Wednesday, September 21


My wife and I reside in Montgomery County, up I-45, well north of Houston -- a good distance from the areas that would flood in the event of a Category 3 or higher hurricane hitting Galveston-Houston.

My wife just returned from a frustrating, morning-long shopping expedition that carried into a portion of the early afternoon owing to depleted, pre-RITA inventories in grocery and sporting goods stores in the Lake Conroe area. In a nutshell, she's never seen so many shoppers since we moved to the Houston area in 2001.

As she advised, she's not sure if she observed panic-buying in preparation for Hurricane Rita or simply the kind of prudence that the post-Katrina trauma engendered in us all. Some things she pointed to:

Good luck finding canned meats, canned vegetables, batteries, bottled water, ice, candles, lamp oil, or propane tanks for camper stoves.

Bread has disappeared from the shelves at several grocery stores.

You'll have success finding fresh vegetables and meats -- anything requiring refrigeration or freezing.

Good luck doing any one-stop shopping for essentials (and it'll only get worse through the week).

Gas lines were forming at some stations with people filling not just their cars and trucks, but portable gas containers as well.

Of note: there was a run on AMMUNITION at a Wal-Mart and at a large sporting goods store. She was in disbelief. Katrina-related looting in New Orleans must have people arming themselves!

Her advice: don't delay in preparing for Hurricane Rita, but do not over-purchase/horde that which you're able to find in stores, as this is a time to look out for other people and to be sensible, while remaining calm.

Some things we'll be doing:

Filling plastic freezer bags with ice cubes and freezing them in our chest freezer; if electricity goes out during the storm, we can transfer these to portable ice chests.

Filling cleaned-out plastic milk cartons with water.

Having on hand a car-operated cell phone charger.

Making sure of adequate supplies of prescription drugs.

Anticipating the needs of our pets (we have an insulin-dependent Poodle).

Topping off the fuel tanks in our automobiles.

We're fortunate in that we live in a non-evacuation area; but, a major hurricane striking the Galveston-Houston area will bring with it severe winds, rain, flash-floods, and the likelihood of disruptions in electricity and telephone services.

The best bet: have a family planning meeting and lay out what you think you need and what you can live without in a pinch, and, most of all, do your homework. The "Houston Chronicle" (registration required for online edition) is a good starting point (or other local newspaper). And if you're a relative newcomer to the area, ask neighbors for advice based on their prior experiences. But do plan.