We are now in our second day of glorious sunshine. Harvey has left us, but the storm is still wreaking havoc having put the city of Port Arthur, Texas underwater. Essentially Harvey created a disaster area out of about 2/3 of the Texas Gulf coast - from Corpus Christi to the Louisiana border.
Linda and I have been incredibly fortunate. Though the storm dropped between 35 to 40 inches of water on our community, our home has remained safe. Now if the Brazos River crests (expected Friday night) without causing Oyster Creek to flood, then the last penny will have dropped for us.
Update: At 6:30 this evening we checked the creek and found it had risen about 4 inches since the morning. Also, it has stopped flowing and is as still as a pond - this means the Brazos is high enough that water from the creek is no longer flowing into the river.
How lucky I was when I selected this house some 36 years ago. I came down from Philadelphia with no thoughts of the flat coastal plain or the possibility of flooding. I just picked a house with a nice floor plan in nice neighborhood. Somehow I picked right. Over three decades and six major storms and, with the exception of some minor roof damage from Hurricane Ike, we have come through unscathed.
The Storm Experience
What’s it like being in this kind of a storm? Well, it seems to me it is either incredibly stressful or it is incredibly boring.
For those who experience the flooding and have to leave their homes the stresses and concerns are almost unimaginable.
For those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to stay dry, a storm like this is just tedium. You can go nowhere. You are house-bound. You read a book. You read some more. You look at the un-ending storm reports on the television until you start seeing the same rescue scenes for the third and fourth times. Then you go to Netflix - thank goodness for Netflix!
When it is time for a meal you look in the refrigerator and realize that you really could have bought a bit more when you were last at the store. So maybe just hotdogs and beans. Oops. There are two of you and only one hotdog. Well, something else then.
Breakfast finds you with canned peaches for fruit because the bananas are gone (you never want to buy too many bananas because they just go bad). Will the yogurt last until you can get back to the store?
Houston - A City Under Siege
This header seems a bit melodramatic, doesn't it? Perhaps, but I think it is apt.
In the Middle Ages a town would be under siege when an attacker would encounter a city that refuses to surrender. The city would just hunker down and try to wait out the attacker. That is Houston - under attack, under siege - waiting out Harvey.
The Houston area - the nation’s fourth largest metro - was under a constant barrage of rain for five days from what has been called a 1000 Year Storm. Harvey dropped an unprecedented amount of water, some 45 inches (up to 50 inches in spots), on the area and caused flooding just about everywhere. Houston’s annual rainfall is 49.75 inches, so there was a year’s worth of rain in five days.
Folks who never experienced flooding before found themselves flooded. Homes that had previously experienced a few inches of flood water this time had several feet of water - perhaps as much as 10 feet. Pictures of people sitting on their roofs were not uncommon.
The call went out for boats to help rescue people stranded at their homes. The boats came from everywhere. Being a coastal area, there are boats in many driveways, and it seemed they all responded. There were boats at every place that had high water. Along with all the local boats, the Cajun Navy - boater volunteers from Louisiana - came in force to help.
Boats came from all different places. Police, sheriff, Parks and Wildlife. If an agency had boats, they were sent to Houston. Yesterday I saw a convoy of four Border Patrol boats coming down Route 6.
Rescue is a bit different these days - a bit more compassionate. With many past storms it was difficult to rescue people who were trapped by flood waters as they did not want to leave their pets. Now when people are rescued Spot and Tabby come along. It makes life easier for all.
Evacuate? Who? Where To?
The news commentators and pundits have put on their 20-20 hindsight glasses and are asking, “Why didn’t Houston evacuate? What were they thinking?" I will try to explain this the way the Harris County Judge (chief commissioner) explained it.
With a hurricane there are known situations - wind, storm surge, etc. - which are predictable. The trouble zip code areas can be evacuated in an orderly manner. This storm was rain, just rain. Rain is not very predictable - particularly rain coming through in bands from a swirling storm. You just don't know where the greatest precipitation will be. In fact with this storm, some of the areas with the greatest rainfall amounts were as much as 100 miles apart.
So who evacuates? Everyone? If everyone, then where are 6-1/2 million people going to go? And how are you going to get them there? Evacuation is not a simple option.
My thinking is that the mayor and the county judge made the right decision.
I heard someone on the television today say something to the effect, "Disaster often builds community." You can already see that happening here. Not only all the boats. There is also the man who saw a hand-made sign for volunteers and was still helping 18 hours later. There is the website that already has had over 5,000 people sign up to volunteer to help with recovery. The circus performers who came to the convention center to entertain the evacuees there. Mattress Mac, our hometown huckster, who opened up his two mega-sized furniture stores to some 800 evacuees. And so many untold small kindnesses that will go unreported. Somehow I suspect Harvey will ultimately make Houston and its sense of community stronger than ever.
The sun is back and it is glorious.