There’s been a lot of talk about the events over the past week of so about Texas as a whole, Hurricane Harvey, and the historic floods that have subsequently occurred in the southeastern region of Texas. Much of it, I have seen, has been a lot of “horse hockey”. As a lucky individual who has weathered the storm and who’s house is still dry, I’ll dispel some of the crap so we can all look at the truth. I’d rather you get the story straight from the horse’s mouth rather than the horse’s ass.
Let’s start from the beginning, shall we? Hurricane Harvey came ashore just north of Corpus Christi in the community of Rockport late Friday night/early Saturday Morning, August 25/26th, as a Category 4 hurricane. Corpus Christi was hit hard by the winds, storm surge, and rain, but many of the small coastal towns were decimated. Many people evacuated, but a few chose to ride out the storm.
What you have been seeing on the nightly news has been a constant feed about the Houston area, even though it’s over 100 miles away. Why? Because Harvey’s feeder bans dumped trillions of gallons of rain onto the city while the eye of the storm was sitting almost completely motionless over Victoria, Texas. Normally, a hurricane hits an area and keeps moving inland at a relatively fast pace. While no one wants to get popped in the mouth by a major hurricane, the worst is usually over within 12 hours or so at the most. At one point, the eye sat over Victoria while moving east at TWO MILES PER HOUR. Meanwhile, the dirty side - AKA the eastern side of the storm - was training huge bands of torrential downpours over my house, and just east of me (a little town called “Houston”).
This is one of the nicer radar images I captured on my phone during a tornado warning we were under. For much of the three days that these bands kept lapping at us, the red area was directly over my house. It would move east, hit Houston, and then another band of rain would appear, slam us for half the day, move east, repeat. While the winds topped out at about 50 mph, we had about twenty tornado warnings over those few day. We spotted at least four funnel clouds from my back porch, but the rest were hard to see due to the rain and/or darkness.
The rains hit the city hard, and even with all of the planning and infrastructure Houston and the surrounding areas have to control flood waters, the systems were overwhelmed. We’re not talking about a few inches over the course of a few hours, we’re talking about an inch of rain every fifteen minutes. There’s no flood infrastructure in the world that can handle that amount of rainfall for several days.
Speaking of flood infrastructure, we have it. We have lots of it. Bayou systems, canals, locks, levees, emergency reservoirs, floodwater pumps, and a highway system that is sometimes designed to be a dam, sometimes as a rainwater storage facility. All those highways that are underwater? That’s what they’re supposed to do. The only levee that has failed (i.e. fallend apart) was one in Brazoria County downstream from the metroplex. All other levees (large earthen dams to protect an area from floods) have stood firm and have worked as designed. Sometimes too well.
On the west side of town, there are two emergency reservoirs, disguised as parks, that hold excess rainwater before it’s dumped into Buffalo Bayou, a large creek that meanders through the city and into the Houston Ship Channel. It’s basically a low-lying area surrounded by huge levees on their southern and eastern edges. Currently, those levees are holding, but the water is spilling out of the outlet uncontrolled and is also backing up into neighborhoods to the west and north.
That son of a bitch Harvey eventually moved east out of town, bringing the Houston area blue skies, but bringing areas like Port Arthur and Beaumont (and all of the small towns around them) with horrible flooding. Port Arthur’s mayor stated that his entire city is underwater, and he’s not exaggerating. Beaumont’s drinking water system has failed, and there’s no open, unflooded roads to get bottled water into the city. Baptist Hospital there has closed due to no fresh clean water. While Houston is in dire straits, the “Golden Triangle” of Beaumont, Port Arthur, and Orange is currently being strangled.
Harvey is now a storm in Arkansas, and Houston has blue skies, but more homes are currently being flooded. Those two emergency reservoirs that are backing up? They are running into Katy, Texas, and the water is getting deeper. The Buffalo Bayou is getting deeper, and is spreading through the area. The Brazos River near me is... well...
It’s still rising. A friend of mine who lives a few miles away (but closer to the river) woke up this morning with six inches of water in his house. He has evacuated with his wife and young twins.
AND IT’S NOT OVER.
This storm didn’t discriminate in terms of its victims. Young and old, poor and wealthy (and everyone in between), all nationalities, religions, and races have been affected. It doesn’t matter if they lived in the city, the country, or the suburbs, they were affected. The rescuers don’t discriminate on who they save, either. There were lines of people trying to volunteer their time to help evacuees. The George R. Brown Convention Center had two volunteers to every evacuee. No one cares what color your skin is, who you voted for, or who you pray to; if you need help, you get help. And a lot of it.
Let me just tell you what we don’t need, though: ill-will, snarky comments, or uncaring attitudes. That’s all we ask for: don’t be an asshole. Don’t laugh at us or make jokes about us. Don’t raise your nose and bring politics into it. I know that much of the news cycle has shifted away from what’s going on down here, but it’s still going on. It’s not over yet. People are still dying. I can hear a Blackhawk helicopter as I type this going to the regional airport where the military is basing them overnight. The river is still climbing, as are the bayous from upstream rainfall. If you’re not going to be helpful, STFU. We’re all a little on edge down here and would appreciate the consideration.
This was a long explanation because it’s not a simple flood. It’s not simply a hurricane, it’s not just another tropical event. Don’t just hope for the best for Houston, because damn near the entire Texas gulf coast was affected. Whether they live on the coast and was blown away, or live right down the street from me and were flooded out, we’ve all been affected.
There are a lot of untrue rumors going around and I just wanted to clear some things up. Thanks for the outlet.