Massive traffic jams, gas shortages plug evacuation routes near Houston

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Saturday, September 24, 2005

Before Hurricane Rita arrived, cars idling for hours in traffic jams near Houston began running out of gas, stranding evacuees in their cars.

Police supervised 2 hour wait in line at gas station.

The New York Times reported Friday morning that "Colossal 100-mile-long traffic jams left many people stranded and out of gas as the huge storm bore down on the Texas coast on Thursday. ... Acknowledging that "being on the highway is a deathtrap," Mayor Bill White asked for military help in rushing scarce fuel to stranded drivers."

The obvious express routes slowed to a crawl. Some drivers reported easy travel on rural roads, while others encountered heavy traffic on two-lane highways. Constantly during the evacuation on two-lane highways, people would take over the other lanes, causing some head-on collisions. Even when the line jumpers didn't get in a wreck, they still slowed the flow of traffic because they had to merge back into the right lane at some point. The general attitude towards these cheaters was very hostile. Curses and hand signals were exchanged. To stop the cheaters, cars would swerve in front of those who tried to pass or not let them merge back in line, often causing an accident, or at least causing a backup in the lane of oncoming traffic. Sometimes blockers would occupy the shoulder as well as the lane to stop them cutting back into the line.

Line jumpers driving on wrong side of road, who were later pulled over by the police. Click the image for the full sub-story.

Small towns such as Magnolia were overwhelmed by the evacuees passing through. The majority of gas stations were closed and out of gas, and only a few restaurants were open.