Waterworld 2
Home Up

   
Waterworld Page 1 Waterworld Page 2
 

More Tales of Tropical Storm Allison

This page contains 6 stories sent in by members of the SSQQ community about their experiences during the flood.  Some are humorous and some are harrowing.   Each story gives a unique perspective.

Be sure to read how Steve Bahnsen and three others almost drowned to death when they were trapped in their vehicle by floodwaters!   Then be sure to read Dan Green's hysterical minute-by-minute account of being trapped in the Katy Freeway Bathtub.   I highly recommend both stories as instant classics.  RA

   

Tue 06/19/2001 11:00 AM
Story 01: Death of a Roadmaster
By Steve Bahnsen
 

This is a story about a car that died and almost took us down with it.

On June 8, 2001, the gang gathered at Dan Electros Guitar Bar in the Heights to see the Sisters Morales play.  

My brother Jeff was in town on business and got a ride from his Toshiba staff to meet me at SSQQ after class. Judith and I left my sister Marcia outside of SSQQ with the key to Judith's trunk so that when Jeff arrived he could load his golf clubs, clothes, and laptop into her big Buick Roadmaster.

When class ended, my friends Glenn and Paula Morris headed for the Heights.   So did I, but first Judith and I had to gather Jeff and Marcia from Jax Grill near the dance studio.  From there we headed to Dan Electro's Guitar Bar in the Heights (24th St btw North Main and Airline).  

Maybe we should have paid closer attention to the portents.  Water was high on the feeder roads.  We arrived soggy but still happy and blissfully unaware of what was in store for us.

Judith's husband Roy and other friends were already at the bar saving front row seats.  The show was excellent as usual. However at intermission when the smokers normally retired to the garden for various types of burnt offerings, the garden was empty.  Torrents of heavy rain swirled haphazardly in gusting winds.

About this time, the lowest storeroom area of Dan Electros began to flood. Audience members helped the staff and band move instruments, amplifiers, and other equipment to the raised stage. The band played two more songs and quit.

Lisa and Roberta Morales, aka "Sisters Morales", said everyone was invited to stay for a slumber party but if we wanted to go home we had better leave now. These ladies didn't realize it was already too late.  Well, guess what?  Neither did we.

We found out soon enough.  Once we left Dan Electros and headed the big Buick south on Airline, our fate was sealed.  Unbeknownst to us, Glenn and Paula had returned to the bar. They tested all the escapes from the Heights in their high sitting Suburban without any luck.  In frustration they returned to the slumber party and ended up having a great time.  Glenn joined in to jam on guitars till the wee hours of the morning.

Meanwhile Roy, Judith's husband, got in his big pick-up truck and headed north.  He watched in dismay as other vehicles drowned out in front of him.  So Roy gave up and pulled into a gas station parking lot with some elevation.  From then on he tried to sleep although the noises of the night kept him on edge.

Glenn was safe.  Paula was safe.  Roy was safe.  But what about the ship of fools inside the Roadmaster?

Someone at the bar had instructed us to try North Main as an escape. We tried Cavalcade first.  There we confronted a giant lake of water.  We didn't know if the water was rising or if the road was getting lower, but it looked menacing.  I guess what I am trying to say is we didn't know how deep the water was. 

Somebody... I forget who... was dumb enough to drive straight into this ever rising ocean!  I prefer not to reveal the identity of the man at the wheel who made this particular decision, but I do remember thinking he was unusually handsome.

Steve is one of a kind

As the water rose in a wave in front of the Buick's distinctive grill, people who were standing nearby in waist deep water gestured frantically that we should turn around. The unusually handsome man decided to heed their warning.  There was a gas station parking lot that offered us a chance to make a wide U-turn.  This enabled the Buick to maintain its forward motion and avoid stalling out.  We made it! 

Back on Airline, we continued to North Main and turned east onto a side road that looked promising.  One block later the road quickly became less promising.  We had been tricked!  Now the water on the road was at a consistently high level.  Water from the street began to seep into the floorboards as we drove along.  However, as long as we went into no deeper waters, the brave and valiant Buick Roadmaster was undaunted in its efforts to get us to safety. 

At this point, we had no choice but to keep moving forward looking for shallower roads.  We couldn't turn around. The only highpoint in the road was the middle of the street.  If we turned, we would be trapped in much deeper water.  Not only was there no turning back, we couldn't take a chance of slowing down or stopping for fear of killing the engine.  It was damn the torpedoes, full speed dead ahead or nothing. 

Speaking of 'dead ahead'... that sounded a little morbid, especially under the circumstances.  I idly wondered where that expression came from.  Maybe I didn't want to know. 

It was dark.  There was no high ground in sight and there were no vehicles in front of us to show us the depth of the water up ahead.  The Buick amazed us by showing no signs of faltering as it snorkeled its way through at least two feet of water.  All we had left was a desperate hope that the road elevation ahead was going to go up instead of down. 

No such luck.  There was high ground ahead, but only after a two block long dip in the road. The driver recalls experiencing a sudden dark emotion of feeling doomed. 

For lack of anything else to do, the car plunged dead ahead... and something felt wrong!

We didn't immediately know what was wrong because at first the car didn't go any lower.  Instead, the engine revved freely while forward motion slowed.  We were floating!  The car began to turn sideways. All four wheels of this massive car were now off the ground!  I didn't believe it was possible for something this heavy to float.  We floated through a 180-degree spin and finally lodged up against a pole on the side of the road.  The mighty Buick's engine finally died as the car settled to a stop.  

