I have a friend I've met once and conversed with many times, who is the Managing Editor of the Beaumont Enterprise's news division. As everyone came to understand, Port Arthur on the Gulf and Beaumont just a bit inland behind it were the central focus of Hurricane Rita. The winds that caused Houston to bug out like the 4077th MASH turned northeastward and slammed right into Brian Pearson's lap. Family sent out of the area, Brian and a skeleton team of newspeople manned the Enterprise's building to cover the storm.
While less powerful than Katrina at full landfall, the forces of Rita were dangerously intense. Now that the craziness has abated somewhat Brian has begun posting blog entries, starting with the preamble to the storm's arrival over the newspaper building. Trash Palace holds a fascinating, first-hand account of the development of a storm, the peak force of natural phenomena, and the slow and often mundane return to a sense of normalcy:
There was a brief lull in the entertainment, and we thought we'd seen the worst of it. But suddenly, at around 3:15 a.m., there it was, as if it were the greatest, loudest rock 'n' band in the world coming out to play its most popular song at the encore. The wind intensity suddenly face-slapped the city, grinding and mauling, screaming and whirling.
Damn, now THIS was really impressive.
How long did it last? Fifteen minutes? Thirty minutes?
I don't remember.
With the papers finally gone and the presses stopped, we regrouped outside the main entrance and had one more beer. I went to bed at 3 a.m.
At 9 a.m., I emerged from my closet to find more Enterprise employees returning to work. I packed up my stuff in the closet and put it in the car. I put the couch cushions back where they belonged.
After getting my coffee, I settled into my desk in the makeshift newsroom. Reporters and photographers got their marching orders. I checked my e-mail.
I checked my office phone messages and got this from a cranky old lady:
"Yes, I'm a subscriber to your newspaper. I'm wondering if you're out of business. You don't deliver anymore. If you don't, would you at least have the common courtesy to tell people that you no longer deliver a newspaper? Thank you."
You know business is returning to normal when the disgruntled subscribers circumnavigate the circulation department and start barking at the managers whose phone numbers are listed in the newspaper and online.
Great stuff. Warning: start at the bottom for the full effect, from pre-storm to current. Also as a funny aside, I thought the name "Trash Palace" was a fairly clever title concoction, certainly original. Alas, facile thought! Google says otherwise. By mere URL name, Trash Palace.com refers to the mailing house of bad horror and (bad) porn films in Frederick, MD. But it's also an inorganic recycling/salvage house in Wellington, New Zealand. Relatedly there's a White Trash Palace existing to sell T-shirts around a poorly defined theme. But my personal favorite has to be Trash Palace UK, one of London's hotter gay men's clubs, where you can go should you find Tuesdays to be completely naff.
Rita will probably be forever the footnote to Katrina, but for the people who lived in the path of the storm it was no joke whatsoever. Without Katrina, Rita likely had the potential to be far worse in terms of residents staying in the storm's path.