Al Ruscellis Hurricane Rita Evacuation Checklist and Notes

September 20-25, 2005.
League City and Houston, Texas


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This is my evacuation list and accompanying notes.  The predictions for our area included a strong probability of high flood waters due to storm surge.  If we sustained a direct hit or were just north of landfall, the flooding probability for our area with a category 4 or 5 hurricane would be considered life threatening and could leave our home in several feet of water.  The flooding would be in conjunction with hurricane-force winds and the likelihood of extreme damage, even total loss, of homes would be high.  Thus, evacuation would be done with the consideration that families might not have a livable home to return to.  All personal belongings could be lost and the home location would be neither safe to ride out the storm nor to return to in the near term after the storm.   These things were taken into consideration when preparing the home and taking what we could with us. 


Everything I took with me from League City (after a mandatory evacuation of our city was put in force) was packed into our 2005 Toyota Camry and the situation was based on me leaving alone in the car while my wife and daughter took an airline flight to Chicago.  With only one person evacuating in the vehicle, it was actually possible to get all of the items listed below packed into that vehicle.  If there had been more than one person, especially if a child had been one of the passengers, the following list would have been much different (that is, much of this might have been left behind). 


The landfall of Hurricane Rita was predicted to be some time after midnight Friday, Sept. 23 (which actually puts landfall in the dark a.m. hours of Saturday, Sept. 24).  I started boarding up my house on Tuesday, Sept. 20 and finished with securing the house on Wednesday, Sept. 21 (with about 2 hours sleep Tuesday night).  My wife and daughter were on a plane to Chicago the morning of Sept. 21.  I packed up my vehicle on Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 21 and was on the road by 7:30 p.m. that night.  It took me 5 hours to cover a roughly 15 mile trip from FM 518 (the League City exit) to the South 610 Loop in Houston.  I took shelter in the apartment of a friend in the Galleria area at about 1 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 22 and stayed through Sunday, Sept. 25. 


STRICTLY BUSINESS LIST (How I Kept Potential Business Losses to a Minimum)


NOTE:  Because we run our business from our home, there is some crossover between business and personal things saved.  Computer files are a good example, as are tax records, insurance paperwork, etc.


       Six binders of customer proofs and negatives (approximately 1800 prints, 1800 negatives covering six weddings at various stages of completion) from current in-house, film-based jobs (this is not likely a consideration for us in the future, as digital is rapidly encompassing all of our work)

       Past two years worth of customer job folders (emphasis on wedding folders) and folders for upcoming jobs.

       One CD/DVD case with approximately 200 archive disks (customer image archives, personal image archives, personal and customer data, and PC program disks.)

       Two external hard drives (500 GB of archives).

       Three PC towers with six drives (combined approximately one terabyte of archived images, program files and e-mail files).

       Business ledger.

       Tax records/paperwork for years 2001-2005, insurance papers, other vital paperwork.

       Business calendars (current year and years 2001-2004) and our phone call notebook (with all notes from recent business and personal calls).

       Flat-screen PC monitor, keyboard and mouse, and enough cables/peripherals to set up one PC system (no printer).

       One large ice chest filled with needed PC-related cables, peripherals.

       Four large camera bags filled with camera bodies, lenses, flashes, battery packs, compact flash cards (enough to keep the business going with only slight interruption even if we lost everything else).


PERSONAL LIST/NECESSITIES LIST (Keeping Personal Losses to a Minimum and Ensuring Survival Necessities for at Least a Few Days)


NOTE:  The list of truly personal items here is very limited since I was dealing with only what I could fit into one vehicle.  Many of these items are on-the-road or away-from-home survival gear based on rain, power loss, food and water shortages, etc.  I relied on the boarding up and securing of my house to protect most of my personal possessions.  I also relied on our bank safe deposit box to keep the items in it high and dry, since its one thats up high in the banks safe deposit vault.  If Id had enough time, I would have visited the bank and removed these items. 


       Eight binders of personal family photos.

       Mobile phone and list of important contact phone numbers.

       Three flashlights (one mini-lantern style, one power spotlight style, one pocket sized) and several sets of rechargeable batteries (all fully charged), as well as extra alkaline batteries as were immediately available.

       Portable, battery powered radio and battery powered TV (old Sony Watchman TV with 1-inch screen, running on AA batteries an amazing old device Ive been using since about 1985).

