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Last Updated: Sunday, 25 September 2005, 02:14 GMT 03:14 UK
Rita gives Texas highway headaches
By Verity Murphy
BBC News, Hillsboro, TX

Wendy Carson, Lake Jackson resident
Wendy Carson is worried about her home on Texas' south coast
What would normally take four hours to drive had taken Wendy Carson 19 straight hours as she and her family joined the estimated two million other Texans trying to get out the path of Hurricane Rita.

With Wendy on the crawl north from Lake Jackson on Texas' south coast to Hilsboro, near Dallas, were her elderly father, who cannot walk unaided, and her mother.

"We took the back roads because we knew the interstates were full, but it made no difference," she explained. "There were people walking who were going faster than my car."

Now the family are waiting at a Hillsboro hotel, trying to get in touch with Wendy's husband who is away on business, watching the news and wondering what has become of their homes.

Homework away from home

Nonetheless Wendy knows that she is luckier than some.

Adilene Garduno, Houston resident
Adilene Garduno found room for her school books so she would not fall behind
"I know of one family over in Beaumont that had gone there after Katrina hit New Orleans. They lost just everything in that hurricane and now they've had to go again."

Staying in the same hotel is 17-year-old Adilene Garduno. Her family had set off from Houston at 0400, joined by her aunts, uncles and cousins in two other cars.

"We just drove and drove and every time we came to a hotel we tried to stop, but every time they were full and so we had to keep going," she said.

But even with her four younger brothers and as much clothing as possible crammed into the back seat Adilene managed to find room for her school books.

"Actually I am doing my homework right now," she said. "I don't want to fall behind. Besides we can't go anywhere and aren't going back home yet."

Return journey

Many other families made the decision to head home as soon as it became clear that Houston had been spared the worst.

Queues of traffic along the road from Austin to Houston
Traffic was bumper to bumper as residents headed home

At a petrol station outside Austin, Adolfo Martinez was eating tacos with his wife and two young sons. They were joined by other groups of friends from Katy, near Houston.

The group had all spent the last two nights in a relief shelter set up in a high school in Austin.

"We saw the size of the storm from the satellite images and decided we needed to just get far away - it was a monster," he said.

He had nothing but praise for the set-up at the relief shelter. "It was good, they had beds and blankets and everyone was really, really kind to us," he said. "But now we just want to get home."

Car trouble

But for another family travelling down the same road the excellent reception they got at the shelter had left them with a dilemma.

Warning sign on road leading to Houston
Information signs warned there was no more fuel ahead

Maria Calvo's mother's car had started to overheat, and now her boyfriend was trying to fix it.

"We have been speaking to friends who stayed in Houston and they say the power keeps going off every hour," she said.

"Now we have this problem with the car and on the radio they keep telling us that there is no gas further south and to just stay put," she added. "We might just turn around and go back to the shelter."


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