Monday, July 5, 2010
One thing that's taken a bit of getting used to in Houston is that even when it’s raining hard enough to hurt here, it’s still really hot. With the air-con jacked up, you end up wearing all your layers indoors and stripping off outside.
There was a car stuck in the underpass near our house over the weekend. It’s not small – it looks like an SUV, although it’s difficult to tell – but on Friday night the driver obviously thought he or she could make it all the way through the flood water that had poured onto the Allen Parkway, and got caught out.
Hurricane Alex technically never hit Houston. After brewing in the Gulf, it turned left and made landfall on the coast of Mexico on Thursday, but the storms we had from its edges were spectacular; at least if you’re from a country where storms generally last an hour at most and everyone gets excited when there’s a rumble of thunder. Here, we were being warned by road signs and news broadcasts to fill our gas tanks and stock up on water and candles, although most of the locals agreed there was nothing to worry about.
We drove three hours north of Houston on Friday. While driving there was wet but manageable, the further we went the better it got. It was when we turned round to head back that you could really see the storm.
About ten miles from downtown, we tried to get off the freeway. The traffic was stacked up on the frontage road, but we just thought everyone had had the same idea –trucks were still powering down the I45 despite practically zero visibility. It wasn’t until it was too late to turn back that we realised the frontage road was under a foot of water. We were lucky enough that the car directly in front was the same size as ours, which proved to be the only way we could judge which bit of road we could feasibly drive on, and where the dips were. The girl in front put one side of her car on the pavement, which seemed sensible, and which we copied. We didn’t think about the fact that you can’t actually see the edge of the road, and it was only when she sank into a dropped kerb and flooded her exhaust that we realised we should back up, go round, and very slowly make our way back on to the freeway heading downtown.
Despite roads being closed, the police cordoning off drains that were flooding like fountains and cars being abandoned on the side of the freeway in two feet of water, within two days it was all gone, and everything was back to normal. You've got to give Houston credit for efficiency. England would shut down for three weeks for less.