None of us were particularly afraid at the time, but rather just frustrated at our predicament.  However, moments later our frustration turned into stark fear. 

Steve always takes great pride in his Halloween costumes.  That's Judith taking a nibble.  Steve's outrageous Carmen Miranda outfit was the hit of the 2002 SSQQ Halloween Party and rightfully so.  Steve also received a considerable amount of teasing... and rightfully so.

We were stunned when our car began to settle! 

Or should I say the car had begun to sink rapidly?  No more floating.  As the car sank, I turned white when I realized the water level on the windshield was several inches above the dashboard!!   Were we in some sort of hidden ditch?   That must be it... our car must have floated in the current off the road and into a ditch. 

Never intended to be amphibious, the Roadmaster began to fill with water.  The water pressure outside was tremendous.  Quickly water began to seep in under the door. The water level inside the car was starting to catch up with the water level outside.  The Buick intended to take the four of us down to Davy Jones locker!!  We needed to get out of this car pronto.  But that was much easier said than done.

As the breathable air inside the car diminished rapidly, our panic increased dramatically.  I have never been so frightened as when I sucked for air and found myself gasping.  It was time to get out of this death trap muy rapido! 

However to our dismay we found that power door locks and power windows were never intended to work underwater.  My door was hopeless.   My brother Jeff managed to manually unlock his rear door and tried to open it.  My eyes grew wider as Jeff got the door open just a crack, but the water pressure quickly slammed the door shut again.  Now I was really getting scared...

The water inside was getting up to our chest-level. This frightening development turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Although the water was threatening to drown us, at the same time it equalized the pressure inside the car to the water pressure outside the car. This was a real break. Just as I was positioning myself to put my foot through the driver's side window, word came from the back seat that Jeff had taken advantage of the improved water pressure to force the door reluctantly open.  

I could feel some air rushing in.  Aaaaaaah!  I sucked in all the air I possibly could.  You have no idea the relief that I felt.  The fear of drowning or not being able to breathe is something so terrifying I cannot possibly explain it.  For a moment there, I almost thought my time had come and it was a sickening feeling indeed.

The evening of the water pressure had allowed my brother to finally get a door open. Thank goodness!  I crawled over the back seat as did Judith.  I let Judith go first.  Then to my dismay my ample girth prevented my escape.  I groaned.  Visions of my epitaph flashed before my eyes... "Cause of death: big belly".

I pleaded with Jeff to pull harder on the door.  Jeff grinned and reminded me of the time I smothered him with a pillow when we were kids.  Not now, Jeff!!!!!   Finally I was able to swim out the door to safety. 

After we abandoned ship through the escape hatch, we found ourselves in chest-high water.  That's when I realized we had to be in some sort of ditch for sure.  Judith, shorter than me, had to tread water.  So I extended my arm and she climbed on my back.  Marcia saw what Judith did and climbed onto her brother Jeff's back as well.  The ordeal was over.


Slowly we trudged our way to safety.  After wading over half a mile, we emerged at the I-45 and North Main intersection. Refugees with similar flood destruction stories huddled beneath the roof of the Exxon station there. We heard one horror story after another that made our own scary moment seem merely commonplace.  We were not the only ones who had a brush with death that night.

Everyone helped each other, shared what they had, made lasting friendships, began romances, and wore fashionable plastic garbage bags. Yes, we were soaking wet from our adventure of wading through the depths.  Shivering and cold, the plastic bags we wore did little to help dissipate our misery, but wear them we did. Proud dancers earlier in the evening, we had been reduced to wearing trash bags.  Now that we were safe, next came the jokes.  "Will dance for food!" brought a much-needed laugh.  So did "I am naked under this plastic bag", a crack made by a girl next to us who I think really was naked under that bag.

We spent the night on the sidewalk, cold, miserable, but glad to be alive.  This was my first taste of what being homeless must feel like.  Not fun.  Dawn's early light revealed the massive devastation on the freeway below.  Semi-trailers and cars alike were jumbled in a pile after the current had moved them to the side of the curve in the freeway. As if by magic, the floodwaters began to ebb.  The worst was over. Other cars and pick-ups were just becoming visible beneath the surface as the water level receded from the great depths of the previous night.  We marveled at the spectacle of Mother Nature's fury as she illustrated her contempt for Houston's puny attempts at flood control.

That sign marks the "North Main" exit.  Steve and Judith spent the night at an Exxon gas station in upper left hand corner.

I started to wonder how we would get out of here.  We were stuck in the middle of nowhere.  

We were so tired!  Where we going to get the strength to get out of this mess?  The four of us were cut off from anywhere outside of the Heights, no transportation, no communication, and no idea of how or when we could reach comfort.  I wasn't even sure the roads were working yet. 

That's when I noticed some encouraging news.  The receding flood waters had cleared the surface road.  For lack of anything better to do, Judith and I decided to walk back to the BuickWe found Jeff's clothes still in the trunk, soaked. The golf clubs were wet but ok. The laptop computer was predictably trashed.  

Judith and I began to lament the loss of her grand Buick Roadmaster.  We both agreed we harbored no resentment towards the car for its grasping attempt to take us down with it.

As we stared at the once noble vehicle in its sad state of repose, we were startled by the honk of a horn.  It was Roy pulling up in his nice, dry, extended cab pick-up truck.  Roy had been searching everywhere for us.  

It turned out from afar Roy had actually noticed my Hawaiian shirt.  Thank goodness I had removed my fashionable trash bag attire to reveal a flaming lava-red Hawaiian shirt that could be seen from miles away, possibly even from outer space.  I have never been more proud of my fondness for Hawaiian shirts.  Thanks to my taste in wardrobe, we were saved!

