Tag Archives: Golden Triangle

Welcome to Texoma

SHERMAN, Texas — I’ve discovered a new region.

Local media in the Sherman-Denison area of North Texas use an interesting and charming term to describe this part of the Lone Star State.

They call it Texoma.

Longtime Texans no doubt will scoff at me for posting this brief post. Too bad. Let ’em scoff all they want. I find the term vaguely enchanting.

My wife and I watch some local TV while we are holed up in our RV — when we’re not visiting with our granddaughter and her family down U.S. 75 just a bit south of us. I’ve been struck by the media’s use of Texoma to describe the region that is partly Texas and partly Oklahoma, given that Sherman is barely beyond spittin’ distance south of the Red River that serves as the common border between the states.

I don’t know when Texoma became the term of art to describe this region. It does kind of roll off the tongue.

This mini-discovery in a way reminds me of a community struggle that occurred in the mid- to late 1980s in the Golden Triangle region of Southeast Texas. It involved a regional name-change effort that was concocted by a committee of civic and business leaders who I guess grew tired of the region being known as the Golden Triangle.

They decided to launch a TV ad campaign featuring some actor dressed up as the late Army Gen. George S. Patton Jr. He would scold viewers about how the term “Triplex” was more suitable than “Golden Triangle.” The ad appeared throughout the cities of Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange, which are the largest communities within the Golden Triangle.

We at the Beaumont Enterprise newspaper were instructed to use the term “Triplex” whenever we referred to the region in our news and editorial coverage.

The effort failed miserably. The residents of Jefferson, Orange and Hardin counties spoke out loudly and passionately against any such name-change effort. They hated the term “Triplex.” Some folks resorted to calling the outline of the three counties as the “Tri-Pot,” given the shape of the counties kinda/sorta looked like a commode.

Well … the campaign eventually fizzled out. It died a fairly quick death.

I trust the folks of Texoma didn’t endure a similar wrenching of its collective gut when someone decided to name this region. If they did, then they got over it.

Good for them. I like the sound of Texoma.

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.

Happy Trails, Part 63

I am going to miss many aspects about living in West Texas.

My friends; the big sky and the fabulous sunrises and sunsets; Palo Duro Canyon; the distinctly different seasons of the year.

I won’t miss one aspect of life on the High Plains: the distance one must travel to get anywhere.

Our 23 years on the High Plains has acclimated my wife and me to this reality. It is that you don’t measure travel in miles; you measure it in the time it takes you to get somewhere. If it’s only an hour’s drive, no sweat. Even a two-hour drive is tolerable. Three hours? Eh, it’s still doable.

It took me a while to get used to that element of West Texas life. But I did. It’s no longer a big deal for either of us — and I’m presuming this of my wife — to “commute” 30 or 40 miles in a morning. Hey, it’s still less than an hour behind the wheel!

We moved to the High Plains from the Golden Triangle, where any destination of note was much closer to home. Ninety minutes to Houston; four hours to New Orleans; five hours to Dallas-Fort Worth; 30 minutes to the beach.

Soon (I hope) we’ll be relocating to points southeast of the High Plains. We’ll be settling somewhere in the Metroplex. Our precise destination is yet to be determined.

I’m not yet sure how long it will take me to re-acclimate to travel in a region where destinations aren’t spread so far apart. I suspect it won’t take long. I figure it’s always easier to fall back on what we once knew than to venture into a strange — and largely unknown — way of life.

If only we could take our friends, the canyon and that gorgeous sky with us.

‘Climate change’ anyone?

I am acutely aware that one cannot pigeonhole weather forecasting into neat categories.

What’s more, I also know that trying to predict what Mother Nature brings to any region is a crapshoot even in the best of circumstances.

But what in the world is going on this week?

Here we are in the Texas High Plains region. We’re tinder dry. It’s cold, but we’re continuing this dry pattern that’s beginning to cause the TV weather forecasters some anxiety.

Then we get news that snow is blanketing regions of this state and points east. It’s snowing this week in regions where (a) it hardly ever snows and (b) the snow is supposed to fall long after it blankets the Texas Panhandle.

We remain snow free. The Texas Gulf Coast is under several inches of snow. My friends along the Coastal Bend, Houston and the Golden Triangle are bundling up and driving ever so slowly and cautiously in conditions with which they are totally unfamiliar.

Is all of this a symptom of climate change? I’ve long argued that one cannot take a single weather event and equate it with whatever might be happening globally. I usually argue that it’s best to argue climate change by seeing the big picture.

This very weird reversal right here in big ol’ Texas, though, seems to suggest to me that we might be witnessing one element of a much bigger weather story.

Happy Trails, Part 61

Now, wait just a doggone minute!

My wife, Toby and Puppy and I are holed up at an RV park on what I have described as the Texas Tundra, where it’s plenty cold.

Wait! I awoke this morning to learn that snow is falling down yonder in that so-called “warm climate” area of Texas. Corpus Christi? Snow. The Golden Triangle (where my wife and I raised our sons)? Same thing.

One of our dear friends in Beaumont has referred to it all as the meteorological “weirdometer.” It’s snowing where it ain’t supposed to snow, but it’s still dry where it does snow, she says.

Yeah, that’s weird, kid.

Climate change? Is it really and truly changing? Aww, I won’t go there … this time.

Our retirement journey has taken a strange turn. Our intention is to spend much of the winter pulling our fifth-wheel RV to “sunny and warm” climes relatively close to home while we try to sell the house where we lived for 21 years.

Maybe we’ll make it happen. Eventually. It’s just a good thing we have no immediate plans to hit the road for points south.

We have to wait for the snow to clear out.

Good grief! Weird!

