Louisiana hurricanes are a fact of life and you just deal with it. I would NEVER stay if we were getting Cat 4 or Cat 5 conditions but while the weather will be bad it's not anything that we cannot handle. A lot of people in the United States can't understand why we won't leave. We just love Louisiana that much. The people, places, food, music, culture and just the joie de vivre are things you cannot find anywhere else. I have full confidence in our President and local officials (if not our Governor!) that they will help us get through this. I have faith in God that he will spare us the worst of the storm. Please pray for our beloved state and all of the residents in it!
--Lena Styles, Lafayette, La.

Feeling prepared
Right now I’m in the path of Hurricane Rita. My family and I are preparing by cleaning out the bathtubs and filling them up with water, we also have a bread machine and the things to make homemade bread so since there is NOTHING in stores my mother has been making homemade bread since we have power and Rita has not hit yet. We also have taped up windows and boarded them up so no glass could shatter anywhere, and we have MANY gallons of water. So far, I think we are really prepared for Rita. Lets just hope Rita will change its path and Houston won’t receive the eye like it was supposed to!
--Summer, Houston, Texas

Advice for all
I'll be riding out the storm here due to heavy traffic heading out of the Houston area. My advice to people in similar situation is: a. Stock up on non-perishable food and water b. fill up your tub with water to use to work the toilets. c. If you have neighbors around, let them know where you'll be in your residence d. Stay in the inner most room in the house, away from windows and unplug all electrical devices e. Warn your family members that your cells/phone might go out for a day or two since they need power as well. If the cell towers are working, you can charge your cell in your car (hopefully you have a car charger). f. Finally, Do not drive during the storm or when it's flooding. Here's hoping for the best. Houston Rocks!!!!! :)
--Kay, Inner Loop (Medical Center Area), Houston, Texas

For materials you post or otherwise provide to MSNBC (a "Submission"), you grant MSNBC permission to (1) use, copy, distribute, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform, reproduce, edit, modify, translate and reformat your Submission, each in connection with the MSNBC Web Site, and (2) sublicense these rights, to the maximum extent permitted by applicable law. MSNBC will not pay you for your Submission. MSNBC may remove your Submission at any time. For each Submission, you represent that you have all rights necessary for you to make the grants in this section.

Submissions received Thurs. Sept. 22:

Sad situation
We left five hours ahead of my three brothers, in three separate cars. We left at 10:30 on Wednesday morning, they left at 3:30 from Texas City on Wednesday afternoon. As of this morning at 10 a.m., they had gone 10 miles and had ran out of gas. They could not access any roads or move off of a main artery to try to go it alone on a backroad. There are cars littered by the side of the road. Parents out walking their children and dogs after 26 hours in the car. It is brutal. Was Houston prepared to evacuate five million people? The answer is a resounding 'Hell No.'

The government should have been here to oversee this and the National Guard should have been moving people out of Houston. As of 4:27 p.m. CST, there is no National Guard and police just have to pass you by. They have no gas to offer and no solutions. I made it to my evacuation point, my three brothers have not. They have found someone's house to stay in that is empty and for sale. They are the lucky ones. Other people are having nervous breakdowns by the side of the road. Sad, really sad.
--Mary McKinney, Houston, Texas

Traffic discouraging
I'm located in north Houston close to the Tomball area and am not under mandatory evacuation however a call to the HC-OEM director suggested that I leave the city if possible. Unfortunately I can't. I spent 3 hours in traffic yesterday and traveled a total of half a mile, while using a third of a tank of gas. I now must decide if I want to hunker in my car or in my apartment when the hurricane hits. Traffic is at a standstill despite the mayor’s best efforts to get it going, gas is increasingly difficult to find, and it is close to 100 degrees outside. Cars are overheating and people are getting heat exhaustion. I am all but completely cut off from using the phone since I am getting the now notorious "the network is busy" message. Regardless, I have bottled water and canned food and will ride out the weather and pray for the best. Please keep everyone in this storms path in your minds and pray and wish us the best. We appreciate it!
--Melissa Betts, Houston, Texas

