CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – We began in Corpus Christi, Texas (search), where a city of more than 300,000 was boarded up, sandbagged and mostly deserted.
As we left, a gas station and hotel re-opened, their owners confident they have dodged Hurricane Rita (search).
As soon as we found gas, our caravan of three cars and a satellite truck head northward on Highway 35. A steady stream of cars and people streamed southward, looking for any place to stay. I am told there are no hotel rooms anywhere in Texas. One hotel manager said there might be a few in El Paso, but that's hundreds of miles away.
Our trip north stops in Port Lavaca. We set up next to the bridge along Lavaca Bay, where I met Brian Tanner. He and his family were sitting on a white, small rock-speckled beach. His two youngsters played in the shallow waters of the bay.
"I plan to stick around a while and see what happens," he said. "I made it through Carla with only the shirt on my back — that was in the early '60s when I was just a teen. ... It was hell"
Brian says it looks like Hurricane Rita may be making a turn for the better for people in these parts, he hopes she fizzles soon so others will be spared the wrath.
This area of the Gulf Coast is called the Coastal Bend. It encompasses 12 counties and about 600,000 people. The area is scattered with oil production facilities and petroleum sites. It is filled with low-lying bayous, small rivers, inlets and shallow teal-blue bays. The country is not swampy like Louisiana, but marshy fields of green and pastures of short brush. About 6 miles offshore, a string of barrier islands that do just a bit to provide protection and are overrun with relative ease. It is obvious any storm surge or major rainfall will flood this country.
The mayor of Port Lavaca who once rode out a hurricane in the Gulf on a tugboat, has told people staying to take a permanent marker and write there name, Social Security number and next of kin on their forearm or abdomen, so it will be easier to identify the dead. It's his way of trying to scare his constituents into evacuation.
After a few hours of live shots we are packed and on the road again. Like the storm we are headed northeast.