Tag Archives: Coastal Bend

Remember when Texas was awash in water?

Mother Nature is so darn fickle.

It was just a year ago when Texas was in the midst of a drenching. Rain soaked the landscape from the Panhandle to the Rolling Plains. The snowfall early in 2017 was welcome, too. The first half of the year brought ample moisture, pleasing our farmers and ranchers to no end.

Then came Hurricane Harvey’s one-two punch along the coast; it arrived as a hurricane and pounded the Coastal Bend with storm surge and heavy wind and returned a few days later as a tropical storm and inundated Houston and the Golden Triangle under 50 inches of rain.

The Texas drought was over! Or so the National Weather Service proclaimed.

Hold on a minute. What happened?

It stopped raining in the Panhandle. Around 40 percent of the state is undergoing moderate to severe drought. The Panhandle has been dry for 107 straight days and is approaching an all-time dryness record, which was set in — gulp! — 1902.

As the Texas Tribune reports: The Texas Panhandle has become ground zero in a drought that has crept into much of the state just five months after Hurricane Harvey — including areas that suffered massive flooding during the storm.

When he was governor of Texas, Rick Perry said it would be helpful if Texans would pray for rain. The 2011 drought was a punishing event and the governor sought to look toward the heavens for relief.

It came eventually. Did the prayer help? It’s equally tough to prove or deny categorically. We are left, then, only to believe.

With that, perhaps it’s time we sought help once again from the Almighty.

Climate change made Harvey wreckage worse? Who knew?

Imagine my (non)surprise to read that independent analyses have concluded that climate change likely worsened the misery that Hurricane Harvey brought this summer to the Texas Gulf Coast.

The rainfall that inundated the coast totaled 50 inches in a 24-hour period; it set a continental U.S. record for most rain to fall during a single day.

Get a load of this: Researchers say that climate change — or you can call it “global warming” — worsened the rainfall by about 15 percent.

Not that a 15-percent increase created the tragedy that brought so much suffering to Houston, the Coastal Bend and the Golden Triangle. A 40-inch rainfall would have done plenty of damage, too … correct?

According to the Texas Tribune: ” … two independent research teams, one based in The Netherlands and the other in California, reported that the deluge from Hurricane Harvey was significantly heavier than it would have been before the era of human-caused global warming. One paper put the best estimate of the increase in precipitation at 15 percent. The other said climate change increased rainfall by 19 percent at least, with a best estimate of 38 percent.”

Read the Tribune story here.

However, the federal government keeps insisting that climate change is a “hoax,” that it’s a made-up creation of “fake news” and the Chinese government, which is trying to undermine the U.S. fossil fuel industry.

It’s no hoax. We can debate its cause. I happen to believe human activity has contributed to climate change. To call it a phony story, though, puts millions of Americans in extreme peril.

Climate change portends more ‘Harveys’

Hurricane Harvey once would be considered the storm of a lifetime.

Not any longer, according to a new study published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The MIT report suggests that by the end of this century, storms of the magnitude of Harvey could occur once every five-and-a-half years.

The study was put together by Kerry Emmanuel, a professor of atmospheric sciences at MIT. According to Texas Monthly:

“It’s very, very easy for people—even scientists—to get confused by this. You have to be very careful with what you mean by the event,” Emanuel says. The study looks at both Harvey-like storms hitting the greater Houston metro area (which he forecasts will go from a 2,000-year-storm to a 100-year-storm), as well as storms of that size making landfall anywhere in Texas, which is how we get to the 5 1/2 year number.

What do you suppose is the cause for this increasing frequency? Let me think about that for a moment. There. Time’s up. I am pretty certain we’re talking about climate change.

The deluge brought by Harvey dumped 50 inches of rain in a 24-hour period on Houston and the Golden Triangle this past summer. And that event came after Harvey roared ashore at Rockport with killer winds and immense tidal surge.

It will take years for the Texas Gulf Coast to recover fully from the storm. Texas officials have enlisted Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp to oversee the rebuilding of the coastal region from the Coastal Bend to the Golden Triangle. Think of what might await such an effort years from now. No sooner would the work be done than it might occur again.

Read the TM story here

The Texas Monthly piece I’ve posted with this blog entry doesn’t mention climate change/global warming explicitly. I have mentioned it here. I only can surmise as much to explain why the level of storms thought to occur once in a century might take place with such frightening frequency.

This is a terribly ominous trend for the coastal regions of our state.

The question now presents itself: What in the world are we going to do to either protect our coastal region from such destruction?

There’s also this: What are we going to do to reduce the number and ferocity of these storms?

Meanwhile, Texas still cleans up after its own tragedy

The nation is rightfully horrified and increasingly concerned about the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding in Puerto Rico.

It is, though, the latest in a savage series of events that have thrown millions of Americans into varying states of misery.

The Texas Tribune has published a gallery of photographs from a region which I have some intimate familiarity. The Golden Triangle also is recovering, albeit slowly, from its own battle with Mother Nature’s unspeakable force and fury.

Here are the photos from the Texas Tribune.

The picture above was taken in Port Arthur, one of the cities comprising the Golden Triangle; the other two are Orange and Beaumont, where my family and I lived for nearly 11 years.

All three cities, along with Houston, were pummeled by the deluge that poured out of the sky from Harvey, which made its initial landfall at Rockport along the Coastal Bend.

Texas has rallied behind the many thousands of Golden Triangle residents who today are still seeking to reassemble their shattered lives. Some of them are friends of my wife and me and former colleagues of mine. Our hearts break for them.

