Sunday, August 27, 2017


A mark on the severity of the situation in Texas:

Since I moved here in 2005, I've seen hurricanes in the Gulf, wildfires across the state, tornadoes nearby, a tropical storm that planted herself atop Austin, microbursts, and all manner of flooding.  Today, for the first time in all that time, my cell phone carrier texted me that they're waiving all call and text fees until 9/1 so people in the storm's path can communicate without worrying about money.  Call family, text friends, ask for help, check in safe.  Call 911 from the roof.

I joke about making pie for Hurricane Preparedness and whether wind chimes will make it through the storm, but I'm a couple hundred miles from the real action.  I won't flood, we're unlikely to have any property damage.  I'm at the edge of a storm that's hundreds of miles wide and covers millions of people.  I have friends worried about their flooded cars or water coming into houses.  There will be people who can't go in to work but don't get hurricane pay, so they've got to find that money in the budget until MAYBE they get some sort of disaster assistance.

The city of Smithville, about an hour east of here, is performing swift water rescues from houses.  Not rivers.  Houses.  People are being reminded that as they escape rising water, they need to take axes so they can chop through to the roof if need be; people escaping Katrina, you see, were trapped in their flooded attics and drowned.

There's a lot happening, and it's hard to keep track.  Midwestern friends, the reports I'm seeing match 1993 flooding, but instead of having weeks of watching creeks and rivers rise, this has all happened with about 48 hours of warning, and they're projected to see the water rise more.

Harvey's projections have been wildly divergent, but right now he's supposed to head out into the Gulf and come back into Houston.  This is probably the worst thing that could happen.  He will pick up more moisture and then, moving at a glacial pace, drop it all on a city where the storm drains are already full.

By all means, donate to short term resources.  Give to the Red Cross to support their shelters, and when the rebuilding starts there will be plenty of organisations helping out.

But...we have to have different conversations too.  Conversations about infrastructure, and about people who have no way to evacuate and nowhere to go.  Conversations about how we have to either work to slow climate change or work to build cities on the coasts that can withstand it.  Conversations about properly funded emergency management, and first response.  And conversations about how we can possibly survive the next 20 years if people consistently have to choose between safety today and safety tomorrow, with no chance to simply choose 'safety'.

These are hard conversations, but keep forcing them, keep having them, keep demanding them of your elected officials.  This will not stop, this will not go away, and if we just put Harvey into the category of Katrina, of "terrible things but what can you do?" then we're just going to watch more cities drown, and more people die.

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