A Catalyst For Survival?


In September 2005, my father was in a real estate agents office in Houston. It was a breathtakingly humid and hot day, but he was down to the last few signatures to finalize the loan on a new house.

That was when the warnings started to blast over the radio broadcasts. As he reached the final page, he laid down the pen, politely smiled at the agent and told her that he would be back, if the house was still standing. He gathered what few items he had available: a 3-gallon water jug, a few candy bars and other snacks. Twenty minutes later, he had my stepmother and all three of our Labrador retrievers loaded between both cars, and they set out on the highway. However, it was already too late.

The States surrounding the Gulf were instantly in a panic. Hurricane Katrina was still fresh in their memories, and no one wanted to be anywhere near the coastline when Rita came ashore. The normally pleasant drive to my grandparents’ house just about an hour north of Houston spiraled into an 18-hour stint in bumper-to-bumper hell.

The stretch of U.S. 59 that rarely had more than a few cars anywhere within eyesight was littered with broken-down vehicles, and my stepmother’s car quickly became one of them. After several hours stalled in the now blistering heat, the old Buick’s radiator gave out. This forced my father and stepmother to pile everything they could from her car into my dad’s pickup. It was then that the real scares began — not from the hurricane, but from the confused and ill-prepared people who were stranded along the highway. While my father was moving items from the broken down car to his pickup, someone decided to break the back window of the Buick to steal a half-empty water bottle.

This was mere hours after the evacuation had been issued. Luckily, my father was able to siphon enough gas from the Buick to keep his F150 running just long enough to make it to Nana’s house. Unfortunately, the situation became even worse from there. The hurricane did not make landfall in Houston like it was predicted. Instead, it hit the coast and sheered quickly to the northeast, headed directly toward where my father had evacuated to: my grandparents’ home. Less than an hour after they arrived, my father had Nana and Papa in the storm cellar; he also ran to all of the neighboring homes and offered them shelter.

In all, 17 people were in a storm cellar that was built for 10. As the storm finally hit, my father made a final dash to his truck and he learned firsthand how powerful the storm was. As he reached the truck to grab the only portable radio that he had, and what would soon become the only means of outside communication for days, he was suddenly hit by a gust of wind that took him off of his feet and slammed him into the side of the house. He was able to shake it off and make it back to the storm cellar as the outer wall of the hurricane closed in on them.

Luckily, and due in no small part to the devastation from Hurricane Katrina, my father had the foresight to have a storm shelter installed in between property he owned and my Nana’s home. He had also had the shelter stocked with a pallet of MREs and about 300 gallons of water. However, he did not foresee that the hurricane would score a direct hit on the small town of Zavalla. There was no way for him to know that the town would be left to squander without power for seven days.

They went seven days without running water, air conditioning or heating. Luckily, it was only four days before cellphone signals were re-established. I had four days of no contact with my closest family.

I had my bags packed and stuffed in my car, ready to get to them, when I finally got a phone call from my cousin. The news wasn’t good.

She told me that coming down wouldn’t do much good. There was only one main road into town, and it was closed due to flooding and debris. She had tried to go down herself only to be turned back 14 miles from my grandmother’s house. We were stuck, waiting for the city to clear the roads.

Luckily for them, my dad was prepared at his final destination; he knew how important it was to make sure that our family would be safe, no matter what.

However, I can’t help but wonder how all of those folks that were not able to get off the highway in time were able to cope. Only hours into the confusion and with still hours to go before the storm hit, they had already began to steal and commit violent acts for something as small as a half-empty bottle of water.

My dad was lucky that time; but if there is one thing you can count on, it’s that luck will always run out eventually.

It was this experience that spurred me into action and made me create a plan and become aware of all possible exits and know when to be long gone before panic takes hold. And if being long gone weren’t an option, I would have everything I needed to hunker down, keep my head low and survive until things smoothed over. I would not be left on the side of the road; I would make sure that I got myself and my family out before the gridlock.

So if there is anything I could leave you with, it’s this: Don’t rely on luck.

Practice your skills; never do something the first time when you absolutely need it to save your life. Stay alert to what is going on around you. Above all else, keep calm. You will do more harm than good when acting on instinct over logic.

This was my catalyst, the reason I chose to become prepared. What is yours?

