Tag Archives: Gulf Coast

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.

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.

Houston, we have a development problem

There will be time — in due course — to start thinking seriously about the future of a city that’s been devastated by Mother Nature’s awesome power.

It is beginning already, though.

Houston is still bailing out and digging out from impact of Hurricane Harvey. Residents remain displaced. Many thousands of Houstonians are grieving and wondering where they go from here, what they’ll do to rebuild their shattered lives.

Meanwhile, city officials have begun to start asking: What have we done to exacerbate this tragedy?

Houston is known as a city with limited urban planning guidelines. Over many years the city has quite willingly paved over grasslands and wetlands with pavement. They’ve built highways and bridges, paved streets, laid down parking lots, erected skyscrapers. Residential neighborhoods have sprung up where alligators once swam.

The result of all that has helped produced what we’ve witnessed in recent days. Indeed, Harvey’s savagery isn’t the first such incident to bedevil Houston. Hurricanes Ike and Rita, anyone? Hurricanes Carla and Alicia? Yes, we remember those events, too.

What does Houston do? How does the city cope with the potential for future disaster? I fear it’s too late. The city isn’t going to bust up the asphalt. It’s not going to knock down those buildings and bridges. It won’t shoo away the millions of residents who have flocked to the city.

I suppose the city is now left to ponder ways to control more tightly developers’ designs on future construction. I remember some discussion after Hurricane Katrina laid siege to New Orleans in August 2005 about how the city should rebuild whole neighborhoods washed away. There was some talk of turning former Ninth Ward neighborhoods into wetlands and relocating the residents who fled the storm’s fury.

Houston might need to ponder a similar response to recovering from the damage and destruction delivered by Hurricane Harvey.

A word of caution: Don’t dawdle, Houston. The changing climate might well produce another killer storm soon. I don’t need to remind our friends along the Gulf Coast — but I will anyway — that we are now entering the peak of the 2017 hurricane season.

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.

Trump earns praise; but beware of future criticism

It really didn’t hurt at all to say something kind about Donald Trump in an earlier blog post.

I had vowed to speak well of the president when I felt it was necessary. His visit — along with the first lady, Melania — to Houston today gave me that chance.

The president has now made two trips in just a few days to the Texas Gulf Coast in the wake of the storm Harvey’s massive, destructive blow to the region. The president took plenty of heat for his first visit, in which he didn’t visit with storm victims. He instead patted politicians on the back for their response.

Today’s visit was vastly different. It was the kind of visit the president should have made when he ventured to Corpus Christi, which had suffered huge wind damage.

Trump does right by Harvey’s victims

I’ll continue to challenge Donald Trump, however, as we move farther along into his presidency. I don’t intend to change my mind about the man’s fitness for the job and, to be candid, nothing that happened today in Houston and later in Lake Charles, La., has persuaded me differently.

I just feel compelled once again to offer the man a good word of encouragement for returning to the scene of this unspeakable natural disaster. As the picture indicates, the victims of Harvey’s wrath appreciated seeing him, hearing his soothing words and sharing a smile with a president who willing to take a selfie.

To be candid, pictures like this make me smile, too.

There are Klan rallies, then we have what happened at UVa

I feel as though I’ve dodged a bullet or two, having watched the tragic events unfold in Charlottesville, Va.

Now for the explanation.

My former life as a full-time journalist enabled me to two attend two Ku Klux Klan rallies. The first one was in Orange, Texas, way down yonder on the Gulf Coast, just west of the Louisiana state line; the second was right here in Amarillo, Texas.

Why the feeling of relief? They both were peaceful. Unlike the pandemonium that erupted in Charlottesville, the rallies in Orange and Amarillo were tame — although one was far tamer than the other one.

The Orange rally occurred without incident of any kind. Some Klansmen showed up to protest the racial integration of a federal housing project in nearby Vidor, Texas, a community full of fine folks but also a town known to be a sort of KKK haven. There were no counter protests; just a lot of fiery and ignorant hate speech coming from the podium.

