(Guest poster Taha Raja is a businessman in the Sugarland area, a member of our local congregation of Dawoodi Bohras in Houston)
My name is Taha Raja, a close friend of Aziz. Fortunately, Rita barely touched us here in Katy at our masjid! It was a miracle to say the least considering the menace that was in front of us two days ago! I am now back at my house in Katy and this area barely received a couple of inches of rain and sustained winds around 30-40 mph. This was a non event for Katy Residents - Thank God!
I wanted to add that having experienced this from the beginning, I am truly impressed by the outstading leadership provided by Mayor Bill White, Judge Robert Eckels. The Greater Houston Area evacuated around 2.7 million people as per the press conference this morning! WOW! Yes we saw the gridlock, yes we saw gassless cars, and yes there was tremendous frustration. No doubt in hindsight we could have done better. But without any precendent, without knowing all the factors ahead of time, the simple fact that 2.7 million people got out in time was an amazing feat by our city, county and state leadership.
Can we improve on this? Absolutely! What can we do? Well I am sure there will be numerous pundits and experts that will analyze and cross analyse this event to come up with alternatives. In my humble opinion, I would say that if we are to expect everyone to evacuate in their own vehicles (for the most part) then the choices are going to be few and far between. There will be gridlock and there will be these surreal images of hundred mile traffic jam. But the Federal Government can assist. We can have prepositioned gasoline, motorist assistance, and other aid all along the evacuation routes. We can have as many busses as possible to increase density of evacuees - thereby reducing individual cars. We can have the "counterflow" planned and opened up prior to the evacuation orders. Staged zipcode evacuation may be an option as well - not sure exactly if this would work in a panic situation like we had.
So now in retrospect, we thank the Almighty for his grace on Houston. It was truly amazing to see a reporter showing young trees bent as the only damage in downtown this morning. And while she was reporting you could see streetlights all lit up! Power was still on in downtown. Centerpoint reports only 75000 homes without power. These are amazing statistics considering the doom and gloom we faced 2 days ago from Rita!
I do not want to undermine the total effect of this storm. Obviously there are many family, friends and citizens who are effected in the East Texas and Lousiana area. I am sure the damage there is greater and as of 6AM this morning this is still a CAT 2 Hurricane. My thoughts and prayers are still with them and as a concerned citizens, if there is any help we can provide after the fact, we should and we must! God Speed to all! Shukran! (Thank You!).