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Natural Disaster 2005, Rita Meets Texas, a Construction Story

Updated on March 1, 2015
LillyGrillzit profile image

Lori as a young girl was concerned with Civil Rights and Environmental Degradation, She still is, with verifiable experience environmentally

The Texas Sky September 21, 2005

The shadows on the ground, are reflecting on GeoComposite in this photo
The shadows on the ground, are reflecting on GeoComposite in this photo | Source

Hurricane Katrina Fades, Rita Hits Next 2005

In September of 2005, I was working on my last Landfill Construction job. I did not know this at the time, but this does go to show that geology and nature win. My position was Construction Quality Assurance. In layman's terms an Inspector. Yes, a woman, overseeing the work and construction of a 5 million dollar job .

The construction of a Landfill cell is very costly and is completed by layer. Each layer must conform to State and Federal Regulations . Each step must be monitored, tested, verified, re-tested, and random samples are sent to a 3rd party Laboratory. Materials are dirt or clay-max (clay on a roll), Geo-Composite, and Geo-membrane. (Those who recycle plastic will recognize the HDPE ratings on containers, and trash bags. Liners, are very thick plastics that are 40 millimeter or 60 millimeter thick ). Liner is a petroleum product. As an Inspector, I watched every step of progress, followed the plastic welders, tested their machines, and documented everything. I had over 8 million square feet of Liner Installation experience by that time. I worked fast and assured good quality. Earlier I had assisted in the installation of a 10 acre landfill cell in Nacogdoches. That cell was completed in May of 2005.

Hurricane Katrina finally died out as a tropical storm on September 12th of 2005.

La Quinta Hotel, Lufkin, TX

I arrived on the job site, Monday, September, 12th 2005. I drove in the company truck from Little Rock, AR. It is 313 miles. A six hour drive one way.

A room was secured for me at the La Quinta Inn, at Lufkin, TX. by the company I worked for and the Project owners. Most of the crew(s) that worked this job from out of town, stayed at the LaQuinta® on 1st street . This La Quinta sits adjacent to US-59. Check in was Monday afternoon. We were booked for the entire month, a the hotel. It was estimated to take us a month to complete the 12 acre cell.

September of 2005, my daily reports started the same. Hot, Sunny, winds 5 - 15 mph. Morning temperatures were in the 70's , afternoons were the high 90's until September 20th, 2005.

We were getting the job done, now that the right people were there. We were nearing completion. The temps kept rising, and it never cooled down. We worked about 16 hours per day, because now we were trying to beat a possible Hurricane. There was going to be big rain, no matter where Rita hit, and that would have been very bad.

On the evening of September 20th, my family members were calling, and begging me to jump ship, and get out! Safety is always the priority on the job. Wisely, I kept the work truck full. In the previous days I stockpiled cases of drinking water.

Thursday Evening A Surreal Vision of a Texas Inferno...

The La Quinta Inn , was next door to an Arby's. On Thursday night, I bought 5 sacks of 5 for $5.00 deals, because we did not know what was going to happen. I bought extra, because I knew there would be people who needed to eat and be watered. Thursday evening brought a surreal vision lining US-59, in Lufkin, TX. It was so hot, that the entire car-snake radiated waves of heat, the pavement was gooey, and adding to the excess heat. Tempers were flaring, people were parked Helter Skelter in front of the La Quinta, in Arby's and at the restaurants lining the freeway access road.

US-59, was lined as far as the eye could see with cars, trucks, households of furniture, animal carriers, cows, horses, dogs, cats, grandmas, and babies. There was a Walmart close to the hotel, I was going to get my last tank of gas for the trip home...It was like a scary movie. People were fighting at the gas pumps, because gas was almost gone, and gas trucks couldn't get through on the landlocked Hwy. Neither could police, neither could ambulances or any of the services we are accustomed to in our civilization .

People were landlocked in vehicles that were virtual ovens. People and animals were roasting to death by the hundreds. Outside of the La Quinta were hundreds of evacuees, begging for rooms. Many of the rooms were held by us, and the Cherokee Fire Fighters who had been moving through in response to the fires from Hurricane Katrina. People were just everywhere. So hot and very frightened.

It took 4.5 hours to get from Lufkin to Nacogdoches, the back way. Cars and trucks were lined up on the streets and out of the driveways of gas stations for 150 miles. Gas trucks finally started making it through, late morning on the 23rd.

I was good for gas until close to the Arkansas border, I saw a gas truck pull out of a station. There was almost a riot, and I had to walk to go get the sheriff. I made it home in one piece.

The landfill cell survived 35 inches of water and 75 mph winds.

People all over the world live with disasters and no public services all the time. We here in the U.S. have been blessed. Following so closely on the horrors experienced by people in Katrina, this was a lot for us to live through.

Looking back, it becomes so clear that there were signs that we were about to experience a major upheaval. Here's your sign"

The Night Before Rita Made Landfall

It was 109 degrees at 6:30 p.m. September 22, 2005
It was 109 degrees at 6:30 p.m. September 22, 2005 | Source

Here Are Your Signs!

