An Iowan who’d been helping FEMA in Houston has evacuated back to Des Moines. On Wednesday morning, Tim Albrecht thought he’d be transferred to Austin, Texas, to help with whatever happens after Hurricane Rita strikes, but on Wednesday afternoon, he was told by his temporary FEMA boss that he should return to Iowa.
Albrecht says they’d been promised hotel rooms in Austin, but as tropical storm Rita turned into Hurricane Rita and intensified, it became apparent there were no hotel rooms in Austin for him and other temporary FEMA workers. “It was strongly suggested to me that I find a way out of there,” Albrecht says. “I got on a plane that night.” He says it was a nightmare to try to get to the Houston airport, as the highways were clogged with cars carrying Houston residents who were evacuating the city. There were long lines at the airport and completely full airplanes, too.
Albrecht purchased his ticket the day of his flight, so he like many others had to go through extra security precautions in place after 9/11. Albrecht says he was ready to leave. “I felt that my time was done and the new disaster, unfortunately, was here and that was going to be taken on by a new group of people,” Albrecht says. Albrecht works as a press secretary for House Speaker Christopher Rants and took a three-week leave to help FEMA’s base of operations in Houston deal with the reporters who’ve been covering Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath. He’d been in Houston for two weeks when the evacuation order went out in advance of Hurricane Rita.
Albrecht says the FEMA operation he saw in Houston was a “well-oiled machine” and he believes it’ll be prepared for whatever Rita may throw Houston’s way.
“My prediction is that the news reports coming out of Houston will be drastically different from those coming out of Louisiana, depending on the storm, of course, but I think we’ll see that,” he says. Albrecht was back at his desk in the statehouse Thursday.