From Houston's Hobby airport, 6:00 p.m., Sept. 11 It’s not a typical Thursday afternoon at Houston’s Hobby Airport. The airport is packed with more than the usual “early start to the weekend” crowd. People are standing in long lines, hoping to find flights out of Houston to escape Hurricane Ike, which is promising to strike as a Category 3 on Saturday morning. Lucky for me, I had my flight pre-planned; most of the others did not. This whole day has been filled with strange experiences, illuminating the fact that Houstonians are slightly panic-stricken. I filled up my friend’s car with gas at 12:30 this afternoon, and the Shell station ran out of gas just as I pulled away. Running out of gas? I have never experienced this phenomenon. It’s two days before Ike might strike, and some parts of Houston have already run out of gas. Wal-Mart and Kroger’s shelves are empty in the perishable foods, bread and water aisles. “Half of Houston is on the roads, and the other half is in the airport,” a guy sitting next to me just told the person on the other end of his Blackberry. But here at the airport, people are almost giddy. We realize that we are the lucky ones – the ones who are gettin’ while the gettin’s good. People are talking to each other more than usual in an airport, discussing the evacuations, the parking situation here, the fact that Houston is the main spotlight on CNN. And for those of us who live here, while we feel happy to be getting out and not have to worry about this storm, we wonder what Houston will be when we return. It is a bittersweet departure.