       One large ice chest filled with food and water, with extra water in additional containers placed where space allows in vehicle.

       One suitcase/duffle full of clothes, shoes, etc.

       Two pillows, two blankets, four towels.

       Daily essentials (overnight kit, medicine bag, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, toilet paper, etc.).

       First Aid kit.

       Small tool kit and multi-tool (Leatherman-type).

       Rain gear (umbrella, raincoat, boots).

       Maps (based on specifically where I planned to go and where I potentially might have to go local and state).

       Cash, checkbook, credit cards.

       Five-gallon can filled with extra gasoline.

       Miscellaneous - paper towels, garbage bags, catch-up reading material, drinking cups, baby wipes for general purposes, disinfecting soap/dispenser, mosquito wipes, sunscreen, can opener.





       One Puppy (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, 4 months old)

o      One dog crate with sleeping pad

o      Dry dog food in Ziploc bags

o      Dog treats in Ziploc bag for an occasional treat to keep the dog quiet and happy

o      Food/water bowls

o      Leash, collar, and tags

o      A toy or two to go in the crate (optional, of course, but something that might keep a puppy quiet if it gets restless)

o      Some rawhide chews to keep the puppy occupied when she wants to chew on something

o      Any medications that might be needed

       Two Small Sulcata Tortoises (8 months old)

o      Travel box/enclosure.   I use a shallow Sterilite brand plastic box with lid that locks down but is not air tight.  Corners of lid lock into place when pressed down, but lid allows for some air flow since sides do not lock into place like a Tupperware style container.  Not something to leave the lid attached to indefinitely, but for short periods will guard against being overturned and spilling tortoises and content out.  While traveling in an air conditioned vehicle, this setup was fine and presented no danger to them.  If I had no air conditioning available, setup would be slightly different during the travel phase (for instance, no attached lid or a modified lid).  Looking at the idea of cutting out the center of the lid and replacing that with glued-down screen so the top could still be attached but would allow for very good air flow. 

o      Food.  I kept a relatively thick layer of Timothy hay in the bottom of the Sterilite container (about an inch or so of dried grass).  This gave them sort of combination travel substrate and food.  For the short term, I felt this was all they needed. 

o      Water.  They have their own separate water bowl.  I use a pottery plant base thats small and heavy and keep it in their container with them (empty while traveling).  When time allowed, I put water in it out of our other water supplies. 

o      Lamp.  Not UVB, nothing fancy.  Just a small, inexpensive directional lamp that I could use above their container to keep them warm.  Not battery powered, but for use when I reach a destination that has power available. 




       Board up widows and doors with pre-cut boards (I use a portable drill with hex-nut attachment for screwing in large hexagonal screws with washers, as well as Plylox clips where I was able to use them). 

       Get everything we can up off the floor if it will be vulnerable to water.

       Unplug appliances and electronics.

       Cover applicable appliances, etc., with heavy plastic trash bags and secure bags with tape (duct tape is best, if theres time).

       Stow all lawn furniture and loose objects in garage or in house.

       Lock or secure all garage doors.

       Cut off power to the house.

       Fill empty milk jugs or similar containers with water and put in extra space in freezers.   This will help keep the freezer cold if power goes out and can serve as extra drinking water once it has melted.   Fill up extra containers with water for clean drinking water when you come back home.  (Extra-large, 5-gallon water jugs are great.)  NOTE:  I keep old gallon and half-gallon plastic milk jugs for this.  They will keep for years in an attic and still be usable.  I keep a long line like a fishing stringer and just stack the jugs up one on top of the other as I get new ones.  Hang the whole thing from a nail in the attic waiting for use. 

       Fill up bathtubs with water for drinking and/or to fill toilet tanks for flushing if water is cut off. 

       Keep a gasoline generator in case electrical power goes out.  Store it above any projected flood level.

       Keep several 5-gallon cans for gasoline and fill them just before evacuating the area.  Use these for your gas generator or extra gasoline for vehicle. 

       Take digital photos of the interior and exterior of your home and of all belongings.  Do this well beforehand and keep as digital files for later reference for insurance purposes.  Take photos of any damage that is apparent after the hurricane. 





       Set of Walkie-Talkies.   Excessive mobile phone activity makes it very difficult to complete a call or keep a connection. 



I welcome any comments on the contents of this page for improvement or otherwise. 


Please e-mail me at or


Thank you!


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