Friday, September 23

'We weren't getting anywhere."

By Gary Laney
American Press

NATCHITOCHES — Todd and Jean Marie Shadrick left Lake Charles to evacuate to Mack’s Creek, Mo., around 6 p.m. Thursday. Twelve frustrating hours later, they were here, a long way from where they were supposed to be.

The Shadricks and their three young children had an evacuation route that brought them to Southeast Texas up back roads like 62 and 96 through towns like Jasper and San Augustine

Instead, they found they were getting nowhere.

“For 30-40 minutes at a time, we were standing still,’’ Jean Marie said. “We weren’t getting anywhere.

Todd’s family lives in Mack’s Creek, north of Springfield. It became obvious they weren’t going to make it there. Instead, they found a route here, where Jean Marie’s mother, brother and sister had evacuated to a friend’s home.

“It was pretty sad,’’ Jean Marie said. “We were mainly stopped up because of red lights. I thought that was kind of silly. We’d sit standing still for 45 minutes, then go 5-10 miles per hour for about 10 minutes. We saw an El Camino almost run into a dividing wall.’’

They only saw one wreck along the way, but it mattered little as traffic stalled anyway. They suspected that the bus fire on Interstate 45 re-routed much of Houston traffic to the back roads, creating the same log jam traffic people have seen on TV
They arrived in Natchitoches at 6 a.m., 12 hours later, to surprised family members who thought they were well on their way to Missouri.

Jean Marie’s relatives who had evacuated to Natchitoches got there in about five hours up U.S. 171. Natchitoches is normally a three-hour trip from Lake Charles, but most of the delays were leaving Lake Charles through DeRidder.

At Natchitoches, there were several signs of a Southwest Louisiana presence. A Vinton High t-shirt here, McNeese shirts there. Everywhere are Lake Charles people, most with cell phones keeping track with friends and family from home.

But even after 12 hours of driving, the Shadricks and others from Lake Charles weren’t safe from the storm. Natchitoches was shutting down for the evening early as locals, and visitors from Texas and Louisiana, were packing grocery stores and gas stations. The stores were closing around 5 p.m. in anticipation of the storm, which was expected to bring heavy rain, tropical storm winds and possible tornados here.

At Brookshire Brothers on La. 6, the store quickly ran out of water and bread and other essentials. While most were in the line with the essentials, one lady from Port Arthur, a town staring at the eye of the storm, checked out with two items: a pair of 12 packs of Corona.

“Got to get something to calm my nerves down,’’ she said.

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