The Amarillo rally was a bit different. A Klan chapter sought permission to gather at City Hall; the city granted it. The head Klansman started to speak, only to be drowned out by a large procession of cymbal-bashing, drum-beating, horn-blaring and shouting counter protesters who marched onto the City Hall parking lot. They drowned out the KKK speakers.

There was no physical confrontation. There were no fights. No violence. Indeed, the Amarillo Police Department, the Potter County Sheriff’s Department and the Texas Department of Public Safety were out in force to ensure a peaceful outcome … although they couldn’t guarantee a quiet one.

I’ll stand by my previous posts in asserting that the “white nationalists” who gathered in Charlottesville were the provocateurs. They instigated the violence merely showing up. Then to have someone mow down counter protesters with his motor vehicle? I believe I would call that a terrorist act.

We well might have witnessed a horrifying symptom of a deteriorating national mood.

I never want to see anything like that again, let alone up close.

Mauro: Texas is ‘no battleground’

Garry Mauro knows Texas perhaps as well as any politician who calls Texas “home.”

So, when the former state land commissioner says that Texas isn’t a “battleground state” in the upcoming presidential election, it’s time to throw in the towel and ceded the state to Republican nominee Donald J. Trump.

Or is it?


Mauro has signed on to help Hillary Clinton win the presidency. He’s as loyal a Democrat as you’ll find.

I used to know Mauro pretty well. He’d call on us at the Beaumont Enterprise back when he served as land commissioner. He had placed coastal erosion and protection as a top priority of his office, an initiative we appreciated way down yonder on the Gulf Coast.

The last time I saw him was in 1998 as he ran for Texas governor against incumbent George W. Bush. Mauro lost big.

Then he left elected public service.

Even though Mauro believes Texas is still a red state, he is offering a glimmer of hope for Democrats in the form of the man who’s going to lead the GOP ticket this fall.

As he told the San Antonio Express-News: “The prospect of a Clinton race against billionaire Donald Trump — who has offended a variety of groups including Latinos and women with his intemperate comments — will make it easier to get out the Democratic vote, Mauro agreed.

“’With Donald Trump on the ticket, we now have a way to get our voters out,’ he said.”

Therein lies the chance upon which Clinton will depend if she hopes to turn Texas from Republican red to possibly Democratic blue.

The key might lie in the Latino vote. Let’s face it, Trump has managed to deliberately offend that demographic group. He’s called illegal immigrants criminals; he’s declared that an American judge cannot adjudicate a Trump University lawsuit solely because of his Mexican heritage. Trump is going to “build a wall” along our southern border.

Will that bloc of voters turn out? Mauro hopes so, as does Clinton … obviously.

The flicker of cynicism in me makes me wonder if Mauro isn’t low-balling expectations with the hope of pulling a major surprise on Nov. 8.

Hey, he’s a politician, right?

What’s this about ‘drizzle’?

portland rain

I hail from one of America’s most beautiful and livable cities.

Portland, Ore., is my hometown. I was born there, came of age there, was educated there, got married there, brought my two sons into this world there. It was home until 1984.

I get asked all the time, “Where are you from?” I tell them, “Portland, the one in Oregon.” Almost with fail, the other person will say something like, “Oh yeah. Don’t they get a lot of rain?”

I’ll say yes, but then remind them that the rain falls in dribs and drabs. “It usually rains three or four days before you really notice it,” I usually say. Haw, haw, haw!

Well, yesterday it rained in my hometown. It rain a lot during the course of a 24-hour day. The old 24-hour record was .86 of an inch; yesterday it rained 3.3 inches!

OK, for those of you from, say, the Gulf Coast, that’s not all that much. I recall a rainstorm in Beaumont — where we lived for 11 years before moving to Amarillo in January 1995 — that dumped 8 inches of rain in something like three hours.

Three inches of rain during a 24-hour span? In Beaumont? Pfffttt!

It’s a big deal, though, for my family and our many friends in Portland.

I might have to revise my stock answer, though, about my old hometown.