Despite the early jokes about a large invisible rabbit going to hit the Texas coast, Harvey has been anything but invisible or fluffy. It is going to take months, years in some cases, for the impacted communities to recover. The fact there have been no more deaths than there have been is miracle. Unfortunately, the danger isn’t over and won’t be for some time. More rain is expected and, by the end of the week, some communities will have seen more rain fall in a week than they usually get in a year. No matter how good the infrastructure might be, it isn’t going to be able to handle that much water at one time.
If you’ve watched the news any over the weekend, you’ve seen examples bravery, giving and stupidity. People have pulled out their own boats to go through flooded neighborhoods to help those stranded by high water. Others have done whatever they could to help rescue those foolish enough to drive into high water. And, yes, there have been way too many who either misjudged how deep the water happened to be or who thought if they drove fast enough, they could get through flooded intersections.
One video I saw yesterday showed a man in a large pickup trying to drive through a flooded section of one of Houston’s freeways. People who had either parked or who had walked from downtown to see the flooding lined the roadway and yelled for him to stop. He didn’t and before he knew what happened, his pickup was floating. Yes, floating. Then it was sinking. He climbed through the window and, instead of swimming to safety, he moved to the front of the still floating and moving truck. I swear it looked like he thought he could push it out of the water. Then, when he realized that wasn’t going to happen, he moved to the back of the pickup. At one point, if I remember correctly, he went back into the cab of the truck to get something. He is lucky all he lost was his truck. His lack of judgment — Hell, let’s be honest. He was stupid — could have cost him his life.
Yet, for ever video I saw like that, I saw or heard about at least two counter-examples of people helping friends, neighbors and strangers. Just as times like this bring out the worst in some people, it brings out the best in many more. We will never know how many “every day heroes” made their way through the areas impacted by the hurricane, helping those stranded, bringing them to safety. I salute each and every one of those men and women. They are what helps make this country great.
One of the saddest images I’ve seen so far was of a Houston-area nursing home. Approximately a dozen residents, some in wheelchairs and others on O2, had to be rescued from waist to chest-deep water. Why they hadn’t been transported before conditions deteriorated, I don’t know. It ranks right up there with stories I’ve been hearing of some hospital patients being discharged home prior to Harvey hitting, not because they were medically ready to be discharged but because the hospitals didn’t know what their power situation would be when the hurricane arrived. How many of those patients would have been better served to have been transferred to other hospitals outside of the area and how many then found themselves trapped in their homes by the flooding? (One of our local anchors was worried yesterday about a friend who was one of those patients. The friend had had brain surgery just a few days prior to being discharged because of the incoming hurricane and lived in one of the areas of Houston with some of the worst flooding.)
Should Houston’s mayor have ordered the city evacuated? That is a question that is going to be debated for months. It is easy now, as arm chair quarterbacks, to say he should have. But knowing what traffic is like in Houston on the best of days, I shudder to think what it would have been like with panicked drivers and bad weather.
Along similar lines, we are already seeing some folks criticizing those in the path of the hurricane for not leaving even without the evacuation order. I’ll even admit to wondering that myself. Then I remembered all the potential “paths” the National Weather Service had for Harvey up until less than a day before it made landfall. How many times have the folks on the coast evacuated, only to have the storm du jour veer off and nothing more than some heavy rain hit? How many of those who have condemned them for not leaving considered the cost of doing so? Some people simply couldn’t afford financially to leave their homes. When it because apparent the financial costs of leaving were much less than the potential loss of life, it was no longer safe to leave. They were, in short, caught in a Catch-22.
Houston’s Medical Center area is also under a minimum of 2 – 3 feet of water right now. The doctors are having to look at evacuating the most critically ill of the patients there. But that isn’t the only problem facing the hospitals in the Medical Center area. The hospitals are cut off. That means the only way patients needing treatment can get to them is to be airlifted in. It also means staff and supplies can’t get in. Conversely, the staff members already at the hospital can’t leave. It is most definitely not an optimal situation for anyone.
And before anyone gets too smug about how this won’t impact anyone outside of the areas directly impacted by the hurricane, think again. Consider the importance of the Texas Gulf Coast region to this country’s oil production. Think about the fact that much of our shipping traffic comes into the ports along the Texas Coast. Then consider parts of Louisiana are going to be impacted by Harvey as well. This is not only a local emergency but a state, regional and, to a lesser extent, national one as well.
Hurricane Harvey and it’s impact on the Houston area and surrounding counties is a perfect example of the adage, “there but for the grace of God go I.” Take a long and hard look at what happened and look at your own home and city. Are you, personally, prepared for an emergency? Do you have a plan in place if something were to happen and you were to lose electricity for days? Remember, if you lose electricity, it’s a pretty good bet your local grocer will as well. If that happens, what are you going to do?
And, today, pray for Houston and the other impacted areas. If you have the means to send help — donations or actual volunteer hours — do so.