Tag Archives: Gulf Coast

Seeking no credit for this heat

When we moved to Beaumont, Texas from Oregon in the spring of 1984, I would jokingly take credit when it rained for more than a couple of days in a row.

I would give a nod to the same thought when we moved from Beaumont to Amarillo in early 1995. When we would travel from Amarillo to, oh, damn well anywhere in the States, we’d take credit for whenever the wind would blow hard.

However …

There ain’t no way I’m going to tolerate any references to our former places of residence if someone wants to comment on this damn heat.

We’re setting heat records in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. The temp hit 109 today. A record. It did so on Friday, too. There might be another record in jeopardy on Sunday and again on Monday.

The heat is an annual event in this part of the world. I’ve known that for many years.

It ain’t the same heat that blankets the Texas Panhandle. This one lingers well into the night, unlike on the Caprock, where it dissipates (more or less) when the sun sets, owing to the 3,650-foot elevation on the High Plains.

This heat requires us to get reacquainted with humidity.

The good news? It won’t last forever. I’m already looking forward to autumn.

Happy Trails, Part 114: Learning our way around

We have settled in our new digs just north of Dallas.

Our dwelling is comfortable. My wife has done a miraculous job of assembling it and putting everything (mostly) in its place.

Now the next big challenge awaits us: learning our way around in a community that bears little — if any — resemblance to the community we left.

Fairview is a busy place. We live just a stone’s throw from U.S. 75, aka the Dallas Central Expressway. Collin County comprises nearly 1 million residents. We’ve been fortunate to be able to avoid the freeway at times when virtually everyone in this county is on the road at the same time.

We’ve checked out local routes that enable us to get from place to place with zero hassle. We haven’t yet ventured too far away from our digs. We’ve located several grocery stores, a nice shopping area, some very nice eating establishments, entertainment venues.

What we haven’t yet mastered is how we travel from our small community to destinations some distance away. We know how to get from the Metroplex back to Amarillo; we also know how to get from Fairview to the Hill Country, or from Fairview to Gulf Coast.

We’re going to figure out how to transit easily from our dwelling to, say, Love Field or to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. There a number of communities nearby: Plano, Frisco, Sherman, Carrollton, Richardson. They’re all clustered in the region just north of Dallas.

We’ll find our way around in due course. Hey, it’s gone pretty swimmingly so far.

Until we commit these routes to memory, we’ll just have to thank goodness for Google Maps.

What was I thinking?

AMARILLO, Texas — I must have been off my rocker, had rocks in my noggin, gone around the bend when I had all those positive thoughts about the Texas Panhandle wind.

Twenty-three years of life on the Caprock have schooled me about the wind. It’s far more of an annoyance than a blessing.

We have returned to the Panhandle for a brief visit. And, oh yes, the wind greeted us — with a vengeance.

There once was a time when I could rationalize the benefit of the wind. Such as:

  • It keeps the bugs away.
  • It cleans the air.
  • It helps reduce the stifling humidity.
  • It provides a relentless, endless source of clean energy.

That’s about it. But I would trot those “benefits” out when someone would gripe about the wind. I now join the gripers. The whiners’ chorus has gained a member, although I remain a huge proponent of wind power as an alternative energy source.

I also understand the threat the wind presents, particularly during the summer months.

The wind exacerbates fire dangers manyfold. It dries out the grassland that has been moisturized by rain or snow. The grass grows, it adds fuel that can ignite easily.

You know how the rest of it goes.

Our new home near Dallas presents some other annoyances, such as the humidity that one doesn’t normally find way up yonder on the Caprock, which sits roughly 3,600 feet above sea level.

But … I look at it this way: My family and I spent nearly 11 years on the Texas Gulf Coast, in the Golden Triangle. We didn’t exactly enjoy the stifling summers there; we merely adjusted to it.

My memories of that period are still vivid. So I won’t let the relative humidity of the Metroplex get me down.

I also remember the Panhandle wind. Those memories are even more vivid. I no longer enjoy what I used to pass off as a flying bug deterrent.

Texans were ‘watching Harvey from their boats’?

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has said the state is ready for “the next Harvey.”

Good deal, governor. I’ll need to know how the state prepares for a 50-inch deluge that falls within a 24-hour period.

But then the president of the United States weighed in with yet another patently absurd assertion about how many Texans responded to the peril that was bearing down on them.

Donald J. Trump said that Texas were “watching Harvey from their boats,” an act he said precipitated the large number of water rescues while the storm was battering the coast from the Coastal Bend, to Houston and the Golden Triangle.

Trump said this during a conference call with state officials: “Sixteen thousand people, many of them in Texas, for whatever reason that is. People went out in their boats to watch the hurricane,” Trump said. “That didn’t work out too well.”

Trump’s idiocy has prompted an angry response from first responder officials. As the Houston Chronicle reported: “I didn’t see anyone taking the approach that would reflect his comments,” Gonzalez said. “I’ll be sure to invite the president to ride out the next hurricane in a jon boat in Galveston Bay the next time one approaches,” he added.

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, a fellow Republican, tweeted a message that talked about how Texans responded to help their neighbors and that they weren’t gawking at the storm aboard their boats in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Chronicle asked Abbott about Trump’s assertion, but the governor said he didn’t have “any information” on the matter.

As the paper noted: This isn’t the first time the president has made comments that seemed bizarre or ill-informed. For example, he claimed without evidence millions of people voted illegally and inflated the number of people attending his inauguration and other rallies. He wrongly claimed to have seen Muslims in New Jersey celebrating the 9/11 attacks on television.

So, let’s add this moronic assertion to the lengthy and no doubt growing list of presidential prevarications.

Idiotic.