Is she — or is she not — the Dallas County sheriff?

Lupe Valdez says she’s still the top cop in Dallas County, Texas.

She denies reports of her resignation. But she still is thinking about running for Texas governor, as a Democrat. She might challenge Gov. Greg Abbott, the Republican who recently announced his re-election campaign.

I am not going to comment on Sheriff Valdez’s work as Dallas County sheriff, given that I live way up yonder in Amarillo. I would like to offer a brief comment on the reasons she has posited for considering a run for governor.

She has grown weary of Republican dominance of Texas politics.

To be candid, so have I. So have other Texans. Democrats have been yearning for a serious challenger to Abbott in 2018. None has emerged. Valdez might be the one.

Now … before you get on my case for being one of those partisan Democrats who wants to see Republicans toppled at every turn, I want to make an important stipulation.

It is that one-party political dominance — no matter which party is in command — too often produces an arrogance that diminishes the cause of what I like to call “good government.”

I moved to Texas in the spring of 1984. I took up my post as an editorial write — and later editorial page editor — of the Beaumont Enterprise. The Golden Triangle in the early 1980s was still a heavily Democratic bastion. Every elected office belonged to Democrats. And I noted at the time that I believed that good government would do well to see greater Republican challenges of Democratic officeholders.

Sheriff Valdez and I are on the same page. According to the Texas Tribune: “Last month, Valdez told the Tribune she believes it’s “time for a change” in GOP-dominated state government. “Too much of one thing corrupts, and I’m a strong believer in a two-party system,” she said. “I’m hoping that enough people are seeing that too much one-sided is not healthy for Texas.”

Read the Tribune article here.

Healthy challenges force incumbents to defend their record. They must make the case for their re-election. Texas, which once was dominated by Democrats, has totally shifted its political tilt. Republicans have commanded every statewide elective office for more than two decades; the one exception occurred four years ago when Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Larry Meyers switched from Republican to Democrat while he was still in office, only to lose his bid for re-election in 2016.

I hope Valdez runs for governor. I might even vote for her if she wins the Democratic primary and challenges Abbott in the fall of 2018.

If it comes to pass, then let the debate commence.

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.

Events give media chance to shine brightly

I never got the chance to serve on a Pulitzer Prize jury, to select winners in print journalism’s top prizes.

This year is going to produce a Pulitzer juror’s “nightmare,” if you want to call it such. The media, namely the folks who work in the print end of it, have distinguished themselves grandly while covering compelling issues of the day.

Were it not for the media, we wouldn’t know about the various crises threatening to swallow the Donald J. Trump administration whole. Many of print journalism’s top guns — at the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Washington Post — have been distinguishing themselves with top-drawer reporting that would give Pulitzer jurors fits. It’s interesting in the extreme to me that so many of the cable news outlets keep referencing stories that have been broken first by print organizations.

Then something else happened this summer.

Two killer hurricanes boiled up out of the warm water offshore and delivered death and destruction, first to the Texas Gulf Coast and then to the Caribbean and to all of Florida.

Reporters, photographers and their editors all have worked very long days and nights trying to cover the story of human misery. Newspapers from the Coastal Bend, Houston and then to the Golden Triangle have answered the call. Indeed, one of my former employers — the Beaumont Enterprise — has called at least one of its veteran former reporters out of retirement to assist in telling the community’s story as it seeks to recover from Hurricane Harvey’s savage wrath.

The story of media intrepidity is being repeated now in Florida as that state struggles to regain its footing in the wake of Hurricane Irma’s own brand of immense savagery.

There you have it: severe political tumult and potential constitutional crises and Mother Nature’s unimaginable power have combined to create circumstances that make the media answer the call to duty.

To think, as well, that the president of the United States refers to these dedicated men and women as “the enemy of the American people.” Donald Trump knows nothing about the dedication to their craft — and in many instances the heroism — they exhibit in trying to report important issues to a public that wants to know what’s happening in their world.

Good luck, Pulitzer jury, as you seek to find winners in this most eventual period in history.

To my former colleagues, I am immensely proud of you.

Nature’s wrath eclipses political controversy

I created this blog some years ago as a forum for “politics, policy and life experience.”

To be candid, events of the past few days have ripped my mind away from the worldly political concerns that have dominated High Plains Blogger since its inception.

Hurricane Harvey stormed ashore on the Texas Coastal Bend. Then it backed out over the Gulf of Mexico and returned to the Golden Triangle as a tropical storm and inundated Houston and the Beaumont-Port Arthur-Orange areas under 50 inches of rain.

Meanwhile, way out west, my hometown of Portland, Ore., had been choking in the midst of a cloud of smoke and ash blown in by that forest fire along Eagle Creek. The Columbia River Gorge has been scorched. The fire jumped the mighty Columbia River and has burned many more acres of tall timber in Washington.

Now it’s Hurricane Irma that’s devastating Florida after tearing through the Caribbean Islands region.

My wife and I worry greatly about our friends along the Texas coast from the Coastal Bend to the Golden Triangle; we worry more about family and friends affected by the Eagle Creek fire; now we worry about the handful of friends who live in Florida.

And, of course, we are praying for the safety of all those millions of Americans who have been stricken by all the savagery that has attacked them.

Somehow, in this context, Donald J. Trump’s ongoing troubles — ranging from his big mouth, his Twitter tirades, un-presidential conduct and “The Russia Thing” seem strangely inconsequential.

Hey, this moment will pass in due course. I know that. I am ready for it. For now, though, I intend to concentrate on the human suffering we’re all witnessing, along with a touch of “life experience” commentary thrown in for good measure.

Meanwhile, more prayers are on the way.