Tag Archives: Golden Triangle

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.

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.

Climate change is real, NW fires notwithstanding

I’m seeing a bit of social media chatter that needs to be put in perspective.

Some of it is conflating a couple of key issues: climate change and those horrific fires that have scarred many thousands of forestland in Oregon and Washington.

Critics of climate change deniers are pointing to the Oregon and Washington fires as evidence that climate change is real.

I agree with the notion that Earth’s climate is changing, that its temperatures are warming. The fires that began along Eagle Creek just east of Portland, though, were the result of a dumbass who allegedly was playing with fireworks in tinder-dry woodlands above the Columbia River.

Oregon State Police have a suspect. He’s a teenager. He is a minor, so we won’t know his name, which I guess gives me license to refer to him as a dumbass.

Back to the issue of climate change/global warming. It’s playing out far from the Pacific Northwest.

The Texas Gulf Coast just got hit with a Category 3 hurricane/tropical storm. It dumped 50-plus inches of rain on Houston and the Golden Triangle; it brought killer winds to the Coastal Bend. It has created unspeakable grief, agony and misery along the coast.

But wait! Now there’s a Category 5 storm blasting its way toward South Florida. It has winds of 185 mph; gusts are reaching 225 mph.

Meteorologists and other scientists are speaking in unison — more or less — on this subject: We’re going to see more catastrophic storms in quick succession in the future because of climate change.

The debate, though, centers on the cause of this change. The scientific consensus appears to suggest that human activity has exacerbated the change, through carbon emissions and immense deforestation.

The fire will be extinguished. I remain supremely confident that the forest will be restored over a lengthy period of time. Humankind can repair the damage done by a single thoughtless idiot.

The frequency of those storms? The rising sea levels? The intensity of the savagery that boils up out of the ocean?

That problem requires our immediate attention, if only we’d stop bickering over whether the climate is changing. It is. Let’s get busy finding solutions to this worldwide crisis.

Happy Trails, Part 38

I think I’ve just made a command retirement decision.

My wife, Toby the Puppy and I are not going anywhere near the Gulf or Atlantic coasts in August or September.

Hurricane Harvey crashed ashore twice along the Texas coast as a Category 3 monster. First it hit Corpus Christi and Rockport. Then it backed up over the Gulf of  Mexico, downgraded a bit to a tropical storm, then wiped out Houston and the Golden Triangle under 50-something inches of rainfall.

OK, then. The Gulf Coast is out.

Now the nation is awaiting Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 hurricane that is reportedly the most dangerous Atlantic storm ever formed!

Miami and Miami Beach are in Irma’s bulls-eye. Sustained winds are at 185 mph. Residents are starting to flee.

You know what that means? It means we aren’t going that way, either in late summer … not ever!

Climate change is making these monster storms a more frequent occurrence. Do not bitch at me about climate change! I won’t be dissuaded from what I believe, which is that Earth’s climate is changing. I won’t argue with you today about whether it’s manmade or whether it’s part of Earth’s “normal cycle.” The cause doesn’t matter in the context of this decision.

Earth’s climate is changing and that means — for those of us in our household — our happy trails are going to lead us elsewhere at this time of the year.

Feeling cursed by Nature’s wrath

Forgive me if I sound as if I’m feeling cursed these days.

Mother Nature is drawing a bead on communities I know well. Beaumont and the rest of the Golden Triangle along the Texas Gulf coast is bailing out from the deluge dumped on the region by a storm named Harvey.

Most of our friends are OK. Not all, though. There’s a lot of heartbreak and agony to go around as the Triangle struggles to recover from the Harvey’s savagery. Our hearts go out to them … along with our prayers.

Now as we look in the other direction, toward the Pacific Northwest, I see that my hometown is under siege from an entirely different foe.

Fire!

I see pictures on social media from the Columbia River Gorge, one of the world’s greatest natural splendors, and my heart breaks all over again. Flames are consuming many acres of virgin timber. Historical structures are in jeopardy.

Portland, the city of my birth, is now being showered with ash, reminding residents there of when Mount St. Helens exploded in the spring and summer of 1980, blanketing the city with a fine coat of volcanic ash.

The picture above is of downtown Portland. That ain’t fog, man! It’s smoke billowing over the city from the fires that are burning not far away.

We’re getting ready to head that way for a little R&R. Our trip isn’t coming up in the next few days, but we’ll be hauling our RV in that direction fairly soon. My hope is that the fires are quenched soon. I have considerable faith in the firefighting crews that are on the job. They’re pretty damn good at fighting those forest fires.

Their expertise comes from experience, just as the Gulf Coast rescue crews and other first responders have plenty of experience dealing with the aftermath of killer hurricanes and tropical storms.

