Rita: Running Out of Gas in Evacuation Traffic Jams

Houstonians are getting stuck in14-hour traffic jams trying to comply with evacuation orders in anticipation of Hurricane Rita–and running out of gas in the process.

Houston-Area Evacuees Face Gas Shortages (AP)

Photo: A woman stands outside her car on Interstate-45 near downtown Houston on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2005. Thousands of people are evacuating the Texas coast and officials will be reversing the Southbound lane on the interstate to four lanes of north bound flow. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer) Hundreds of thousands of people across the Houston metropolitan area struggled to make their way inland in a bumper-to-bumper exodus Thursday as Hurricane Rita closed in on the nation’s fourth-largest city with winds howling at a terrifying 165 mph.

Drivers ran out of gas in 14-hour traffic jams or looked in vain for a place to stay as hotels hundreds of miles away filled up.

An estimated 1.8 million residents or more in Texas and Louisiana were under orders to evacuate to avoid a deadly repeat of Katrina.

Of course, President Bush should have forseen this and had gas pumps installed in the center lanes.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Steve Verdon says:

    Well isn’t everything the fault of ChimpyMcShrubBushitlerHalliburton?

  2. Greg says:

    Well isn’t everything the fault of ChimpyMcShrubBushitlerHalliburton?

    …and starts the blame game already.

  3. Jim Henley says:

    How I cherish my memory of the days I believed only left-wingers suffered from ressentiment.

  4. sortapundit says:

    Wait a minute – isn’t this Texas? Can’t they just put a straw in the ground and suck out oil?

  5. Beldar says:

    If there’s fault to be found, it’s probably with TxDoT (which was slower than it might have been in getting normally in-bound interstate lanes set up for out-bound contraflow). To its substantial credit, TxDoT is trying to get tanker trucks out to refuel out-of-gas motorists, but I don’t know yet how well that’s actually working.

    Some from surrounding areas are blaming City of Houston officials, arguing that the truly coastal zones under mandatory evacuation orders ought to have been allowed to complete their evacuation before more-inland Houstonians hit the roads. I’m unpersuaded by that: the City couldn’t responsibly urge Houstonians to delay evacuating; the media is certainly whipping up panic without regard to evac zones or city or county lines; and after the Katrina experience and publicity, lots of Houstonians who’d have stuck it out (or at least waited a bit longer before evac’g) were figuring “Hey, I’ll hit the road at 3am when traffic’s light.” Well, at 3am traffic was still gridlocked.

  6. RiverRat says:

    Where the hell are the FEMA Gasicopters?

  7. Mark says:

    I will take a different route:

    I blame the car companies. If they would have developed the flying cars they keep promising us, then all these people could have just flown away not even needing roads.

    Damn you to hell, GM!

  8. John The Fat says:

    Lots of blame to go around. I live 45 miles NE of downtown and I “ain’t” going nowhere. Not because I don’t want to go, there just isn’t any place around here to buy gas and the freeways and byways are clogged. I’m watering my lawn and waiting.

  9. Steve Verdon says:

    How I cherish my memory of the days I believed only left-wingers suffered from ressentiment.

    You sure you know what that word means Jim?

  10. KevinM says:

    This is, at least in part, a failing of the official evacuation plan, and the evacuation routes it generated. They terminate all the routes in just four roads: 36, 290, 45, 59. Why 249, 529, and 1093 e.g. were not referenced is disappointing to have to ask.

    This is also a factor of people from the coastal regions being unfamiliar with the roads. I had to go into work today to put the servers to bed. I live in Cypress (right next to the parking lot that is 290) and work across town in Stafford (right next to its twin on 59) My normal 25 minute commute was 45 minutes because I used the side streets and dodged gridlock when it appeared. If I wanted to go to Austin It’d take me 4 hours, having to U turn out of a couple jams.

    Finally, I’ve got to mention that when I saw the evacuees at the closed Randall’s supermarket parking lot at Barker-Cypress@290 – well it was a miniSuperdome in the making. Hygiene and littering were not issues with them, and overheard conversations indicated to me that they were cognitively challenged. Race wasn’t an issue, there were plenty of poor and dumb whites and Hispanics to go around.

    For those evacuating, the whole enterprise is a game of who can find the least congested bridge over the Brazos. My money would be on 159. Those headed North face even easier tasks, as they don’t have river crossings to deal with.

  11. Sgt Fluffy says:

    “Where the hell are the FEMA Gasicopters?”

    Hovering over Cedric Floyds House

  12. BahiaBob says:

    Hot air balloons! Yeah, that’s the ticket. Now let’s see how many lefty politicians and media types it would take to inflate the balloons……