Holy Sh--!

The most-hyped hurricane season ever is upon us

That's a lot of fingers to keep crossed, but apparently that's the way they do things in Galveston.

Road Songs, Part II

All right, you've been in the car a couple of hours. And you're almost at the Loop. Time to turn Sadof's mixtape back on:

6. Zager and Evans, "In the Year 2525" -- "If man is still alive, if woman can survive / They may thrive." At the rate the traffic's moving, you'll probably find out for yourself. If you find yourself humming along to this song, do not panic -- it just means the brain-dead-zombie state is kicking in nicely. Go to the white light, my friend.

7. Lindsay Lohan, "I Want You to Want Me" -- Hey, I'm just kidding! She doesn't have a recording of this song. Man, wouldn't that be awful, all cheery and happy andÉwhat's that you say? It is on her new album? Never mind.

8. Paul Young, "Love Will Tear Us Apart" -- No doubt there will be some unrest on the highway, but there's no better way to keep everyone happy than with this uplifting version of the oft-covered Joy Division song. Amazingly, this unlikely cover song appears on The Essential Paul Young, complete with an obligatory "rock star" guitar solo.

9. Aretha Franklin, "Freeway of Love" -- "Never mind the exit signs / We got lots of time / We can't quit till we get to the other side." Is that the same exit sign we saw an hour ago?

10. Elton John, "Philadelphia Freedom" -- This song is just way too happy. Imagine my plight when I was once seated next to a radio morning-show host at an Elton John concert. He sat still for the entire show until this song came on. Then he started clapping his hands like a toy monkey with two cymbals. To make matters worse, Elton must have played the song for ten minutes. Don't worry, we'll make sure the version on your mixtape is extra long. Fun with Insurance

Dealing with a hurricane doesn't just mean hunkering down, of course. It can also mean dealing with insurance companies.

Attorney Steve Mostyn represents about 150 victims of Hurricane Rita, most of them in the Beaumont area. He doesn't like insurance companies.

"I would call the insurance industry incompetent, with no desire to solve their incompetency problem," he says. "If you get a good adjuster who knows what he's doing you'll be okay, but if you happened to draw somebody who didn't know what they were doing or had a particular attitude about something, well, once we see that train get off-track, we never see it get back on track."

How bad can it get?

"I got a report over here," Mostyn says. "One insurance company, the engineer wrote for them that the 140-mile-per-hour winds didn't damage the house; the tree that fell over and landed in the yard caused seismic waves to shake the house and damage it. I didn't believe it when the homeowner called me."

The Beaumont area is far from recovered from Rita. "You fly into Beaumont and you think everyone has a swimming pool, but it's actually the blue tarps on the houses, which is going to be a problem if another storm comes," Mostyn says.

We can only hope the seismic-wave problem will be addressed in time. I Know What You Did Last Summer

How did Ed Russell spend his summer vacation? Like he always does: following hurricanes around the Gulf.

He's a 42-year veteran who now oversees linemen for CenterPoint, and he and his troops get called in to help out utilities all around the country.

He started out the season of 2005 in Miami, where Katrina first hit; he then drove over to Mississippi and Alabama when the storm landed a second time. He kept heading west to work on restoring service in New Orleans, until he was called away by Rita. He ended up back in Florida for Wilma.

"That was no doubt the worst season," he says. "November 14 we bumped the dock coming back from the last hurricane, and the first one had hit in June."

Russell has done a lot of nights in the "CenterPoint Hilton," the nickname bestowed on the company's trucks when linemen are forced to sleep in them.

The workers don't go in until winds have died back down to 45 miles per hour, but it can still get hairy.

"Even at 40 miles per hour those raindrops feel like bullets hitting you," he says. "But it's the debris you've really got to watch out for, and for us it's the trees that fall over that are another issue...Oh, and tornadoes...And the striking of lightning. We've had poles we've been working on and get off them, and before we get too terribly far away lightning hits them and splits them down to the ground."

Sounds like fun. One of the worst experiences came two years ago -- not when he was high up a pole, but when he was eating dinner in a large tent on a shopping-center parking lot.

"The lightning was striking so hard it was shaking the ground, and it got to raining so hard...the water started rising up, and before I knew it, it was knee-deep inside that tent," he says. "It'll make you wonder, you know -- how high is this water gonna come? And then that lightning, you know -- where are you gonna run? And you're in a tent with steel poles sticking up."

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