Twelve hours or so after Ike slammed into Galveston, he roared out of Livingston, Texas, leaving not only dazed citizens, but hundreds of evacuees without power.

No power, no air; no power, no TV. Our only means of communication were cell phones and smoke signals, the latter being somewhat difficult with the soaking rain. Somewhere during the storm, our cell phones went into the roaming status followed quickly by the discharge status.

Still, we had to know what was going on.

Our motel was damaged big time. Water leaked onto the second floor which, through the miracle of gravity, leaked to the first floor, taking with it ceilings and depositing them in our laps, courtesy of the motel.

Saturday night was memorable in that it was so miserable–pitch black, hot, and us ignorant of what was taking place. From time to time, I’d pop out in the car, start it up, and recharge the phone. I’d never used the roaming status, but my little phone, which is from Sprint, sure didn’t hold a charge long. Maybe roaming had something to do with it. I don’t know.

Early Sunday morning, my neighbor, who rode out the storm in Jacksonville, called. He was heading to Port Neches. A hour or so later, we discovered some friends from Anahuac had departed Livingston, heading home. Later that morning, a couple from Seabrook pulled out. Guests were deserting the motel like the proverbial rats from a sinking ship, or should I say collapsing motel. About that time, my brother-in-law called to say he was leaving Tyler for Groves.

What the heck, Gayle and I told each other. While we’d heard about the DPS blockades keeping citizens out of Jefferson County, we decided to give it a try. We couldn’t stay at the motel. It was falling down about our ears. Might as well go home and start up the generators as remain behind with nothing to look forward to except digging out from beneath collapsed ceilings in the middle of the night.

My neighbor and my brother-in-law ran interference for us. The first blockade was at Woodville, which we made it through without a problem.

The next one at Lumberton was tougher according to my neighbor. I was dreading it. I decided all I could do was lie about my destination. For the next hour, I rehearsed by speech. Fortunately, my brother-in-law called and said the DPS had pulled out upon the request of Jefferson County.

To be honest, I can’t blame the county. There was a veritable flood of vehicles heading to Beaumont. For the officers to question each car on Highway 69 would have created a line all the way back to Kountze.

We breezed though Lumberton, sailed around Beaumont, and swept off 69 onto 347. To my surprise, there were only two vehicles, a sedan and a pickup ahead of me.

Port Neches was a ghost town.

We pulled in the drive around two or so and got busy.

Luckily, we suffered little damage–privacy fences, trellises, a gazebo, a green swimming pool, and a steel door that the driving rain evaded.

About a mile to the east and west of us in Port Neches, water had risen above the road. It remained above the bridge on Sarah Jane Road, but had receded at the low area around Motiva, the old Texaco Asphalt Plant.

Within a couple hours, we were up and running. We had some lights; the icebox and freezer were humming; and a small window unit cooled a small area of downstairs.

We had been stressed, and we would continue to be so for the next few days; but when I remember our return from Rita, I say a heart-felt prayer. No roof to replace, no carpet to rip out, no windows to reglaze.

We were lucky.

Gayle and I wish all of our neighbors in Southeast Texas had been as fortunate as we.

God bless them all.