As far as 'Silver Lining' in the Storm Clouds, I have been wracking my brain to think of anything positive from this disaster. Sadly, the best I have been able to come with is perhaps a good lead on this fall's Group Costume at the SSQQ Halloween Party.  Last year's winner came as four people who went down with the Titanic. 

They didn't survive the Titanic, but we survived Allison.  Better yet, I remember exactly what brand of trash bag we wore!!  Hefty.  Oh no, that won't do.  Now that I am safe, my vanity is returning.  I will switch to a different brand.    No one but me will ever know the difference.

 

 

Rick Archer's Note:  This next story is awesome.  Dan Green is quite a writer.  If you liked Steve's story, trust me, Dan's story is equally good!

Story 02: Lessons Learned from a Flooded Freeway
By DAN GREEN 
June 15, 2001, 2:54PM
 

Dear Everyone,

I don't know if you've been following anything in the news besides the basketball playoffs with the obnoxious L.A. Lakers, but we've had a bit of flooding down here in Houston.  I've been in flash floods before but I think it's safe to say I've never experienced one as incredible as the one brought about by Tropical Storm Allison.

Midnight
There I was last Friday night, leaving my girlfriend L's house (yes, that's read correctly - I'm no longer "Platonic Dan"). I was heading back for my apartment eager to get some much-needed sleep.

L asked me to stay and even pointed out the heavy rainfall as perhaps a practical reason to hang around, oh, but I knew better... I needed a good night's sleep in my own bed!

L lives east of downtown, so I headed west along I-10, better known here in Houston as the Katy Freeway
(I-10 is at bottom of picture.  That is where Dan begins his story.)

The sanctuary of my little Acura Integra made for a pleasurable cruise from L's house to Interstate 10 west.

I saw massive floods below as I drove.  However by tuning into the radio stations, I knew for a certainty that my freeway, Interstate 10, was the only highway in the entire city that wasn't experiencing traffic jams or severe weather.  It seemed likely that I'd have an easy 13 mile journey to my apartment.

I would come to regret my confidence.

Those three bridges each cross Buffalo Bayou which passes just to the north of Downtown Houston.  That is I-10 at the bottom of the picture.  Dan is driving right in on that section as he tells

That's White Oak Bayou on the bottom, Buffalo Bayou on the top.  The "X" in all 3 pictures is the University of Houston Downtown Campus.

12:06 a.m. Static
The first sign of trouble is the radio. Regularly, the reception around Houston is as clear as a whistle but in this case, the rain and the static have taken every other word. For a moment I am entertained by the game, filling in my own words for the song which I thought was Freeze Frame by the J. Geils Band (a perennial classic).

As a cautionary tactic, I decide to reduce my speed from 70 to 55. However, the other cars and 18 wheelers around me barrel onward.

12:08 a.m. The Clue I Didn't Pick up on Until Later
I casually notice that there are no cars, SUVs, or trucks heading in the opposite direction. In my head I'm thinking it's because two of the highways in that direction are closed...

12:10 a.m. The Moment of Truth
Visibility is somewhat difficult but part of that is because I'm now riding to the left of an 18-wheeler's back wheel which is spraying my car continuously with water picked up from its treads. My wipers are working full throttle but it's to no avail.

I begin making up my own song about 18-wheeler jerks but am interrupted in mid-flat-note by the emergency broadcast system. It is not a test. Both Interstate 59 and Interstate 45 are closed as is the city's loop on the east side.  I scoff.  So what?

I deduce that the problem is behind me as I'm heading west but I reduce my speed to 35. The people around me follow suit.


12:15 a.m. The Chevy Blazer
I-10 is a four lane highway heading west through the city. I am now in the third lane (2nd from the center median) as I'm predicting the traffic will spread out for the upcoming loop division (some four miles away). A 1989 Chevy blazer wants to go faster than the speed that everyone is choosing to go.  The Chevy quickly darts out of the 3rd lane and proceeds to pass us all on the left.  I called him several unfriendly words at the top of my lungs.  He is endangering us all by driving so recklessly.

Sure enough, suddenly the Blazer begins to shimmy.  It starts to skid and slide sideways. It is now hydroplaning and I am pressing down on my brakes firmly (the Chevy is approximately 10 car lengths ahead of me).  Ultimately, the Blazer skids to a halt and sits still as I pass it (now at a cautionary 20 miles an hour).  I decide there are lessons to be learned here, so I begin to put them on a mental list.

Deductions I have made from witnessing the hydroplaning
1) Water is accumulating in some areas so be careful.
2) If you see any really big puddles, exit the freeway immediately.
3) The puddles are on the edge of the freeway. Avoid the puddles at all cost
4) Stay close to the median because your Acura can't handle the puddles.
5) The guy driving that Blazer is an idiot.  He almost killed himself.

I groan as I see the Blazer miraculously turn around and start driving again.  My confidence level plummets with the thought the idiot is not only on the loose, but somewhere behind me.  No one is safe.

That's I-10 headed east.  This is the spot where the White Oak and Buffalo Bayou meet.  That bridge goes to Main Street.

That's UH on the left, Main Street Bridge and Buffalo Bayou on a good day.  The yellow line marks how high the water rose.

12:16 a.m. The Warning and the Waiting
As I drove towards the 610 loop, I saw a blinking yellow sign which read, "Expect delays at the Loop."   Hmm, now what can that mean? 

