From the first Morning Jolt of the week:
Texans Need Help. Let’s Show Them They Can Count on Us.
If you know someone in Texas, the chances are good you know someone who’s facing some hard times from Hurricane Harvey. I’m doing my best to not text, direct message and ping them on Facebook every hour on the hour. Everyone in that region, know that everybody outside of your neck of the woods is praying, thinking of you, and looking for ways to help.
National Voluntary Organizations in Active Disasters, an association of organizations that mitigate and alleviate the impact of disasters, is asking for volunteers and donations. Through their site you can find every charity of every stripe: The Red Cross, Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, Catholic Charities, the Salvation Army, the United way, etcetera.
A friend of mine is helping coordinate donations for the Texas Diaper Bank. A lot of disaster relief organizations think of and prep for everything except a lack of diapers, so the San Antonio-based Texas Diaper Bank focuses on this basic necessity for families with young children. They’re restarting their operations of collecting and distributing diapers at 8 a.m. Monday morning local time.
For the Red Cross, you can donate here, or pick up your phone, text REDCROSS to 90999. You’ll instantly send $10 to the organization, with the fee on your next cell phone bill.
Houston’s airport received a little more than sixteen inches of rain yesterday. The previous daily record was a bit more than eight inches.
Don’t Let Anyone Tell You the Decision to Evacuate Houston Is An Easy Call.
It’s a little early for finger-pointing in the preparations for Hurricane Harvey; most cities and municipalities are prepared for a big storm but not necessarily a once-in-a-century or once-in-a-millennium flooding. One commentator on the morning shows half-jokingly said that if they had to build Houston all over again, they might have picked a different spot than a broad, flat plane next to a gulf coast that experiences hurricanes.
On Friday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott more or less strongly urged those in the Houston area to get out: “Even if an evacuation order hasn’t been issued by your local official, if you’re in an area between Corpus Christi and Houston, you need to strongly consider evacuating,” Abbott said. “What you don’t know, and what nobody else knows right now, is the magnitude of flooding that will be coming. You don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you could be subject to a search and rescue.”
Local officials did not agree with the governor.
“At this time I can reemphasize there will be no mass evacuations called,” said Harris County Judge Edward Emmett, who is responsible for overseeing emergency operations, at a joint press conference with Turner on Friday. He noted that several coastal towns within Harris County, where Houston lies, had issued voluntary evacuations because of the storm surge.
A mandatory evacuation of Houston isn’t theoretical for the city; residents went through this in 2005 with Hurricane Rita. That storm, which appeared quite powerful while moving through the Gulf of Mexico, arrived one month after Hurricane Katrina, with local and state officials determined to not underestimate the threat. They may well have overestimated the threat – not their fault, as the strength and director of hurricanes are hard to predict – and the evacuation brought its own cost in human lives: “An estimated 2.5 million people hit the road ahead of the storm’s arrival, creating some of the most insane gridlock in U.S. history. More than 100 evacuees died in the exodus. Drivers waited in traffic for 20-plus hours, and heat stroke impaired or killed dozens. Fights broke out on the highway. A bus carrying nursing home evacuees caught fire, and 24 died.”
For almost everyone involved, the evacuation was a hellacious ordeal:
The large number of residents fleeing from Hurricane Rita overwhelmed the infrastructure of many rural East Texas communities. On September 22, 2005, in one rural county alone, it was estimated that 150,000 vehicles sat bumper-to-bumper on four lanes of a 30-mile stretch of Interstate 45 north of Houston. The congested roadways prevented emergency medical workers from quickly responding to the medical emergencies of evacuees, including dialysis, oxygen, insulin, births, and deaths. Extended evacuation times caused major fuel shortages. Vehicles of every type ran out of gas and became stranded along the evacuation routes, worsening the congestion. A trip that usually takes three and a half hours became a 24-hour drive during the evacuation. When evacuees did reach their rural destinations, their huge demand for goods and services such as food, water, ice, and restroom facilities soon overwhelmed supply. Temperatures soared to 100 degrees and humidity hovered at 94%. Evacuees were forced to turn off their car air conditioners to conserve fuel or to keep engines from overheating. Lack of adequate restrooms along evacuation routes forced evacuees to use blankets and towels as privacy screens to construct makeshift facilities along the roadside. This unsanitary disposal of human waste created potential public health hazards such as the spread of infectious diseases and the contamination of the ground water supply.
The areas that have been declared a disaster area from Hurricane Harvey are the home of 6.8 million people in 18 counties. That is a stunning amount of people to attempt to move with 24, maybe 48 hours warning before the storm hits.
Now picture all of these people stuck in traffic on the road as Hurricane Harvey makes landfall… and then the flooding begins. As bad as it is to be stuck in your home as flood waters approach, the roof of your house is probably higher than the roof of your car.
This mess in Houston is really bad. An attempted evacuation might have gone even worse than this, however.