Please don’t judge the people and authorities of Texas and Houston. I am in this, and I have great respect for their actions. There are reasons for their choices. Reasons that many people, not living in the south, will ever understand.
I have heard people say, Why didn’t they evacuate? First, let me explain. Hurricanes are unpredictable. There is no way to tell which way they will go. Many factors made this bad.
1. STALED STORM Pressure from the north and west held Harvey over Texas. Houston was on the dirty side or the east side of the storm. This means rain, wind, tornadoes and a ton of things just like we experienced.
2. HARVEY WANTS TO MAKE ANOTHER ENTRANCE Harvey is pushing back out into the gulf and walking. He is literally, walking and not moving. He is pushing up moisture from the Gulf like a mean big brother on the beach testing our patience. We are still on the dirty side. More rain. If he comes to our East, we will be in much better shape. At this writing, he is not. No one is talking about the possibility that Harvey, as a storm in the Gulf. It could push water back up the bay and into already flooded areas. That is what hurricanes do; they push water up into areas along the coast. I’m sure no one wants to look at that scenario. We have so much to consider at hand.
3. OUR INFRASTRUCTURE
First, note that Houston is only 80 feet above sea level. Low altitude is why my head spins when I go almost anywhere. Houston area consists of a series of creeks and bayous reservoirs and lakes that hold back water and help water to flow. Some are released when at capacity. When working properly, these do work. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes people flood. Down river, people flood. I don’t know how they can live in such areas knowing this can happen, but they do. Some Houston streets flood during heavy rain and we all have it drilled into our heads “Turn around Don’t Drown.” We watch that. I know how easy it is to misjudge water. I was out the other night and could not see a thing. It was terrifying. Being born in Buffalo, NY, I have lived in snowstorms. You can put snow somewhere. You can’t do much with water. It runs, it erodes, and it can destroy very fast.
Everything flows from north and west of Houston through Houston or around in the case of some creeks, to Galveston Bay. I recently posted a map and a post about the bayous. The amount of rain Houston has had can not be blamed on anyone. We usually receive around 49.77 inches of rain in Houston a year. A little known tropical storm called Alison in 2001 might compare. It happened three months before 9/11, and we were forgotten down here. It was just a tropical storm, but once again, it brought a lot of rain rather quickly. According to wiki “The six-day rainfall in Houston amounted to 38.6 inches (980 mm). The deluge of rainfall flooded 95,000 automobiles and 73,000 houses throughout Harris County. Tropical Storm Allison destroyed 2,744 homes, leaving 30,000 homeless with residential damages totaling to $1.76 billion (2001 USD, $2.29 billion 2012 USD).” As I said, Harvey’s rainfall will exceed that, in just a few days. The stats will exceed that. The service core of engineers has never experienced this. No one has. They are calling it a once in an 800-year flood. What the heck does that mean?
The only thing I can frown at is whoever is responsible in the City of Houston who continues to allow so many new buildings in Houston with less green space. New buildings leave less room for water to be absorbed. I would love to rant about the city preventing new construction or demanding green space, but there is no reason to look at this now. For right now, a large amount of water has to get to the bay. It has to go somewhere.
We have learned from the many storms that there is a way to evacuate. The process is that the lower lying areas or those that are first in harm’s way must be the priority. If everyone from Houston got on the freeways and evacuated, then those in real trouble could not get out. An example was the horrific Hurrican Rita evacuation in 2005. Rita was just weeks after Katrina. And Rita was going to be stronger than Katrina. We were all a little shell shocked down here. During Hurricane Rita, people panicked and according to Wiki “An estimated 2.5 – 3.7 million people fled before Rita’s landfall, making it one of the largest evacuations in United States’ history.”
I was here. I stayed. Here is what happened. It was wall to wall cars. No one could move. It was hot, and gas ran out in the cars on the road. No one could get gas in to help the stranded. I fielded phone calls from friends who were caught in traffic for hours. Many finally turned around, but that was impossible because the city then opened the southbound to go north. It was excruciatingly hot and dangerous. I see the reports say that 90-118 people died even before the storm. A bus of elderly started on fire, and all were killed. These same roads and feeder roads that people traveled on are now under water in this storm. Evacuation of so many people is impossible. And, remember no one could understand how the other factors would play in this storm. The weather men do an excellent job of predicting, but they can’t be sure. People prepared the best they could. Some did bug out.
Some people are new to the Houston area and don’t realize how sensitive things can be or how drastic they can be. People also become complacent. There are people here who are in their 20 and 30’s who can’t say or know what it is like to go through this as an adult. They can’t say, well I remember Rita, or Ike, Carla or Allison.
I have lived in this house for 35 years. I have been through Alicia, in 83, Allison in 2001, Rita in 2005, Ike 2008, and Harvey in 2017. I have never seen this. Though Allison was similar, as far as flooding, Harvey will put Allison to shame.
As of this writing, it is not over. Some things can happen that can make this even worse. These would be; more rain, high winds or structure failures anywhere along the water areas. If something blocks the waters, then things back up upstream. Plus the ground is so saturated; this is the time that trees uproot. I mentioned the water that could be pushed up the bay if Harvey hangs around. I can’t even think of that.
I’m proud of how those in authority handled and are handling things, and I’m here. I can tell you now, after living through Allison, Houston has a long row to hoe, and at this writing, until mean big brother Harvey decides to quit picking on us and go away, we won’t know how bad things will be. We will recover because Houston is stronger than Harvey, but one thing is sure, in my book, this is no one’s fault.