Once again we begin hurricane season ÃƒÂ¢Ã¯Â¿Â½Ã¯Â¿Â½ FEMA threw out the first epithet. Thus, until Dec. 1, at the earliest sign of a low pressure area east of Bermuda, coastal dwellers will rush to buy plywood. What happened to last year's plywood? They also buy water without realizing that soon there will be plenty of water, mostly in their kitchen.
Even though most Texans will not race inland, all of us are affected by the storms. For example, it is recommended that people living along the Gulf Coast have an evacuation plan. That plan could be a phone call to you: "Come get us!" Also, you could live in El Paso and still find that insurance companies are increasing your home insurance rates because of hurricane damage in Corpus Christi. And since every single one of the state's 254 counties has been flooded at one time or another, no matter where you live, your flood insurance is going up even if you don't have it.
State funds - that is, your taxes - will be spent by the millions on hurricane evacuations. Then there is the post-storm cleanup. Did you know that now you own a majority interest in the Bolivar Peninsula? If you wish to vacation in a storm-hit area, forget it. From Port Arthur to Brownsville, whatever resort is bashed will be out of action for at least a year.
But here is the main concern of others: evacuees. Because a goodly chunk of residents in the path of the storm will be evacuating ÃƒÂ¢Ã¯Â¿Â½Ã¯Â¿Â½ 2.5 million fled from Rita -- our airport terminals will be filled, long-distance buses and highways will be packed. And don't try to book a hotel room within 400 miles of ground zero. Dallas, San Antonio and Austin will have dirty, exhausted and hungry mobs milling around hotel lobbies, loudly demanding a room. It won't be a pretty sight.
Many Texas cities have had to house refugees in civic centers and tents for weeks. Who paid for that? One guess. Some of these evacuees will become permanent residents. Approximately 250,000 Louisianans fled Katrina to the Houston area and, by some estimates, 150,000 are still here. Hey, can you blame them?
Here's where these storms get out of your TV news and into your den. Do you have any relatives who live along the Gulf Coast? Do you have friends there? Are there friends of relatives or relatives of friends who once sent you a Christmas card? So stand by for that knock at the door and hope that it's the SWAT team. If Rita and Ike are any indication, tens of thousands of Texas homes will be opened to evacuees, some of whom the hosts actually know.
You might want to take a few precautionary steps to avoid housing the storm troopers. Stick a sign in your yard reading: "Caution! Swine Flu Alert!" Or perhaps: "DonÃƒÂ¢Ã¯Â¿Â½Ã¯Â¿Â½t Ask, DonÃƒÂ¢Ã¯Â¿Â½Ã¯Â¿Â½t Tell" or "This is a Relatively Flea Free Zone." "Bates Motel ÃƒÂ¢Ã¯Â¿Â½Ã¯Â¿Â½ Welcome" also works. But let's suppose uninvited and unexpected visitors do arrive. I, being a serial evacuee, can serve as an example of what you should do. Clip and stick this on your refrigerator with a magnet. Speaking of the fridge, it should hold a chilled bottle of pinot grigio plus a six-pack of either Heinekens or Shiner Bock, either one. I don't want to be any trouble.
Benjamin Franklin observed, "Fish and visitors stink after three days." In that case, be sure to keep fresh fish on hand. Red snapper with lump crab works every time. You'd be surprised at the number of panicky people who race to safety without taking along a cork screw. This reminds me, make sure your liquor cabinet is well stocked and don't forget that after-dinner brandy and cigar.
Keep a copy of your TV channel guide around. Each city has its own order of channels. I don't want to waste time going up and down the remote looking for the Weather Channel to see if my house is still there. Oh, and what's the Playboy Channel in your home? Does my bedroom have a private bath, and a good view? I like to sleep late, so no loud noises before noon. OK, make it 11 o'clockish. Like I said, I don't want to be any trouble.
But so much for me and my tastes, let's consider the great unwashed, literally. Do you have any pets? Some people are allergic to dogs, cats and even sloths. You may have to call 911 when Uncle Jake goes into allergic shock over your 34 potbellied pigs. On the other hand, evacuees can't leave their own pets behind. If Cousin Nimrod arrives with his pets, Crunch and Drool, stay calm. It takes a while to fully appreciate the friendliness of pit bulls. And I hear snakes are becoming more popular as pets.
There are those visitors who have certain phobias. I, for example, am deathly afraid of the Seattle Seahawks, suede overcoats and zither music. So be sensitive to outcries of fear, loathing and panic ÃƒÂ¢Ã¯Â¿Â½Ã¯Â¿Â½ keep chloroform and a straight jacket handy at all times. Some people forget to bring along their medication. When they don't pop their pills, they do strange things, like jump off the roof. For a solution to this problem, see above: chloroform and a straight jacket. Anyone suddenly leaving home is advised that ATMs may not work due to a lack of power, so they should take along a lot of cash. This could mean bills stacked around your house. Put them somewhere safe.
Assuming you did not greet your house guests with, "You again?" here are some other things not to say during their stay: "Is that a new rash?" "We seem to be missing several silver forks and a laptop." "Didn't Brownie do a heckuva job?" and, "Did you ever hear what Ben Franklin said about guests?" Finally, all this time you've been wondering, who vacations in Port Arthur? Tourists from Chad.
Ashby vacates at firstname.lastname@example.org..