By: Dave Astor
Galveston County Daily News columnist Cathy Gillentine began the summer traveling to Grapevine, Texas, to attend a National Society of Newspaper Columnists conference. She ended the summer by fleeing her Texas City home as Hurricane Rita approached.
Luckily for the Galveston and Houston areas, Rita did most of its damage closer to the Texas-Louisiana border. But Gillentine, like many other Texans, had a stressful few days.
Gillentine left Texas City the morning of Sept. 21 — ahead of the mandatory evacuation — to get to her son’s home in Pearland, Texas. Then they left Pearland in the middle of the night on Sept. 22, packed into a car with four other people and two dogs. Their destination: Brenham, Texas.
“We spent 15 hours making a 2-hour trip, moving at an average of 5 miles an hour when we were able to move,” recalled Gillentine, when reached by E&P Online. “We pulled over a couple of times for restroom breaks, with no restrooms! All the service stations and cafes and convenience stores along the way were closed, probably because they were afraid of the big crowds.”
When they finally arrived in Brenham, there were no complaints about the accommodations. “We stayed with relatives in a nice big house with plenty of room, which was certainly nicer than most people had,” said Gillentine, who has written her local, general-interest, freelance column for the Galveston paper for about a year. Before that, she spent more than two decades as a columnist at the Texas City Sun until retiring in 2001 and becoming a freelancer.
Gillentine and the others stayed in Brenham three days before heading back Sept. 25 — driving on back roads to avoid traffic. The trip took about four hours.
On returning to Texas City, Gillentine found that damage from Hurricane Rita was relatively light. “I had three limbs down off the pecan tree, plus a lot of pecans on the ground and that’s all,” she said. “Neighbors all had the same. The biggest damage I saw in Texas City was the roof over the gas pumps at a nearby service station down and smashed up against the convenience-store building.”
Gillentine hasn’t yet penned a column about the hurricane. She said her computer was down for about a week, and that there has been so much else written about Rita. “If I write about it, I will probably share my story and those of some of my other family members, plus a big discussion at the Kiwanis Club and another at church where we all shared our experiences and our thoughts,” Gillentine said.
The columnist added that she was impressed with the hurricane coverage done by The Galveston County Daily News, noting: “They only missed one edition and printed out of town only one day, before they patched the roof of the press room and got their presses running again.”