We intend to visit our former haunts. We hope it is sooner rather than later. Our time today is occupied by our effort to prepare to relocate eventually from our home in Amarillo.

Still, I think daily of my friends who are still struggling to regain their equilibrium in the wake of the monstrous storm.

My hope is that the rest of Texas — and the nation — will keep them in their thoughts and prayers, too. I know we’ve got a lot on our minds these days. Puerto Rico is in desperate straits. Florida also is recovering from its own tragedy, the one named Hurricane Irma.

We all possess big enough hearts to wish well for all of our stricken fellow Americans.

Here comes another ‘czar’

John Sharp is taking on the role of “czar.”

The Texas A&M University System chancellor has been picked by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to lead and coordinate the long-term recovery effort along the Gulf Coast.

Hurricane Harvey stormed ashore twice and devastated the coast from the Coastal Bend to the Golden Triangle. Sharp’s task is to make sure the recovery proceeds efficiently, as quickly as possible and with a minimum amount of angst and anxiety.

Sharp has crafted a list of guidelines he plans to follow in this Rebuild Texas effort that will be based in College Station.

Here are the guidelines.

Two points stand out.

One is to “let the experts do their job.” My understanding of the term “czar” normally would compel such a person to have his or her hands on every decision made. Sharp won’t do that. He’ll stand back and let the experts in their specific discipline commence with their tasks.

The other is to “be available all day, every day.” That’s more like a czar. It’s also good advice for the chancellor to follow for himself, not to mention for the experts who’ll be assigned to put the shattered and soggy Gulf Coast back together.

I am a fan of Sharp. I covered him at many levels during my time as an opinion editor at two newspapers in Texas; one was in Beaumont, the other was in Amarillo. I’ve known him for some time, dating back to when he first ran for the Railroad Commission.

He’s affable and has a self-deprecating streak. He’s also a knowledgeable public servant who has many friends and allies on both ends of the political spectrum.

I have trouble attaching the word “czar” to John Sharp.

We’ll see soon enough if it fits.

It’s just time to get busy.

Harvey now hits where it hurts

Harvey has stormed ashore again. This time, the storm has savaged my old haunts, my digs. It is hurting more of my friends.

The tropical storm is hitting me where it hurts — in a visceral sort of way.

I don’t know what to do. I might start by sending money to relief agencies that are hard at work trying to lend aid, comfort and safety to the residents of the Golden Triangle.

A career opportunity lured me to the Triangle in the spring of 1984. I spent nearly 11 years working for the Beaumont Enterprise. My family came a few months after I assumed my post. We carved out a good life in a community that seemed to flourish in a universe parallel to the one we left in suburban Portland, Ore.

We made friends for life. They are former colleagues of mine who remain close to my heart. They’re hurting now.

I’ve heard conflicting reports of Beaumont being totally “under water.” The same for Port Arthur, about 20 or so miles south on U.S. Highway 69. Orange — the third city in the Golden Triangle — sits along the Sabine River and it, too, is fending off Harvey’s savagery.

We left a lovely home in Beaumont in January 1995. I got word today from one of my friends — whose home has filled with about 5 feet of water in suburban Lumberton — that my old neighborhood in north Beaumont is likely in “rough shape.” He doesn’t know that with absolute certainty, given that the flood water has limited his mobility. I’ll accept his best guess that our former house is likely inundated.

Dammit, anyway!

The president came to Texas to give his support and to pledge the federal government’s commitment to repairing the devastation brought to our state from the Gulf of Mexico. Gov. Greg Abbott has mobilized the Texas National Guard — something on the order of 12,000 troops — and deployed them to assist local first responders.

The stories I’m seeing on TV and reading on the wires are heartbreaking in the extreme.

It was heartbreaking to see the coverage from Corpus Christi, Rockport, Port Lavaca, Aransas Pass and Port Aransas. We have some friends along the Coastal Bend, too, and my heart and prayers go to them.

Ditto for what we saw in Houston, where we have more friends and former colleagues. I spoke with one of them before Harvey delivered its heaviest blow; he talked of moving into the second floor of their home. Then the flood came. I called him back, but I haven’t gotten a response. I pray for the safety of this wonderful family. We have other friends scattered throughout greater Houston who are coping and we worry about them, too.

The Golden Triangle’s suffering is a bit different for us. We know the territory well. We know our way around Beaumont. It shatters my heart to see the damage being done — and to see the grief etched on the faces of the storm’s victims.

Social media have enabled us to keep tabs on many of our friends. But not all of them. I am awaiting news that they’re all OK.

I’m on the verge of shedding tears.

Texas can use federal assistance

TX-flooding-2015

Hey, no kidding. Texas actually can use some help from the federal government.

As I understand it, Gov. Greg Abbott has to ask for a federal emergency declaration. The pictures I’m seeing from around the state, particularly in Houston and in the Hill Country, suggests the governor needs to get on the stick and ask for it.

President Obama talked to the governor by phone the other day and offered federal help. I’m guessing Gov. Abbott said, “Thank you, Mr. President. I’ll get back to you on that.”

Has he done so? I haven’t heard that he has.

Abbott calls the floods the worst in Texas history. As I’m writing this short blog, another storm is blasting overhead along the Texas Panhandle. It’s dumping more rain on our saturated ground — which isn’t nearly as soaked as the ground is in Houston, the Golden Triangle, the Coastal Bend and the Hill Country.

But it’s wet enough here.

My son, who’s visiting us from Allen — just north of Dallas — informed us of playas that appeared where there’s “never any water.” Well, he can’t say “never” now.

Ask for the feds’ help, governor.

And whatever you do, don’t let your political differences with the White House stand in the way.