Not sure what to do
To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure what I'm going to do in regards to the hurricane. When I first heard of it in school, it didn't seem vital for me to leave. I was planning on going to work on my scheduled days of Thursday and Saturday. I figured that people were panicking because of the effects of Katrina. However, we don't have a levy to worry about, so I figured I'll be fine. As time passed my fear grew. At work (target) I witnessed people buying mass items of food, we ran out of water, batteries, flashlight, and other items. Then yesterday on my way to work, I took Highway 6 for my usual 10-minute route to work. Turns out that highway 6 is an "evacuee highway" so I was trapped on the highway for nearly an hour and a half opposed to my usual 10 minute drive. when I was jus about to cross 59 my car overheated. It wasn't until then had I noticed that the gas stations were boarded up along with other stores around the highway. Then I realized that this was serious. My father came and picked me up from the highway, and when I got home I told my parents that I want to leave with them and they told me we're going to Dallas. So at 3 o clock in the morning today (Thursday) we left. The highways were so packed people broke through the HOV lane, and we decided to come back. Now I’m sitting at home scared, watching valuable time pass.
--Charisse Bankett, Missouri City, Texas

People are giving up…
The ridiculousness of this evacuation is that people are seriously trying to leave the Houston/Gulf area but CAN'T. Traffic is horrible; cars are overheating, stalling, and running out of gas. My mom is stuck when she's prepared all yesterday to leave. Her car is packed with food, supplies, ID, insurance, etc. but she cannot leave. Katrina does not want to be repeated and people are heeding the warning but the reversal of the outbound lanes is taking too long and should have been implemented sooner. People are now giving up and staying home because of the horrible traffic. Something needs to be seriously done and done quickly. If not, the citizens will once again question the government and authorities that they depend on.
--Jenny, Houston, Texas

Hope to see Galveston house again
We boarded up our beach house in Galveston on Wednesday morning and figured it was the last time we would see the home we just bought in January and spend 4 grueling months remolding. We left the deserted city at 2pm. It was very surreal when we drove out. It was as if a nuclear bomb had gone off and we were the only survivors. The drive which usually takes about 1.5 hours to our Northwest Houston home took in excess of 5 hours. We were forced to take small back roads and finally made the journey home. This morning we were prepared to head to Austin if the storm looked like a direct hit but have decided to stay in our home. The gridlock on the roadways is real and even a short trip the local grocery store can take hours and the lack of gas is another real problem. We have enough water and food to last us a week and we are here to stay.
--Marilyn Carson. Spring, Texas and Galveston, Texas

Been through it before
I live in Hillje, Texas, in Wharton County, about 30 miles inland from Matagorda Bay. I live alone in a 4 bedroom home. I spent the day Wednesday having my house boarded up by my family (I'm 83 years old) and packing things that are important to me -- family pictures and important documents. It's so hard not to want to bring along my cherished keepsakes that I have spent a lifetime collecting. My grandson and I drove ourselves and his three horses to his dad's home in Johnson City, west of Austin. We left at 9:30 p.m. and arrived in Johnson City at 4:00 a.m. This trip normally takes three hrs. I have six children, all have evacuated or will do so by early morning to where we are staying or other areas around Austin. One of my daughters and her husband were able to get a hotel room in Austin. I am worried about what this storm will do to my home and rental properties in El Campo. I remember Carla so well - we had a bay home near Palacios that was wiped away. The main thing is that we're all going to be safe away from the worst of the storm when it hits.
-- Elizabeth Skrovan, Hillje, Texas

For materials you post or otherwise provide to MSNBC (a "Submission"), you grant MSNBC permission to (1) use, copy, distribute, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform, reproduce, edit, modify, translate and reformat your Submission, each in connection with the MSNBC Web Site, and (2) sublicense these rights, to the maximum extent permitted by applicable law. MSNBC will not pay you for your Submission. MSNBC may remove your Submission at any time. For each Submission, you represent that you have all rights necessary for you to make the grants in this section.

