Some additional synopsis about the trip out...
I had sent my wife and daughter out about 4:30 AM Wednesday morning. Their trip was a straight shot 7 hours or so to Oklahoma City. My son and I packed up and secured the house, then left around 5:00 PM Wed. Our trip was 17 hours. At one point, somewhere around the Woodlands (just north of Houston on 45) we moved 1.6 miles in 2+ hours. We would have been in that particular predicament longer had I not taken to the shoulder and grass with my 4WD truck. Anyway, as you might expect, minor fender benders became major problems as people were more interested in talking (or shouting) about their scratched bumpers than moving out of the way. Very few cage drivers understand what "If you can steer it, clear it" means. But, I have to say that by and large, despite frustration, almost everyone was calm and patient on the road.
To my perspective, the primary cause of the grid lock was that the major highways through Houston are three and four (or more) lanes. When you get out of the city, these highways collapse to two lanes, and sometimes only one in the case of minor highways or latent construction zones on the interstates. But what really made matters worse was the incompetance of the highway patrol and law enforcement in general. These guys apparently had orders to 'control' the exits and entrances to I-45 (I can't speak to the other directions). Rather than determining the causes of the bottlenecks and finding ways to alleviate the same, these guys just sat in their cruisers BLOCKING the ramps. Instead, they could have been actively directing traffic onto the frontage roads, shoulders, parallel arteries, etc. In places where drivers (including me) took it upon themselves to use the shoulders, they pushed us back into the 1.5 MPH flow. HOW REDICULOUS! All of this with the inbound lanes nearly devoid of traffic. Again, HOW REDICULOUS!!
Some simple, common sense actions on the part of law enforcement (let alone those in charge) could have made all the difference for all those people getting out. Can you image the outcry had people been injured by RITA because they were caught in grid lock that could have mitigated rather than exacerbated by law enforcement? Watch, the fix will be to contruct more highway lanes all the way to Dallas and Austin to eliminate the bottlenecks.