About half a mile after I pass that sign, I found myself at a standstill underneath the T.C. Jester Boulevard overpass.  Sitting directly under the TC Jester Bridge, I am out of the rain for the moment.  Stuck in a typical Houston traffic jam, I begin singing the words to the Eagle's classic Desperado, much to the amusement of a Vietnamese woman as I later found out.   Stuck in the same spot as I was, she had nothing better to do than watch me animatedly sing my song.  Nothing like a captive audience.

Let's see what's hanging around.  There are trucks in front of me, vans, other sports cars, and several large cars. There are also tankers and other big rigs behind me. I'm not going anywhere for a while.  Ah, if only there were a Snickers bar around.

12:20 a.m. The Cop Lady's Request
A cop in the 2nd lane rolls down her window and flags me. She ask very politely if I wouldn't mind "scootching over" towards the median even more because she's noticed the water level rising around us.  I acquiesce ever so graciously.  I wonder what she means about the water level rising. 

12:25 a.m. The Rising
The cop is now out of her car, moving things out of her trunk. Hers is the only "car" in the 2nd lane. The rest of the vehicles are rigs of one kind or another. She seems perturbed. I don't like angry cops so I try to ignore her (truly my finest hour).

Water is now accumulating underneath my car. I get angry with the truck driver behind me because first, his lights are on and flashing right into my mirror and second, he is driving forward sending small waves into my car's exhaust.

Has he no conscience?  Is he just pure evil?  Other drivers also jeer at him.  We are united in our disgust; a very reputable mob mentality. Suddenly, a Nigerian man calls to me and ask if I have water in my car. I check. Nope. We both sigh relieved.

12:30 a.m. The First Wave
I've been relaxing for a moment, my seat eased back, the car turned off, listening to the rain. My foot has been resting slightly on the clutch. I decide to sit up and stretch. I put my foot down and I hear a splash. There is a centimeter of water in the car. "That's not so bad," I think. I can have this thing cleaned out tomorrow and it'll be as good as new. I just gotta hope that the rain will stop. Looking out into the night, I study the rain and come to the frightening conclusion that the rain can go on a little longer. A motorcycle weaves its way by me through traffic without difficulty. I am jealous of the Chinese kid in the Prelude who rolls down his window for the sheer delight of shooting the finger at the motorcyclist. "Why didn't I do that?" I ponder.

That entire stretch of I-10 became submerged under water from White Oak Bayou thanks to the Katy Freeway Bathtub Effect.

Here is the Katy Freeway Bathtub facing west.  This picture was taken the day after Allison as the waters started to recede.  That explains why you can see the cars.  Dan's TC Jester Bridge can be seen in the distance.  This picture of I-10 was taken from the Shepherd Bridge.  Note there is only traffic on one side... no cars could head east.  That massive tanker was picked up by the water and floated to the wrong side of the freeway.

12:35 a.m. The Hard Fought Loss
I grab a coffee mug that I've had in my car since mid-May and start bailing water out. I also grab a water bottle and using my trusty scout knife, cut off the top to have a second water bailer. My father's voice echoes in my head as I remember my sailing days, "Bail! Bail! Bail! Bail!"

Dad would have been so proud of my concerted effort to save my car from flooding.  Water is now nearing the top of the seat cushion.  It seeps in with greater ease than my ability to send it out.  I notice an Irish Riverdance tape floating underneath the center console.  The irony of the moment is not lost on me.  Unfortunately, I don't feel much like Riverdancing myself although I am sure my Vietnamese lady would appreciate whatever steps I could perform. 

On second thought, Dad would not have been proud of me.  My bailing efforts have proven futile.  This realization serves as the catalyst for one of my finer barrages of expletives-directed primarily at myself and the rain.

"You stupid idiot!  You stupid %$#@** moron! AAAAAAAAGGGGHHH! Of all the *&##@ luck! %%&$$^% this rain! *&@#% this car! *%##@ this night!"

Thankfully, I rolled the window up so the neighbors couldn't hear me.  But the rain can and decides to punish me for my insolence.

That's Dan's TC Jester Bridge and the stack of trucks he referred to.

12:40 a.m. Abandoning Ship
I am now out of my car and loading things up into my backpack - anything I can salvage. Other motorist are out and about doing the same thing. The water on the Katy Freeway is now above my knee. I put everything on top of my back speakers and go watch the flood from the median.  There I visit with the Vietnamese family, the Chinese kid (Steven), the Nigerian who lost his alligator shoes, computer, dry cleaning, cell phone, and CD player. Typical questions:  Are you insured?  Can you believe this?  When will it end?  Did you hear any warnings on the radio?


12:50 a.m. THE MASS EXODUS
The rain is now up to the window of my car.  The electricity shorts out on it, causing the alarm to sound for the first time in nine months, much to the delight of my neighbors.  I frantically search for my alarm control and drop my keys.  Reluctantly, I immerse myself into the water.  Using my toes, I manage to retrieve the keys but I am 100% soaked in the process.  Thankfully, other people's alarms are sounding as well and the hatred for me is short lived.  The alarm fails to respond to my control but eventually it cuts itself off (it would do that several more times). I study the water and realize that it's still rising steadily.  For the first time I idly begin to speculate whether I am in any actual danger or not.  It might be time soon to evacuate.  I go to my car, open up the hatchback and retrieve everything I can put in either my backpack or my Snoopy pillowcase. Then I carry them above my shoulders over the median to the southern bank of the TC Jester overpass. Other people follow suit. 

