In The Aftermath of Harvey

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On September 9, 1921, the remnants of a hurricane first swept through Tampico, Mexico, and then came into South Texas. It stalled when it hit a low-pressure system and dumped a record amount of rainfall from San Antonio to Williamson County, which is just north of Austin. The tiny community of Thrall, 25 miles east of Round Rock, sustained 39.7 inches of rain in 36 hours. More than 150 people died in Williamson County alone during that deluge.

That rainfall record stood for nearly a century, until this week. It is not quite official, but there is little doubt a new record was set in the Houston area, where some weather stations recorded more than 50 inches of rain since Harvey approached the Texas Gulf Coast and slammed into the fishing town of Rockport. Houston is just now beginning the long road to recovery. It will be a very long journey. Like New Orleans, slammed a dozen years ago by Katrina, the Bayou City will never be the same. It will recover, no doubt. Houston’s citizens are resilient, diverse and tough. But a disaster of this magnitude will change Houston; just how is too soon to tell.

My hope is that, as Houston rebuilds, as other cities rebuild, such as Port Arthur, Corpus Christi and a string of small towns hammered by Harvey, that its leaders face up to the stark reality that this type of storm is likely not a 100-year event, that climate change means such events, sadly, are increasingly likely. They must plan accordingly. There is no way, of course, to plan for 50 inches of rain. But there is a way to mitigate the chances that a 10-inch rain is going to flood so many homes and businesses.

At least, let’s think about it.

It feels guilty to sit safely in the dry parts of Texas, knowing tens of thousands of people are displaced, have lost their homes and businesses — and their lives, in some cases. We all will do what we can, whether it is through donations of money or material, or heading down there to help. Texans are generous folks when people are suffering. We set aside political and cultural differences and help as best we can. Of that I am confident.

I have learned through social media of a number of colleagues and acquaintances whose homes were damaged by Harvey, and I mourn for them. I am grateful that my daughter Meredith and son-in-law Matt were relatively unscathed, though their brewpub (on the same property) had eight inches of water at the high point. But that is fixable, and a number of us are converging on City Acre Brewing, starting Sunday, to make the repairs.

Some of you know that Mere is also a writer, a fine one. She is editorial director for the Alamo Drafthouse website and magazine (birthdeathmovies.com). I want to share part of what she wrote in the wake of the storm’s destruction, because she is far more eloquent than I can ever pretend to be. (The full piece is at: http://birthmoviesdeath.com/2017/08/28/houston-is-hurting):

My city is underwater. Hurricane-to-Tropical Storm Harvey has dumped literal trillions of gallons of water on Texas, and flood-susceptible Houston and its surrounding areas are bearing the brunt of that load. I write this to the ceaseless sound of rain, a sound I once loved and now dread. It won’t stop raining. Our phones are still constantly buzzing with emergency alerts, warnings of tornadoes and flash floods and more, more, more rain. We’re days in and there are days to go yet.

BMD Senior Editor Evan Saathoff and I are both lucky. Our homes still have power and, though surrounded by water, have remained dry. We’re safe, but so many others aren’t. Tens of thousands of citizens are stranded, in danger, facing the loss of their homes and vehicles and treasured memories…

Once the water has gone down and it’s safe to visit the city, come to Houston and support local businesses. Give this big, beautiful, unique, multicultural city your love and dollars over the coming months and years. We’ll need it, and you’ll get to visit a hell of a town, to boot.

I love you, Houston. Stay strong.





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