–Joe Marshall

Personal Liberty

Joe Marshall

A little about 'Above Average' Joe. I am the managing editor for Survivallife.com. I am just an average guy with a passion for learning. Survival Life is more than just one man. It is a growing and living community of individuals; all with the desire to be prepared to survive and thrive no matter what this world throws at us. For more articles like this please subscribe to my biweekly newsletter or feel free to follow me on Facebook.

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  • skippy

    Wow Joe!! What an excellent report!! Kudos to your dad for hopping into action the way he did. This sure gives me food for thought. In Ohio not much chance of those kind of storms…but one never knows. You are absolutely right….it’s always better to be prepared. Thanks.

  • texastwin827

    Only a week without electricity? Try a month. My sister lives near Lake Livingston in a very rural area and when Rita came through, not only did they have to wait that long for the City of Livingston to be able to restore power but they didn’t have water service for over 2 weeks.

    Fortunately for them, they & their neighbors all had chainsaws and cleared their own roads. My brother in law was able to tie into his neighbors well so they had water. My nephew was able to buy two large generators in Dallas and take them to his parents and his sister, within a couple of days, so they were able to save their frozen food (and keep their neighbor’s frozen food from going bad).

    As if the damage (two trees on their house) wasn’t enough, Rita hovered over the lake for over an hour with sustained winds of 150 mph and damaged the earth/rock dam so they received evacuation notices shortly after the hurricane went through because they were having to release hundreds of thousands gallons of water to keep the dam from collapsing. Fortunately, for them, they didn’t have to evacuate because they were able to repair the dam.

    While the Texas National Guard (not FEMA…no photo-ops in the sticks) managed to distribute MRE’s and ice, within a couple of days, my sister & her family quickly realized how bad it could have been had they not stockpiled as much food as is possible & canned their own produce, etc.

    They make sure anything that can hold gasoline is always full. There are only 2 service stations between them and the nearest towns (both 20 miles away) and without power, there is no fuel. They have two 4-wheelers that her husband keeps in good running condition, just in case that is their only means of transportation, should they be unable to use their vehicles on the roads.

    They caught it again, when Isaac rolled through East Texas but were prepared much better than when Rita went through.

  • FreedomFighter

    6 days without electricity in the biggest snow storm ever in my area got me prepped, no central heat in sub zero temps, no running water, food freezing in cans, my only heat a small kerosene heater only ever used in the shed kept most of the small house slightly above freezing only. My neighbor on the 4th day dug out the driveway with his CAT and then spent an entire day clearing a path on our private estates road to the main road that was not passable until the 7th day. Several of my neighbors further from the road had to be rescued by the National Guard because the CAT ran out of fuel b4 he could finish clearing the road to their homes (they are somewhat rich too, and had not prepped a bit)

    Never again will I be unprepared for such things. It was an eye opening and frightening experience, esp. due to the pure helplessness of not being able to move or go anywhere and the mind and body numbing cold.
    Laus DeoSemper FI

    • JimH

      Mother Nature, the great equalizer.
      Just when we think we’re pretty clever, nature puts us back in our place.
      Shelter, water and food. In that order.

  • cylde

    Many people are stunned to learn that though they may have heating fuel that their furnace does not work with out electricity. Lines go down for a number of reasons, ice and wind being just two. The only thing you can count on politicians to do is direct recovery efforts to start in their neighborhood.

  • FreedomFighter

    Our lives are crazy. We take care of our family, work, eat, play chauffeur, pay
    the bills, etc. When we have a little bit of free time, we like to just veg in
    front of the TV and watch some brain numbing pictures flicker across the screen. We can go at it like this for days, weeks and even months, not knowing what is going on in the world outside our local community and just getting by with the talk around the water cooler.

    And when we take life in these little chunks, separate blocks of our time and attention, it seems a little bit more manageable. We move from one task, event, errand, chore to the other.

    The problem is when we look at our lives from a big picture perspective. What if our lives all of the sudden changed? What if the stress of the day came bearing down at you all at once? How could this happen? This can easily happen during an emergency. I’m not talking about your son just stuffed his GI Joe down the toilet, or the dog is out of food emergency. I’m talking about the BIG stuff.

    The Big Emergency

    The BIG emergency is the one that stops you in your tracks. It can be personal, based in your local community or
    worldwide. But it is the one that everything else stops and all resources and
    energy are put towards it. The problem is that most people are not
    prepared for the BIG one.


    An Open Letter to Family & Friendshttp://www.activistpost.com/2013/06/an-open-letter-to-reluctant-prepper.html
    Laus DeoSemper FI