A Three Hour Tour

We'll just start with, I've a very good excuse for not posting Feminist Monday, yesterday. We'll just start with this is how my house looked on Sunday morning...

The first image is the side of the house. The second image is the front of the house. That amount of tree is only about 1/3 of it. It's in our landlady's back yard and it shades four buildings. When I said the tree is huge, I meant it. Therefore this, resulted in two holes in our roof. You see, a tornado passed through our street. (The punk rock pizza bar kitty-corner from us no longer has a porch. The apartment complex north of us no longer has part of their roof. Trees are down everywhere along the street. In some places you can see where the wind twisted branches off the trees.) Dane, the Viking, and my cat weathered it just fine. And then, Monday came along...

Every time I make a trip to Houston these days the ride back has been "exciting" due to weather. Every. Time. I'm beginning Houston has it out for me in a Hotel California sense.

My last Comicpalooza panel ended at 5pm on Monday. Marshall Maresca asked if he could hitch a ride back and I said sure. In hindsight, I'm really glad I did. I'm not sure I'd have made it back last night if it weren't for him. I'd have stayed another night in Houston. Mind you, that would've been less stressful for Dane...but there you are. Dane strongly suggested I stay in Houston. He said it was storming again and that it was very, very bad. I would have done so but Marshall had sent his luggage home with his family much earlier in the day. So, I chose to leave. We grabbed coffee--I knew it was going to be intense so I wanted to make sure I was alert--and hit the road at 5:30pm. suggested that we take the I-10 route and then up 71 through Bastrop rather than the 290 route which goes through Brenham. The big bad was supposed to sit on Brenham right about the time we would've reached it. I figured coming up behind the storm rather than in front of it would be the smartest, safest option. Turns out, I was both right and wrong in that assumption. Everything was fine until we left I-10. Highway 71/Columbus was where things got...interesting. First, the sky went black. Then the alarms went off on both our phones. The first two were warnings about flood waters. The next one? Yeah. That one was a tornado warning--not a watch, a warning. It told us to take cover. Me being me, I pulled over at the gas station asap. We went inside. The gentleman behind the counter was super cool about it. Said we could stay as long as we needed to. He also said the worst of it had already passed. I showed him the alarm message on my phone. Another traveler showed up. He said two tornadoes passed just north of the store. Marshall wasn't sure he was telling the truth. My gut told me to stay. We stayed.

And then the rain started falling sideways and the lights went out.

Mind you, it was just for a second, but that was enough for me. We waited it out for ten or fifteen minutes. As soon as the sky lightened up a bit and the rain was falling in a normal "gravity works here" direction, we took to the road again. During that part of the trip, I noticed the big round thing in the sky. My lizard brain was dead certain it was the moon. It wasn't. It was the sun. That was the creepiest, most alien sky-scape I've ever seen. Round, lumpy mammatus clouds and blue-ish sky ahead. The sun, in the west (where we were headed,) looking like the moon. Solid black behind. Deep, nasty grey to the left and deep, nasty grey to the right. I felt like we were travelling through the only safe corridor in the area. It was like Moses had parted the sea for us. It stopped raining. I had a hunch we were going to make it just fine.

Meanwhile, at home in Austin, it was flooding, and the water hit the second step of our porch. The heavy wood chunks from the big tree that were in our yard began floating down the street. That's even worse than the last time. Did I mention our house sits on top of the largest hill for miles? We're on 43rd Street. The bottom of the hill is at 6th Street. 43rd was a lake. At least one news film crew filmed our house. It was on the news. Therefore, Dane was freaking out about me driving. I told him we were safe. He told me to keep checking in. We did. Then traffic stopped moving on 71. Turned out, the road was too flooded and the highway patrol drove up just then and decided to close it. Marshall used the GPS to figure out an alternate route. He did this no less than three times. I thought we were going to run out of options. It usually only takes 3/4 of a tank of gas to travel to Houston from Austin. I was already down to 1/4 of a tank. I filled up again. I had a bad feeling. I'm glad I did. It was after 9pm. The only time I got really worried was when we were on the back country road with no name and the truck ahead of us hit water. Turned out, it was only about two or three inches deep, but that did scare the piss out of me. I almost turned back. However, the water was still, and again, it was only 2-3 inches. Marshall joked about how we were Buddy Holly and Richie Valens. I made a crack about Gilligan's Island. "Of course, this makes me the Skipper." Marshall said, "I'm always doomed to be Gilligan." I followed that up with, "I'd rather be Ginger." We were near Lockhart on FM535. We had to stop and turn around again do to flooded/closed road. It wasn't raining. If it had been, I think I would've stopped at that point. The lightening was crazy, though. Lots of cloud to cloud stuff that looked like a flash fire. We finally got back on Highway 71 again, on the other side of the flooded bit and Bastrop. Little did we know, the storm decided to squat on Bastrop and not Brenham, after all. [sigh] I really was being careful, and Marshall was watching all the weather data--even radar reports! We were the opposite of storm chasers.

I didn't get home until around midnight. Dane made me swear never to do that again. I think he's right. The good news is that the water didn't get into our house. This, in spite of the two gaping holes in our roof. Yay! Tarps! (One friend of ours who is packing to move to Seattle was less lucky. Boo.)

Houston, I don't know that I'll risk you again. Yikes.
i've never seen a sky like that, and i've been through sizable hurricanes. but we were very careful. i didn't push my speed at all. drove 40-60mph and mostly stayed around 50mph. most people were cautious, i'm happy to say. we only passed one vehicle in a flooded ditch, facing the wrong direction. inner adrenaline monkey had a lot of fun. writer brain was working overtime. "oooooh, this is cool. check that out! oh, remember this over there..."
the flood got as far as the front porch. (our welcome mat is half soaked.) the water from the holes in the roof only got a bit in the hallway. nothing damaged.

Edited at 2015-05-26 06:24 pm (UTC)
Yikes, I am so glad you guys are okay, and that you made it home safely. Since you say "landlady," I hope fixing the roof is somebody else's problem and that she/they get to it quickly.

I have been in a car travelling on the freeway with tornadoes stomping the landscape less than ten miles away on either side. It is terrifying, the very opposite of fun. The more experience with tornadoes I have, the less I want to mess with them. Your gas station stop was eminently sensible.

i lived in kansas. as a result, i have nightmares about tornados. i don't mess with them. i just don't. thanks! also, it turns out, i was wise to leave when i did too. houston got slammed.
Apparently living in Kansas just makes some people blase; I'm glad you aren't one of them. I grew up partly in Nebraska and have a healthy respect for all storms.

I saw on the news that Houston got hammered, and was relieved to see you posting.

I'm so sorry for the terrifying trip home but I'm glad your house isn't flooded!
I think you guys should just move into the tree, Swiss Family Robinson style. The tree can't fall on your house if your tree is the house. Pretty sure my logic is impeccable, here.