Prepared in his own way
I got about 40 lbs of rock salt, two bags of charcoal, two cans of ligther fluid, 14 gallons of whiskey, and put my socks and clothes in garbage bags. I got my waders and about 35 lbs of meat that'll keep with the whiskey and salt. Other than that, you don't need electricity to bar-b-q and the rock salt is non-lethal in the shotgun, and good as a preservative and for seasoning. Whiskey is an old friend  -- the best thing for cuts, snake bites, meat, and rainy days.
--Tony Fairbanks, Houston, Texas

Evacuating not easy
I am originally from Galveston, now living in Waco, Texas. My parents are now in the process of TRYING to evacuate with their 3 dogs. They've been on the highway for 6 hours and have only moved 43 miles from their house! My mom is so tired from packing and boarding up the house, she keeps falling asleep at the wheel. I am so worried, I am praying that they can speed up and reach my house before long. The cell phone service is spotty, "all circuits are busy" is now becoming a hated statement in my house. The trip from Galveston to Waco is usually about 4 hours, tonight we are thinking it will take about 18. My parents have a beach house on the west end of Galveston Island, the end that is not protected by the seawall. My brother and I are 4th generation BOI (born on the island) -- our great grandparents lived thru the 1900 storm... but now -- watching and waiting -- I just hope we have an island to go back to! Please pray for us and for all those in Rita's path!
--Jennifer Dundee, Waco/Galveston, Texas

Getting ready for the worst
We left Galveston last night around midnight to get the ferry across the channel to Bolivar peninsula and took refuge in Silsbee, near Beaumont Texas, at our son's home. There was nobody on the ferry except a few residents of Bolivar. We took only important documents, family pictures and our pet. This it. For the rest, we are getting ready for the worst but we pray that even here we will be safe. Our neighbors are evacuating to go more inland.
--Michel Cahier, Galveston Texas

Submissions received Wed. Sept. 21:

Evacuees filling San Antonio
We are already noticing evacuees from the coastal front crowding in parking lots. It seems that all of the local hotels are full, and runs on gas are getting out of hand. And we aren't even on the coastline, although we are in the projected path... Right now, we are more concerned with tornados spawning off the feeder bands and main storm surge as it hits the hill country. Cars are full of gas, drinks are ready, and can openers are manual, all we can do now is watch and wait...
--David Dauphine, San Antonio, Texas

Riding it out, feeling prepared
We live in Fulshear, Texas, population 714, a small town west of Houston, approx 56 miles north of Freeport but are in the direct projected path of Rita. We have two generators to power refrigerators, freezers and a coffee maker, 20 gallons of bottled water and plenty of food. We will be filling up empty ice chests with tap water before the storm hits as well as the bathtubs just in case. We have even worked out how to retain bathroom utility by carrying buckets of water from our swimming pool to fill the tank of our toilets in case we lose water pressure from our MUD district. We have been bagging all the ice that our 3 icemakers can produce & storing in a deep-freeze since we have no ice for purchase in the area. All of our vehicles are full of gas & should we run out of gas for our generators, we will simply siphon the gas out of our cars to keep our generators going round the clock. We feel we are prepared and will videotape as much as we can for documentation as well as digital photos as the storm progresses.  I am a dental student at UT-Dental Branch in Houston and evacuated from the med center this afternoon. Normally a 45 minute drive lasted almost 4 hours today due to the extreme congestion of the roadways. Keep your fingers crossed as that's what we are doing.
--Colin A. Lathrop, Fulshear, Texas

Crazy scene 100 miles north of Houston
I live 100 miles north of Houston, in Lufkin. Some people here are in the early stages of panic. Kerosene and camping fuel, batteries and especially water are flying off the shelves. Lines are beginning to form at the gas pumps with some having to wait in line for in excess of 30 minutes. Let's pray that everyone will keep their heads about them and be kind to their neighbors.
--Glenda Barnes, Lufkin, Texas