  • Love Bugs were everywhere. If you have never seen a love bug, you haven't been to East Texas or Central Mississippi. They live to mate, after they mate they die. Get a couple of them together, smashed into your radiator screen, and you have a stink you will never forget. There were so many love bugs, they were in the drinking water system. If you used the Porta potty, you would probably have a love bug stuck to the inside of your drawers...not a mosquito in sight.
  • Vultures - On landfills, there are a certain number of scavanger birds that are part of the system. On the 21st, one of the crew members came up to me and asked, "have you ever seen a baby vulture?" Now these guys were always pulling my leg, because I take everything seriously. I waited for the punchline, but there was none. In all my years on landfill jobs, I had seen vultures, but they protect their young. The adults were bringing their babies out to some dirt mounds on the capped cell next to the one we were constructing. (There's a sign)
  • I can't find the shaky picture I took, but the only thing I can think to call it was a Scarab bug landed on the composite. It looked like a piece of sterling silver. Like jewelry. It was about 2 inches long and 1 inch wide. I was afraid to get too close to it, because I thought it would jump on my face. I do regret that I didn't capture it, but maybe I shouldn't have. I have never been able to find out what it was.
  • The two evening skies that I did photograph were good signs, especially the big mad eye in the sky. The picture that is shadowing on the Geo-Composite looks like someone is standing on the cell in landscape. I was the only one out there, everyone else was doing something else.
  • It stopped cooling down at night. By the 22nd, there wasn't a creature stirring, not even a Vulture.

Hurricane Rita by Sofweet

Stranded Motorists & More

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Stranded People, Families, Animals...  WikicommonsCourtesy WikiCommons
Stranded People, Families, Animals...  Wikicommons
Stranded People, Families, Animals... Wikicommons | Source
Courtesy WikiCommons
Courtesy WikiCommons | Source

Temperatures Ranged Between 109° - 119°

People were stranded on Highways and Roads for an entire day, waiting for fuel trucks to get through. It was hot, and there was no authority in place. East Texas was at a standstill.

Prepare, But Do Not Live In Fear

2005 Katrina Hits Then 30 Days Later Rita

show route and directions
A markerLufkin, TX -
Lufkin, TX, USA
get directions

B markerNacogdoches, TX -
Nacogdoches, TX, USA
get directions

C markerNew Orleans, LA -
New Orleans, LA, USA
get directions


Were you ever affected by natural disasters?

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    • LillyGrillzit profile image

      Lori J Latimer 7 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

      RunAbstract, thank you for coming by. Your comments make me blush! Living it, made me realize, although I have been somewhat of a rebel against "the Man", I appreciate Law Enforcement vs Chaos. When it is just man vs man, you have to hope you get a crowd of decent people. If the Crazy Criminal element would've realized the opportunity, I shudder to think what all could have transpired. What we don't see on the news...that is the scary part. Also, it makes me even more empathetic to people living in other countries who live with chaos everyday, and will never have it "be over", and never resume any type of security or normalcy. Peace :0)

    • RunAbstract profile image

      RunAbstract 7 years ago from USA

      LillyGrillzit, I have to say... I sure have a lot of respect for you. Your work is so important to the environment! And to get to "the top of the heap" in your job is very impressive! No doubt you are a "tough woman"! Sixteen hour days! Bless your heart for your dedication to a project! Any company would be lucky to have you!

      My gosh! What an experience with Rita! I watched it from afar via the ever present TV. But you LIVED it! I can't imagine what you must have felt!

      Thanks so much for the look into your world. And the photos are amazing! Another great read!

    • LillyGrillzit profile image

      Lori J Latimer 7 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

      katiem, Thank you for the Read and comment. I am glad to have survived. It was nice being able to see people stranded and have water and food to share. It felt so good to make a short-term goal...Thank you for being here. :0)

    • katiem2 profile image

      katiem2 7 years ago from I'm outta here

      Great hub and very well written. On the run Hurricane Rita 2005. I've ran into (or rather stayed in it) a Hurricane Hugo, I'm one of the crazies that love storms, I gotta say I'm in awe of them, love them, the feel the calm and remember being fearless out exploring the storm till I was drug in from it. So,,, I loved this story. Glad you lived to tell about it! Peace :) Congrats on your 30th hub.

    • LillyGrillzit profile image

      Lori J Latimer 7 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

      Thank you JD! Since you are a fellow survivor, it means a lot to me. Sort of symbolic in a way. I lost my career and have never financially recovered...being in Arkansas, not 'directly affected', brought no relief - So, I have accomplished a Goal I set almost a month ago, and it is a tribute to many people, who's lives will never be the same...Thanks Again!

    • J D Murrah profile image

      J D Murrah 7 years ago from Refugee from Shoreacres, Texas


      I enjoyed your account. Your description brought back many of the other details of the event. I forgot about the love bugs. I am sure that there were many early warning signs, But I had not heeded them. Keep up the good work and congratulations on your 30th hub.

    • LillyGrillzit profile image

      Lori J Latimer 7 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

      Thank You!!! I feel victorious!!! I have been working on this off and on all day to get it published....Yeah...Thanks.

    • chan0512 profile image

      chan0512 7 years ago from Camarillo, CA

      Congratulation for your 30th hubs!