Now we sit on the hill overlooking the freeway.  The Freeway has become a giant sea of water.  Some draw allusions to Moses, some to Noah, and some to the Rio Grande.  Rio Grande?  I find that amusing.  Tonight we are all wetbacks.  Andalé Muchachos! 

Can you spot the Texaco Star in the upper left corner?  That 'X' marks where Dan sat on his hill.

   

1:00 a.m. The S.S. INTEGRA
People take bets which car is going under first. The Hondas, Acuras and Mitsibushis will go, no doubt. Somebody has a BMW roadster too. I laugh as people a vicious delight in watching it go under.  I say nothing because I am unsure the car's owner isn't that guy over there seething.  We also notice that all of the truck drivers are staying with their rigs.  We hate the truck drivers. Now we are one collective, using each other's cell phones, shaking our heads in unison, borrowing each other's dry stuff. For the moment, it is okay to be under the bridge, out of the rain and the water, watching the spectacle. I notice that cars are floating into one another a little bit. All that can be seen of my car is the sun roof. I think to myself that I've now lost one car to black ice and another to a flash flood. Nature 2, Me zip. 

1:10 a.m. The Flash Flood
Somebody calls out that they just timed the water. It's rising a foot every ten minutes. We all sit there with our mouths open.  What the hell is going on here?

1:30 a.m. The Truck People
The water is at least 6 feet deep now. It has covered a Landcruiser and an Astrovan in the last few minutes. Trucks start blowing their horns much to the dismay of those of us sleeping on the embankment. Our group finally figures out that some of the truckers are in trouble and we go to help. The truck drivers' rigs are now shorting out and they are escaping rapidly. We form a pretty weak firemen's line to help those of them that are escaping to the Southern bank.  I saved a blanket.

Another look at the aftermath.  Those trucks didn't drive up on those banks.  The water washed them up there like they were ragdolls.

This is the best photograph of the Katy Freeway Bathtub Effect.  That water is starting to recede now, but it was 18-20 feet deep at its peak.

1:35 a.m. The Angry Confrontation
Ten feet away I hear angry voices.  I look up.  It's one of the truckers and one of the guys in our group squaring off.  The trucker recognizes this is the same guy who flipped him off earlier.  This guy was mad because the trucker deliberately cut him off just as he was making a last ditch effort to make it to the exit ramp.  It turns out the truck driver is just as big an asshole on land as he is in his truck.  He's a big guy, tattoos and attitude, likes to throw his weight around.  Things get pretty tense until the trucker realizes that practically everyone there hates his guts, so he walks away.  Remind me not to flip off any truck drivers in the next storm.

1:50 a.m. The Guy Who Couldn't Swim and His Family
One Trucker honked on his horn for several minutes until finally people figured out he was trapped inside (His locks were electrical and the electricity wasn't working in his rig.) Once the door was pried open, he grabbed his two boys, ages 8 and 4, and tried to carry them to our embankment. His back had a slipped disk that he was taking medicine for, so the weight of both children caused him some distress. Also, he was not a very strong swimmer. Already wet, our group decided to help out as much as possible. We managed to get them all over to our underpass safely. 

1:55 a.m. The Fire
It was a good thing that we got the family out of their rig because a small fire broke out inside it. Ultimately, the electrical fire grew ten feet tall and enveloped the entire rig. We all sat there in disbelief. The man hugged his children tight and prayed. No one said anything for a while.

2:00 a.m. Let's Get the Hell Out Of Here!
I have never seen lightning so close in my life. Less than 200 yards away, lightning struck the tail end of a tanker which was floating high (I later learned that it was empty). Everyone screamed. A security guard exclaimed that there was a Texaco Station behind us if we wanted to leave the shelter. 

I yelled at the top of my lungs, in Batman fashion no less, "To the Texaco Station!!!!!"  Like a band of Gypsies we grabbed everything we could and made our way up the embankment to a shelter that had already been discovered by about 200 other people. 

2:05 a.m. Return of the Idiot
Oh shit.  I just noticed the idiot who was driving the Blazer that fishtailed because he was driving too fast.   He is standing there in the Texaco crowd smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer.  He couldn't care less that he nearly killed himself a while ago.  I don't want to be anywhere near him.  For the life of me, if it hadn't been for the lightning and my fear of electricity running through the water, I would have gone back.  I quietly say my blessings that the idiot never heard my expletives. 

3:00 a.m. The View
The water is so high that the tankers and 18 wheelers are floating into one another now.  I-10 has been renamed by us as "Bayou 10." We worry that the rain will continue and we'll have to seek higher ground again.  The water is ridiculous.  It is only 6 more feet to the top of the "levee."  We estimate the water is currently 20 feet deep.  My car has disappeared long ago.  Is it ever going to stop raining?

During the storm, this part of the Katy Freeway Bathtub fell to pieces.  This location is about half a mile west of TC Jester, the spot where Dan Green got stuck.  

This buckling may have been the reason that Dan got stuck in the first place.

A final look at Buffalo Bayou.  You can't even see Allen Parkway on the left.  It is completely submerged.

Here is a picture that indicates the water covering Allen Parkway is six feet high.  Amazing.

THE REST OF THE NIGHT
I stayed up watching the news, watching the rain, hearing horror story after horror story. I found a bed for the two kids that were saved by our group. I bought a Tylenol for the guy with the bad back as he had to stand up. I cursed the manager of the Texaco station for kicking the children out of the dry bay of his garage. I consoled the Nigerian 38 year old who was uninsured and worried that his Dad would explode. I cracked jokes with some gang bangers who were exceptionally polite (they were from Beaumont no less). I spoke Spanish for the better part of the evening with two life insurance salesmen from Colombia. I drank Yoohoo Sodas and ate Funions, something I hadn't done since 7th grade.