Disbelief in Houston
I wouldn't say people are in a state of panic, but disbelief. After Katrina people are taking necessary precautions to prepare themselves, but I think the seriousness of the situation still eludes a lot of people. Due to the intense heat and clear skies, most people hear it, but still don't believe what happened in New Orleans can happen here. And to me that's a bit scary. No one expected what happened in New Orleans, it's a new learning experience for everyone, even the government. And Houston floods, badly, in a severe thunderstorm. What's going to happen during a CAT 5 hurricane? The drainage here is horrendous, so flooding is expected and I don't think Houston is at all prepared for what Rita has in store.
--Nita C., Houston, Texas

Katrina evacuee sticking it out
I live in League City Texas and as of now, the news predicts that Hurricane Rita will come our way. This is the second time I have had to deal with a hurricane. I attend college in New Orleans at Xavier University. My eleven friends and I evacuated the school the day before Hurricane Katrina became a category five hurricane. We stayed at my roomate's house in Birmingham, Alabama. Her family happily agreed to take us in. Once we realized that we would not be returning to school anytime soon, we all decided to return to our respective homes. I flew back to Houston and have been staying with my parents. I found a job at Bath and Body Works and will work there until I return to school in January. Now, I have to face this hurricane too. My family and I have decided to stay because my parents have faced Hurricane Alicia in '80s and dont plan on leaving. My dad has taped up the windows but some of our neighbors have boarded their windows. I will get my camera ready to take pictures to capture the moments. Prayerfully, nothing too extreme will happen and we will all make it through this situation.
--Stephanie Warfield, League City, Texas

Staying put
My family and I are not leaving even though we're in the cone of land that Rita may hit. The schools in the area are still open and will probably remain open for the rest of the week. Most people here have gone about their business. However, a lot of people are stocking up with essentials like water and canned goods. You should see the lines at the gas stations around here! What happened in Louisiana are still fresh in people's minds, but people here take pride in their homes and aren't going to leave willingly.
--Susan, Port Arthur, Texas

Might as well evacuate
It's amazing to me how a city as big as Houston can run short on normal supplies during hurricane season. You can't find water, batteries, flashlights, plywood, anything! We might as well evacuate since we can't get supplies to wait the storm out!
--Jessica, Houston, Texas

Left with peanut butter and beenee weenee
Local stores continue to be packed with customers buying food, coolers, batteries, and generators. All of the shelves at the grocery store have been picked clean. All of the bottled water is gone. I ended up with the one remaining jar of chunky peanut butter and some dusty cans of beenee weenee from the very back of a top shelf. The gas lines were long last night and decided to fill up at 9:30 this morning. Waited about a half-hour in line at the pump. An hour later, that station and several others in the area were out of fuel. Many friends have already town. My husband and I are planning to stay home and ride it out. The area surrounding our home did not flood during the heavy rains from Tropical Storm Alison so we think we will be safe.
--Susan Schroeder, Houston, Texas

Not taking any chances
Katrina was an eye opener. I'm not taking any chances, my wife and I have an 8 month old baby and she is more important then the house. We are boarding up tonight (Wednesday)and expect to be out of Houston by Friday morning at the latest. Good luck to all and God be with us.
--Tom Brennan, Houston, Texas

Supplies in short supply
We are boarding up our home today and picking up anything that could blow around and cause damage. I had a hard time finding boarding material for our windows and ended up buying siding material at $18 a sheet from one of our local hardware stores. I was told that our area is out of plywood and it looked like the store I went to this morning was about to run out of the last of their siding as well. I know several gas stations were out of gas but I think they were getting trucks in to refuel their tanks. We have a used car lot and we have to get all or most of our vehicles inside garages because we went through "Claudette" a couple of years ago and know the damage that one caused. I think most people are pretty panicked around here-I'm sure after watching New Orleans and "Katrina". My family hopes to stay in our brick home and ride it out. We are approximately 45 miles from the coast. We have lots of water/batteries/food that will last and any meds that are needed. We are taking this very seriously and are prepared.
--Roberta Fisher, Victoria, Texas

