Houston and most of the Gulf Coast got whacked by Hurricane Harvey on Friday, coverage wall-to-wall of the usual reporter being lashed by rain then cut to the satellite loop of rain and wind from NOAA. Coverage is still heavy, as the scope of the disaster unfolds. What can we do about it?
The first thing is to not be a Monday Morning Quarterback. With at most, 72 hours notice, there is no way to evacuate 7.3 million people from the Houston Metroplex: Where would you put them? Realistically, the authorities had perhaps 48 hours notice that Harvey was going to be bigger than first thought. There is always an element of SWAG (Scientific Wild-Ass Guess) when it comes to storms, intensity, paths and behaviors.
Second was the reaction of state and local authorities. It was textbook FEMA and is as wise as one can be. FEMA has a long history and too much experience with things like Katrina, Sandy and now Harvey.
Three, the land itself. The tallest point in Harris County (Houston, essentially) is 125 feet above sea level. It’s flatter than a table and the land is hard-baked. There is no place for heavy rain to soak in, so it flash floods, running off to wherever is lower. Pavement doesn’t help much as asphalt is not very good at absorbing water and with 7.3 million humans in the area, there is plenty of asphalt.
Four, people are coming together. The reaction is strong and as coordinated as can be expected. There are many deaths and incredible destruction but shelters are up, food, clothing and water is in place with more coming. The US Army has been mobilized and are in place with more coming hourly. The Cajun Navy rolled out of Baton Rouge, LA on Monday, bass boats, air boats and shallow draft craft all coming to help with their expertise from Katrina and last year in Louisiana intact.
There are snafus. There will be outrages and indignation. And there will be kindness, generosity and compassion. America works that way when the shit hits the fan. Nobody is asking for citizenship papers before they get admitted to a shelter and nobody is checking the voter rolls for party affiliation. It is people helping each other.
The wisest way to help is here: The Red Cross. Watch out for scams and door to door hustlers, as they will come up out of the sewers, so give what you can to a recognized group.
We know we slag the US from time to time, but now they need help and are showing they deserve it by coming together, like real Americans, helping each other, openly, with unity as befits the United States.