The rain didn't stop until 7:30 am.  Houston amassed 22 inches of rain in 7 hours, this after being flooded partially on Tuesday night. The area where I was camped out received the brunt of it in the city as it was the section of I-10 right next to White Oak Bayou which had already overflowed from the Tuesday downpour. My car was approximately sixteen feet under water. I would have been okay with all of that had I not found out that the police made a special trip to TC Jester to help a trucker move his cargo to higher ground.  I was told the cargo was Ross Perot's nephew's Lamborgini Countache. It sat there atop the TC Jester overpass, directly above my submarine. The entire gas station was anxious to see it fall into the water. Justice would have been served. 

I made a call to my girlfriend, but she wasn't sure which roads were open.  She said she would do her best, but to be patient. I wasn't picked up until 9:30 am and I couldn't get home until Sunday.

The lessons I learned from this experience:

1) Always carry a toothbrush with you where ever you go.
2) Pay attention to weather patterns.
3) People are generally friendly, once you get past their outer images....except for the manager of the Texaco Station at T.C. Jester and I-10.
4) Don't curse people out in a storm... because you just might end up spending the night with them at a gas station.
5) Keep a pillow, blanket, 1st Aid kit, flashlight, poncho, water and batteries with you in the back of your car at all times (I had everything but the blanket).
6) Don't skimp on insurance ever.
7) Don't end dates early simply because you want to sleep.
8) Drive bigger cars, especially when it is raining hard.

In all honesty, I'm okay with what happened.  I'm insured.  I'm alive. There are people in far more dire straits than I could ever be. This is actually pretty minor now. My car is caked in mud. There are flies all over it, but it's been towed away and I have a claim number. ...I am now looking into trucks again. I'm done with small cars.  

God bless everyone and stay out of the rain.   Thanks for reading, Dan  Green.

 

Sat 06/09/2001 8:39 PM
Story 03: Gary Richardson

Well, never in our lives have we seen rain like we experienced last night. It started just as we closed the store at 6:00pm. We (Gary, Betty, and Cyndi) left for dance in the rain and danced from 7:00 to midnight. Britney (Cyndi's baby daughter) was at John's house. Unaware to us, it never stopped raining one minute. This was rain that was not just light rain now and then...it was steady, heavy rain all the time from the remnants of Tropical Storm Allison (you may have seen it on the news.) 

We left the studio at midnight and tried to get on the freeway (610 loop), which is only one block away from the studio...impossible! Water was too deep under the freeway and within 100 feet of the service roads...a big lake! We turned around...all side streets were lakes. We had to drive down the middle of the street where we could to avoid the water on the streets. Every major four lane and six lane we came to was a lake. Cars stalled out everywhere. 

We gave up and fought our way back to SSQQ where we left a few minutes later (after telling people what we had seen) and went out again to try a different route. Again, no route could be found and we made it back to SSQQ probably just in time as a few minutes later it would have been too deep to make it back. 

Others were coming back as well. All in all, 20 people spent the night (us included) at SSQQ watching the big screen TV on the sofas and sofa chairs at the studio. Everyone watched in disbelief what was happening not just in localized areas of Houston, but ALL OVER HOUSTON virtually flooding going on. 100's of cars were 30 to 40 feet under water on the I-10 freeway where it goes under the 610 loop! We wouldn't have got past that point even if we had been able to get on the freeway...and we would have been one of those thousands stuck on the freeway for the next six to ten hours. We were lucky to have a nice dry, comfortable (relatively) place with plenty of restrooms, soft drinks, and popcorn to spend the night! 

Everyone tried to sleep... I'm not sure anyone succeeded in getting more than maybe a total of 15 to 30 minutes over the course of the whole night. We just sort of watched the TV crouched the best we could in our sofa spaces with a few blankets for those that needed them. They showed homes, businesses, streets, freeways, and vehicles all over under water. Ambulances couldn't even get to the hospitals or away from the hospitals. Fire trucks were even having problems and some were 100% underwater trapped!

Rick (the owner of SSQQ) and I went out at around 8:00am and went to Randall's for food. They were open 24 hours, luckily, and we brought back food for everyone.

A few left at that time. I doubt if they made it far, but probably couldn't make it back if they tried because what happens is when you get so far you can't go further, you can't back up because the cars behind you can't or they stall out and pin you in. Then what happened to so many thousands all across Houston happens...the water keeps rising...you finally have to abandon your vehicle and it gets covered up with water.

Anyway, we stayed until we thought we had a reasonable chance of getting home at 11:30am Saturday morning. We tried calling our neighbors, businesses in the neighborhood and even businesses within a mile of our home. All the phones were dead even though the phones worked at SSQQ. We couldn't reach anyone that could tell us whether or not our home was high and dry or not.

We did get through to John and Beth (who had Britney) and told them early Saturday morning not to bring her home as we were stuck away from home at SSQQ. We checked in with Mike at his house and he had made it home that night with great difficulty...but he lives West of the City. The West side of Houston faired the best (that is where we live, of course, but not as far out West as Mike). We left and got home with no problems before noon.

Not sure where this picture was taken.  If forced to guess, it is another I-10 Katy Freeway Bathtub picture or perhaps the North Loop 610.  You can be sure there are plenty of sunken cars down in there.

Our home was fine. As it turned out, our area only got around 7 inches of rain ("only" seven inches!). 

