Evacuees turn around

When the Masseys turned their vehicle around to head back to their Sugar Land, Texas, home, it was a decision long in the making.

The family of four, plus one dog, had spent more than 16 hours trying to escape the traffic claws of Houston, and turning around seemed a better choice than staying on course.

"We realized we were going to be stranded on the side of the road when (Hurricane Rita) hit," said mother Julia Massey. "We decided it would be safer to go home."

She, her husband, Wade, son Denver, 5, and daughter Raina, 2, left at 4 a.m. Thursday morning when evacuation looked promising.

"We tried to stick to back roads in the beginning and it actually worked," she said. "Then we got on 59 North and it was gridlock. It was like a parking lot."

Their only reprieve during the five hours on Interstate 59 North was walking the dog, Luna.

The family remained about 500 miles from their hotel destination in Arkansas, the closest available. People were out of gas. Gas stations were out of gas. And the family would have had to spend the night in their vehicle on the road. There was no guarantee of getting anywhere.

"Thank God we came home," Massey said. "You get frantic in situations like that. You're fearing you're going to be stuck there when the storm comes."

When Julia and Wade did make the decision to turn back, the trip took about 80 minutes back home. Friday morning, Wade boarded up the first-level windows of their two-story home and Julia filled their bathtubs with water to ensure extra in case of a shortage.

"We tried to put all of our pictures and stuff in waterproof containers and put them upstairs in case of flooding," she said.

Friday afternoon was hot in Sugar Land, about 20 minutes southwest of Houston. Winds were beginning to pick up and clouds starting to build. There was no rain yet, according to Massey.

The Category 3 hurricane is predicted to make landfall along the upper Texas and Southwest Louisiana coasts about daybreak today, according to the National Hurricane Center. Eight to 12 inches of rain are expected to fall in southeastern Texas and Louisiana and tornadoes may be spawned.

But it's not the flooding nor wind, that worries Massey, it's the threat of losing electricity. The family has flashlights and candles and a battery-operated TV/radio with a broken antenna. They tried to build up their backup supply earlier this week.

"We had trouble finding batteries Wednesday," she said. "They were out of them everywhere."

Thursday night after returning home, Massey's cell phone began beeping - eight calls that didn't come through during the day. Traffic cleared up on roads out of Houston by mid-afternoon Friday and the area could be spared the brunt of Rita, which is predicted to head east of the city, according to the National Hurricane Center.

"Raina keeps saying we have to leave," Massey said. "Thursday, when we were in the car, she kept saying, 'I want to go home, I want to go home.' Now she's saying she wants to leave. She's scared, I think, and wants to get away from the storm."

n Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at moneill@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.


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