There to stay
I am in Freeport, Texas and in the direct projected path of Rita I have purchased a generator and about 50 gallons of diesel to run it which will power my home for about 10 days if needed. I bought the remainder of the water in the store and have enough food to last 20 days. I have moved everything in my home into a secure area and i believe I will be OK. My only worry is that of course, I am on the water and my house in on stilts, so wish me luck. My wife two kids and dog are getting ready they issued an evacuation on the town at 6 a.m. this morning so we are here to stay.
--Scott Dean, Surfside, Texas

For materials you post or otherwise provide to MSNBC (a "Submission"), you grant MSNBC permission to (1) use, copy, distribute, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform, reproduce, edit, modify, translate and reformat your Submission, each in connection with the MSNBC Web Site, and (2) sublicense these rights, to the maximum extent permitted by applicable law. MSNBC will not pay you for your Submission. MSNBC may remove your Submission at any time. For each Submission, you represent that you have all rights necessary for you to make the grants in this section.

Never boarded up before
On the north side of Houston (Spring). Storm surge will not be a problem, but we'll get the "dirty side" since the eye will pass just west of Houston. We're boarding up windows, something we've never done before this far north. We may get 100+ mph winds if this remains Cat 4 or worse, Cat 5. Plan to stay in home unless during the next 24 hours projections say otherwise.
--Bill Mitchell, Houston, Texas

Everyone nervous
My 80-year-old mother is in an assisted living facility in Kingwood, Texas, just north of Houston. We were told they are doing a mandatory evacuation yesterday for today, so of course, we got her because who knows? My brother lives in Kingwood is a doctor and is backing up all his files just in case he has to leave and told me this morning that the gas stations in his area are out of gas and that the grocery stores are running out of water and batteries. I told him to bring his family to my home in San Antonio but he doesn’t want to leave his practice or his home in case the hurricane does hit and there are looters. Katrina has really made everyone nervous.
--Susan Cunningham, San Antonio. Texas

Already far from Galveston
The impact of Hurricane Katrina has drastically changed how a lot of people in Galveston view hurricanes. I myself a college student would joke and say I'll ride out a hurricane if it hits here. My upstairs neighbors said the same before Katrina, we thought we would have a party if a hurricane hit Galveston. Now I have already evacuated to Dallas to be with my family, just in case. Galveston is threatened with hurricanes every year and in the past there has been a lackadaisical attitude toward hurricanes hitting Galveston. However, due to Katrina's reign of terror on New Orleans there is a somber and serious attitude in Galveston. I packed up everything that was important to me today and left before traffic became horrible.
--Amanda Geipe, Galveston, Texas

No generators available
I have searched all over Texas for portable generators. Everyone is out, and they are saying they have them on order but don't know when they will be in. From Dallas to Corpus Christi to Beaumont, Texas, everyone's out. One Home Depot lady said their shipments of generators have been re-routed to Louisiana for the Katrina disaster. Everything is going quick, water, gas cans, food. We saw what happened in New Orleans, and nobody is taking any chances. When will it end? We'll pray!
--Knowland Yee, Houston, Texas

Worth the cost
I live outside of Galveston, and have already had to re-organize all my family members making sure they were all cared for. Waited in long lines for gasoline and water. Its expensive to have to leave, but have no choice, rather lose money than our lives.
--Maria Phillips, Dickinson, Texas

For materials you post or otherwise provide to MSNBC (a "Submission"), you grant MSNBC permission to (1) use, copy, distribute, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform, reproduce, edit, modify, translate and reformat your Submission, each in connection with the MSNBC Web Site, and (2) sublicense these rights, to the maximum extent permitted by applicable law. MSNBC will not pay you for your Submission. MSNBC may remove your Submission at any time. For each Submission, you represent that you have all rights necessary for you to make the grants in this section.