But these monstrous events make me nervous in the extreme and they break my heart for tangible reasons.

Happy Trails, Part 37

Oh, the best-laid plans can go awry.

For example, we had intended to venture south and east later this year, when the weather cooled, and the Gulf of Mexico hurricane season had subsided.

We have a lot of friends in the Golden Triangle, where we lived from 1984 until 1995. We had plans to haul our RV south to our former hometown to catch up with many of them.

Oh, wait!

Something happened down yonder. Right? Of course!

Hurricane Harvey came through. The storm crashed ashore first in the Corpus Christi-Rockport region along the Coastal Bend. Then the storm waded back into the Gulf, picked up some more steam and returned to the Triangle as Tropical Storm Harvey.

It dumped a lot of rain. It set a continental United States record at more than 50 inches. 

Now I hear that the Texas Department of Transportation is going to embark on a monumental task. It must repair roads and highways damaged by the storm. According to the Texas Tribune:

Prolonged flooding can wash out bridges, knock down traffic signals and signs and cause asphalt to buckle. Last week, the federal government directed $25 million to the Texas Department of Transportation to help the agency begin repairing the region’s vast transportation system.

But that funding won’t last very long, said TxDOT Deputy Executive Director Marc Williams.

“The size and the duration of this storm is beyond anything we’ve ever experienced in this state,” he said.

When do we plan to return to the Golden Triangle? I don’t know. I can’t project when TxDOT will get all the highways fixed. I am not even aware at this moment whether any of the highways over which we might travel are affected.

We do want to get back. We want to see our friends. We intend to hug their necks and express gratitude and thanks that they’re all OK.

I am not one to trifle, though, with Mother Nature. Nor am I going to wish for TxDOT to speed up its infrastructure repair just to suit my wife and me. It’ll take time. We’ll be patient.

Church attendees dig deeply to help Harvey victims

I am going to presume for a moment that this scene played out in church sanctuaries all across Texas — and, indeed, the nation — earlier today.

We attended church this morning at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Amarillo, Texas. The senior pastor, the Rev. Howard Griffin, was presiding over a combined service; First Pres normally has three services each Sunday, but on this Labor Day weekend, the entire congregation gathered for a single service.

The gorgeous First Pres sanctuary was full.

The pastor announced that all the proceeds from this morning’s offering was going to aid a church — First Presbyterian Church of Houston — in its efforts to help the victims of that monstrous hurricane-turned-tropical storm that deluged the Gulf Coast region. The video we watched while sitting in our church pews was heart-wrenching; the devastation along the coast — from Corpus Christi to the Golden Triangle — takes one’s breath away.

Griffin said previous efforts to aid other disaster victims have brought hefty five-figure amounts when the plates get passed throughout the congregation. I am quite certain many of our fellow congregants dug a little deeper this morning to assist their fellow Texans in this time of desperation and despair.

I am also going to suggest that this act of generosity, compassion and godly spirit occurred all across this great nation in houses of worship of all faiths and all great religions.

That’s what we do as Americans. We offer our treasure to those in trouble.

I am one American who this morning was proud to play a small part in what I am certain was a gigantic act of compassion.

Meanwhile, our prayers continue to flow down yonder.

Even in abundance, water is a priceless commodity

My social media networks are telling me that the water is starting to come back ever so slowly down yonder in Beaumont, Texas.

The savage storm named Harvey deluged the Golden Triangle region so badly that Beaumont’s water treatment system was knocked out. Gone. Dead. No drinking water to be had.

Just a few days later, the system is coming back — slowly. I trust it’s also surely on its way back.

One of my friends reports his toilet tank is filling. Another of them posted this note on Facebook: Treat water like it is gold, because it is.

Boy, howdy! We know about that even this far northwest of the flood zone. We in the Texas Panhandle have been grappling with water conservation and preservation issues for about, oh, nearly forever.

It’s not that we have the abundance of water, but rather a lack of water.

My good friends in Beaumont and Houston, though, are getting yet another kind of water-conservation lesson. The Golden Triangle’s woes intensified many times when the water system collapsed under the 40-plus-inch deluge that Harvey delivered.

Those good folks aren’t anywhere close to being clear of the damage brought by Harvey. They’re inching their way toward a return to something approaching a normal life.

It’s going to take lots and lots of time to return to normal water usage — even as those valiant Texans look for ways to slosh their way through the water that surrounds them.

As one of my friends, the one with the toilet tank refilling, noted: Be frugal, Beaumont. Preserve this precious resource for everyone!

Meanwhile, many prayers continue to shower that stricken region.