Facing a topic quandary for this blog

A relocation might be approaching more quickly than my wife and I thought. More on that at a later date.

As we prepare to detach ourselves eventually from the Texas Panhandle and relocate to the Metroplex region of North Texas, I am facing a bit of a quandary: how to transition from commenting on local matters that pertain to the Panhandle to our new surroundings.

High Plains Blogger will retain its title even after we relocate. I have made that “command decision.” I like the name. I’m comfortable with it. The blog title does pay a sort of tribute to one of my favorite actors, Clint Eastwood.

It comments heavily on national political matters. I also like commenting on local issues. Even though my wife and I departed the Golden Triangle more than two decades ago, I am even prone to offering a word or two about life in our former digs. along the Gulf Coast of Texas.

Our time in the Panhandle, though, is more than double than what we spent in what I affectionately call The Swamp. Thus, I likely will continue to keep an eye on goings-on in Amarillo and the Panhandle even after we depart for points southeast of here.

I do intend to familiarize myself with issues unique to the area north of Dallas where we’ll end up. I cannot pretend to know all the nuances that go into every issue. Heck, I am quite willing to acknowledge that I don’t know all there is to know about everything that happens in a community I called home for more than 23 years.

But … my Panhandle knowledge base is a good bit more informed than it will be when we relocate to the Dallas ‘burbs.

Oh well. It might be that I’ll refocus my attention on matters relating to national politics, government, public policy and, oh yes, a bit of life experience thrown in from time to time.

Heaven knows the president is keeping my quiver full of arrows.

Rain is no longer an annoyance

There once was a time when I hated the rain.

I lived in a city, Portland, Ore., where it rains constantly. I grew up there. I detested the endless drizzle.

Then I got married and moved eventually to Texas. We lived first in Beaumont, along the Gulf Coast, where it rains a lot, too. There, though, the rain comes in furious bursts. Then the sun would come out. So would the humidity. Ugghh!

After a while we moved to the Texas Panhandle, where it rains a lot less. Of late, the Panhandle has received even less than that, which is to say it’s been tinder-dry here. We’ve had one day of measurable rain since October 2017.

Today, though, we received another healthy dose of measurable precipitation. More is on the way, along with some thunder and lightning, or so we are being told by the TV weather forecasters. Hey, they got this one right. I’ll accept their projections for the next day or so.

The rain we’re getting through the night and into the next day won’t do a thing to break the drought we’ve endured for the past six months. It’s a bit strange to recall that a year ago at this time the Panhandle was being drenched. The playas were filling up. Farmers were grinning from ear to ear; so were the ranchers who watched their cattle fatten up with the rich harvest of grass and grain the rain produced.

Then it stopped. We finished 2017 with nary a drop of precipitation, even though the first half of the year enabled us to nearly double our annual average rate of rain and snowfall.

Here we are today. The rain is falling. It’s coming in fits and starts.

I no longer hate the rain. It brings a sense of comfort.

Weird, eh?

Harvey’s footprint remains huge

VILLAGE CREEK STATE PARK, Texas –– I knew it before we got here. But to see it up close still reminds me of just how powerful nature’s wrath can be.

Hurricane Harvey stormed ashore for a second time along the upper Gulf Coast in the summer of 2017. It had blown in earlier over the Coastal Bend, wiping out neighborhoods with high wind and storm surge.

The storm backed away over the Gulf of Mexico and then returned over Houston and the Golden Triangle with — shall we say — a record-setting deluge. It totaled 50 inches in a 24-hour span of time, which is the greatest single-day downpour in continental U.S. history.

Harvey’s footprint remains all over the Golden Triangle. We arrived at Village Creek State Park — just north of Beaumont — hoping to hike the trails and enjoy the sights and smells of the Big Thicket. No can do, we were told by the park staff. All the trails remained closed.

The storm inundated the park. It damaged the trails. It made them impossible to trek.

The Big Thicket National Preserve just a few miles north of us are OK, the state park staff told us.

It’s good to be back where we once lived for nearly 11 years before moving to the Texas Panhandle in early 1995.

My heart broke during Harvey’s assault on the Golden Triangle. Many of our friends suffered from the storm’s wrath, if not from actual flooding and the damage it brought to their property, but from the terror they clearly must have felt during that terrible time.

We’ll get to catch up with some of them. We might even hear their tales of struggle and triumph.

NFL does well with its Man of Year selection

I don’t normally get excited about pro football awards.

This year is different. The National Football League today announced its Walter Payton Man of the Year award. It goes to someone I just knew would get it: J.J. Watt, the standout defensive end for the Houston Texans.

What did Watt do to earn this honor, named after the late Walter Payton, the Hall of Fame running back and one of the great all-round great gentlemen of all pro sports?

Watt decided to launch a fundraising effort to help victims of his adopted hometown of Houston, after the wrath it suffered from Hurricane Harvey. He set a modest goal of $250,000.

Uh, Watt finished with a lot more than that. He ended up raising a cool $37 million for the waterlogged residents of Houston, whose homes were destroyed by the epic rainfall.

J.J. Watt is a tremendous athlete. I am delighted to know that the NFL has recognized him for possessing a tremendous heart.

Many of us far away from the coast saw this award coming. Our hearts were broken when Harvey came ashore not once, but twice along the Texas Gulf Coast. It pounded the Coastal Bend with killer winds and storm surge, then backed away from the coast and returned as a tropical storm.

It was on its second visit to the coast that Harvey did its damage to Houston and to the Golden Triangle, just east of the big city.

J.J. Watt stepped up in a big-time way to raise money for those victims — and has richly earned the title of the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year.

Well done, young man. I would bet that Walter Payton, the man they called “Sweetness,” would be proud of you, too.

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.