The area we had been in at the dance studio was right next to the part of Houston that received 26 inches from 6:00pm Friday night to 6:00am Saturday morning!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

UNBELIEVABLE!  Many homes all across Houston in lower areas everywhere still have water in them ... some five or more feet deep in their homes.

People are still being rescued from their trapped cars/homes. All over the city people spent the night in service stations, corner stop & go groceries and just simple storefront overhangs to stay out of the rain.

Most were just trapped in their cars unable to go anywhere without getting in to deep water so they just spent the night in their cars on medians, or parking lots if they could find HIGH ground.

We were LUCKY! Our neighborhood had no water in the homes though you could see where it got up into the yards.

However, as you can see from this picture, not every neighborhood was quite so fortunate. 

   

Mon 06/11/2001 3:03 PM
Story 04: Paula Morris

Hi Rick,  Here is some info concerning our experiences in the flood.  We had our lesson with you Friday evening and after that Steve invited us to see his favorite musical group, Sister's Morales.  They were performing at a small club in the Heights.  Steve's brother Jeff, just in town for the weekend, his sister Marcia, Judith and her husband Roy joined us.

We made it to the club and enjoyed the show. Around 12:30 a.m. we headed toward home.  We were in separate cars.  Well, you've heard about the Heights, I'm sure!

No way out in ANY DIRECTION!  Glenn and I spent hours going to every exit we could... all the way to 610 to I-45, etc. Water was under the over passes all the way to the top.   At many places l8 wheelers were caught underneath and just the tip of the cab was visible. We pulled over several times trying to assess the situation and tried to get a little rest.

Rick and Marla Archer with Paula and Glenn Morris,
Hawaii Cruise 2007

Around 3:00 a.m. we headed back to the club and several people were still there including the Sister's Morales. A few people were playing guitars and after a while Glenn starting playing and they jammed for a while.

Needless to say...Glenn had FUN! Finally, around 4:30 we headed out again...it was such a horrible sight....so many houses in the old Heights were flooded and cars parked on the side of the street were half submerged. Finally around 7:00 a.m. the water subsided enough for us to exit N. Main to Yale to 610 and about an hour later we made it to Chimney Rock at Wirt....610 at I-l0W was a lake. 

We were very fortunate and didn't have any damage to our home...we live on Spring Branch Creek!  Everyone in the neighborhood was spared. However, bad news. Steve and Judith plus Steve's brother and sister ran into high water near the club.  It did like you always hear....took them by surprise, filled the car with water and was swirling out of control. Steve's brother was able to get the power doors opened. They swam out in waist deep water, found a service station and spent the night with several other water-logged people. (many stories there) 

Of course, Judith lost her car. They got in touch with us around 10:00 am Saturday morning and were able to get to our house. There was no access to their homes in Channelview or Pearland. The 7 of us were here all weekend and had a great survival party...good friends, great food and many stories. Steve was almost certain that he had water in his house...since it had flooded twice before...he was right. He had 5 to 6 feet of water and has lost his home. Fortunately, he does have flood insurance. I'm sure he'll have a lot to add to this story...also Miss Judith! So, I'll let them fill you in. Glad to know we still have a great place to dance.

My best to everyone, Paula

Ordinarily Buffalo Bayou is a peaceful waterway that winds through the heart of the city unobtrusively.  Long neglected as anything worth looking at, in recent times people have begun to show interest in landscaping the area along the banks of Buffalo Bayou in a fashion similar to the Riverwalk in San Antonio.  As you can see, these attractive walkways are a nice start.  However, unlike the Riverwalk in San Antonio, you can assume those walkways will be under water the next time we get one of those "floods". 

   


Wednesday, June 13, 2001 2:49 PM
Story 05: Marlene Kayfes

My experience of Allison was strongly affected by a Venus-Mars perspective.  My Venus perspective was that I wasn't moving again till the rain stopped.  Jim Colby's Mars perspective was that no silly rain storm was ever going to stop him and his truck. 

And speaking of Venus (and Mars), in hindsight I guess that's how I might classify my venture out into the flood with Jim. He was certain he could get me home. "I have a big truck," he said in a Martian-Tarzanian way.  Hmmmm.  OK!  Heck I like an adventure. Besides, I reasoned that the media always exaggerates and this might be another example of their crying "wolf."

It might be really bad in some places, but not necessarily the entire city. Jim made a scouting trip and returned to assure me that he could, in fact, get me home. He does have a big truck and we set out-down Bissonnet to Rice towards Beechnut. On Rice, just past Bellaire Blvd. the water got pretty deep, even for a big truck. I pressed my face against the window and saw water spewing up and out as the front wheel turned. In most (not all) places we could see the stripes painted on the road.

Jim and Marlene, Vera Cruz 2001 Cruise Trip

"Hmm, it's gotten worse since I was out before," Jim said. I glanced at him and turned back to press my face against the window, trying to quell a rising panic. At the intersection of Rice and Beechnut, it was reeeeally bad!! Or so I thought.

We cruised slowly down Beechnut and Ms. Venus lost any Mars qualities she'd ever had. "Jim! We shouldn't be out here! Jim! We have to go back! Jim!" I wondered if he could hear me. Meanwhile, Jim is leaned back in his seat, smiling, one wrist draped over the steering wheel. Finally, he said, "Aren't trucks cool?" I had to laugh.

At Beechnut and 610, I saw cars stalled in the service road with the water level more than half-way up their windows. "Jim! We can't keep going!" I was ready to jump out of the truck into the mucky, probably rat- and snake-infested waters, if he continued on. It was a valiant effort, but enough of this "boys and their trucks" stuff.

