Hurricane Rita brings Manila resident home

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Ruby Schrader of Vidor, Texas, is glad to be back home in Manila. Vidor, Texas, is in Orange County approximately 100 miles from Galveston. Schrader had been dividing her time between Texas and Manila but thanks to Hurricane Rita, she has no plans to return to Texas anytime soon.

"Hurricane Rita came ashore on Sept. 24 and we were under a mandatory evacuation order," Schrader said. "We did not have a choice so we left going to Austin. It took us 30 hours to go 267 miles."

Making the trip were Schrader, her two children, Dawn Hitchcock, 17, and Michael Schrader, 13, and a two month old puppy.

"We were routed to Highway 105," she said. "We left at 9:30 a.m. and were completely deadlocked by 10 a.m. It was 119 degrees and we were sitting still in the woods for a lot of the trip. There were no gas, no houses, and no stores anywhere around. We had six bottles of water and two bottles of Gatorade."

Schrader said at one point it took them six hours to get only 10 miles. She said it was midnight before they found a store open in Big Sandy.

"Peoples' nerves were on edge and we could see traffic going through the woods, people trying to go around the lines of traffic, and we saw fights breaking out. At one point I thought I had a flat. When I got out to check, the asphalt was melting to the tires. When we got out of the car our shoes stuck to the pavement."

She said at one standstill area there was a house, and a family of four was going from car to car giving out cups of ice water.

"I don't even know where we were at that time but they were a welcome sight," Schrader said.

Schrader said she knew her family would be worried about them and she tried to call on her cell phone.

"I couldn't get a signal out for a long time," she said. "I finally got a call out and asked them to call my parents in Manila and let them know we were okay."

Schrader is the daughter of James and Hattie Hitchcock of Manila.

The family made it to Austin and stayed with relatives in Wimberly.

When they were allowed to go back home after a week they were shocked to see the devastation.

"Lots of trees and the power lines were all down," Schrader said. "Southeast Texas is known for their 100-200 year old trees and all the tops were wiped out. The skyline had a different look. Because of the dead fish and animals, the mold and mildew, the smell was bad. The Red Cross gave us scrub buckets with bleach and a mask. The Salvation Army was there and fed us for about four days. Some people did not have anything left."

They had to stay in a motel 100 miles from their home.

"We drove round trip to our home every day trying to get things cleaned up," Schrader said. "There was no electricity, we couldn't drink the water, not even any stop lights were still working. Electricity was restored in our area on Oct. 7. We were under a curfew during the clean-up stages. We were not allowed outside of our home between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Oct. 19 was the first day the students could go back to school in Vidor."

Schrader said even when businesses began to open the menus were very limited, the stores had no ice. I stood in line for two hours for two bags of ice and 12 bottles of water."

Schrader and her children arrived in Manila on Oct. 14.

"It was the worst thing I have never experienced," Schrader said. "We take things like a drink of water or a special order hamburger for granted."

"I'll take tornadoes any day over hurricanes," Schrader said. "When the sirens go off I can go out and look for the tornado and see it coming."

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