Life is returning to "some" normalcy in the area that was targeted by the eye of Rita - Sabine Pass, Port Arthur, Beaumont, Orange. Am I the only member of the Class of '58 who lives in the "Golden Triangle"? There is extensive damage all over - roofs blown off or caved in, tens of thousands of trees down, many of them into structures. In my block and one down, two houses were sliced through the middle by fallen trees. Our neighborhood is called "The Oaks Historic District" and proudly boasts of some of the oldest and tallest trees in Beaumont - oaks and pines. Now many of them lie along the sides of the streets, already cut into huge pieces and waiting to be hauled off by the large number of specialty crews brought into Beaumont to help with the task.
Much reporting was done from my street, Louisiana Avenue, by both Fox and MSNBC. Journalists were staying at Christus St. Elizabeth Hospital close by, and they were in our neighborhood immediately following the passing of the storm. Our sixty-five-year-old house is okay, but many are not. The news media came and went rather quickly, diverting their attention to other stories.
The storm hit on September 24. Our family followed mandatory evacuation orders and left on the 22nd. With us was our daughter and her family who had come to Beaumont as evacuees from New Orleans the month before. We drove to a friend's home in Monroe, LA, after hearing of the extremely long delays on the roads leading up into East Texas and the Dallas-Fort Worth area. We were right to do so. It took us only13 hours compared to the 24 - 30+ that friends and family experienced going elsewhere.
The water was potable here after about 2 weeks and the electricity to our home was restored after 2 1/2 weeks. Phone service and cable TV took 4 weeks. The next block down from me still doesn't have SBC phone service; and, according to the phone company repairman from Houston with whom I spoke this past weekend, my neighbors probably won't have service for a month. And we live in the heart of the city of Beaumont!
The wedding of a daughter of close friends is scheduled for Nov. 12. The site of the reception has been changed to the church parish hall since the roof of the Beaumont Country Club caved in. A new caterer has had to be hired. The parents of the bride, who live on the west end of Beaumont, have extensive damage to their home after a fallen tree opened up their roof over three rooms. I am having the bridesmaids' luncheon at my house and have offered to display the gifts here.
Numerous businesses are still not operational - Target is closed until Dec. 1 and Michael's Crafts, right here at Halloween time, is not open. I'm sure there are many others, but I haven't been out shopping much since returning on Oct. 17.
Communities north of Beaumont, such as the Jasper area, were also hard-hit by Rita, and it's taking even longer to restore that Big Thicket region to functional status.
There are still great numbers of outside help in the city of Beaumont. All of the hotel rooms are occupied by crews who have come from all over the country to service this entire area.
Since Houston residents escaped the wrath of Rita, I wanted to offer a scenario of what the neighbors not far to the east experienced! My grandparents, Julia and Julius Stevens, survived the 1900 storm in Galveston, but lost their four little boys - Leo, Frank, Gerald and Edwin (my dad's older siblings). Daddy was born in 1912 in Houston and, of course, never knew his brothers. The stories that have been handed down through my family of that terrible disaster are a lesson to me - evacuation is the best choice.
May all of your days be sunny!
Carole Stevens Mattingly