We pulled into the IHOP parking lot. Decision time. We both were hungry. Do we stay and eat at the IHOP? If so, we'd probably be stuck there. Not an option if there's any chance we could make it back to the studio, I'd rather be in a place and with people I knew. But the others probably were hungry, too.  "How fast can we get some burgers?" I asked. About 5 minutes. "OK, 10 burgers and fries to go." Again, Jim stepped up to the plate and picked up the tab.

We waited, and we watched the rain. Soon I pointed out that when we arrived, there were some puddles in the parking lot. In 10 short minutes, the puddles had joined hands and become a veritable lake. We had to go - now! "We'll take 'em medium-rare! We'll take 'em rare! We gotta go now!" I called back to the kitchen.
Finally, juggling boxes and bags of burgers and fries, we ran into the rain to the truck. Totally drenched now, we headed back toward the studio. But the flooding was worse. The water was higher. We both knew it but didn't speak the words. Well, if we were stuck in the truck, at least we wouldn't starve!

Backtracking down Beechnut, Jim was driving nearly on the median. We couldn't see any lane stripes on the road. And my face was again pressed against the window, eyes big as saucers. Instead of my panic during the trip out, my tone now was more muted, more of a submissive whimper, "Jim. We shouldn't have done this."

Back on Rice, passing Bellaire High School, Jim says, "Hmm, it's gotten worse." Again, panic rises inside of me. Everything was just fine until the words were spoken!

My face reattaches itself to the window and I try to stretch my eyeballs to maybe miraculously will them to see beyond my field of vision to assess the water's depth. For a few fleeting moments I thought about sticking my head out the window to see how high the water was, but, no, that would be stupid!  At one point, a little whitewater wave bubbled up in front of the truck's hood. We both saw it and looked at each other "Ooooh, that's not good," I said. Jim was more philosophical, "Huh, that was pretty cool. I'll have to remember that."

Was that a large tree limb sticking up out of the water? Was it an entire tree? Water lapped at the doors of houses on both sides of the street. I'm muttering, "Jim, we shouldn't have done this. We're not gonna make it!"

A CD is playing. Jim is singing, "Oh, I shoulda been a cowboy..."

The big truck had no brakes as we coasted to a stop in front of the studio. We were wet, cold and hungry. The burgers were cold and the buns were mushy but they tasted pretty darned good anyway.

We got dry shirts out of the leave-behinds in ladies' room and snuggled under a blanket on a sofa the rest of the night - safe, warm and cozy - to ride out the storm.

Yeah, maybe that Martian shoulda been a cowboy!

The water has just finished receding on I-10, the Katy Freeway Bathtub.  Have you ever seen a bigger mess?

 


Fri 06/22/2001 2:11 PM
Story 06: Welcome to Waterworld!
Written by Rick Archer

Gary Richardson told me a story about a customer who brought his computer in for repair from water damage.  This man who had just moved to Houston from New Jersey one week before the flood hit.  This guy had rented a ground level apartment near his job and immediately dumped all his belongings in the middle of the floor.  For the rest of the week he lived in his apartment campout-style.  The guy was so busy with his new job he hadn't even had time to unpack his clothes or look for furniture.  For comfort, he purchased an air mattress and a pillow.  He didn't need a blanket.  The Houston heat made him miserable.

On the night the flood hit, this man went to bed early on his air mattress down on the floor.  In the middle of the night he awoke with a start. He knew something was terribly wrong, but in the darkness could not figure out what was happening to him.  He put his hand on the floor and felt nothing but water everywhere!!  He screamed in terror at the top of his lungs and clung to the air mattress as if it was a life raft

The man was panic-stricken.  He was trapped in water in near-total darkness.  What the hell was going on?  

All the streetlights were off.  It was so dark in his room he had only some dim moonlight to go by.  As his eyes focused, he realized he was still in his apartment.  Then he saw his top of his suitcase barely above the water level.  That actually encouraged him because he realized the water could not be all that deep.  He continued to test the water with his hand.  Finally he breathed a sigh of relief when he realized the water was only two feet deep in his apartment.  For a minute he had actually thought he had been alien-abducted or something worse!! Slowly he paddled to the nearby window and poked his nose up against the window.  He could see it was raining outside. 

In the dim moonlight, he could see that the entire apartment complex was under water.  Finally he got brave and stood up in the water.  He went to his door and realized that was where the water was entering his room.  Once he realized the situation wasn't as serious as he first thought, the man calmed down and laughed.  He had just had the scare of his life!

There was not one spot in his apartment to even sit down in, so he opened the door and waded outside.  Once outside, he saw various people on the second floor sitting outside watching it rain.  One of the neighbors invited him to spend the night in a couch in the living room, so that's where he spent the rest of the night.

The next morning he calmly moved to an empty apartment upstairs.  It didn't take long for him to move - there was nothing to move but his air mattress.  All his belongings were ruined.  Even the pillow. 

Welcome to Houston, Texas, aka Water World!!

This takeoff on 'Jaws' was a popular spoof that circulated in Houston email boxes shortly after Tropical Storm Allison headed off towards Pennsylvania.  No one who lived in Houston during Allison will ever forget this storm, I promise you.

Waterworld Page 1 Waterworld Page 2
 
SSQQ Front Page Parties/Calendar Jokes
SSQQ Information Schedule of Classes Writeups
SSQQ Archive Newsletter History of SSQQ