Tag Archives: Hurricane Harvey

No ‘sightseeing’ here, Mr. POTUS

This picture showed up on my Facebook news feed. It’s a page from today’s Houston Chronicle, the newspaper that has told the compelling, heartbreaking and heroic stories stemming from the Hurricane Harvey onslaught.

There’s a point here, of course. The headline refers to that idiotic comment the other day from Donald Trump, who suggested that Texans were out looking at the storm in their boats, causing the rash of water rescues rescues from first responders.

He was on that conference call with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials when he blurted out yet another thoughtless comment, this time about Hurricane Harvey.

The storm dumped 50 inches of rain on the Gulf Coast in the span of 24 hours this past summer. Gawkers? Rubberneckers? Is that what Trump said was occurring out there in the midst of the storm?

The Houston Chronicle has offered the perfect response.

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.

Happy Trails, Part 107: When to take a look back?

AMARILLO, Texas — It’s been three months since we signed the papers turning over possession of a house we called “home” for 21-plus years to someone else.

I haven’t yet cast eyes on the place. Neither has my wife.

Why am I bringing this up? Retirement has brought a lot of emotion bubbling up. Letting go of a structure we had built in the fall and early winter of 1996 has presented me with a bit of dilemma.

You see, I have had no trouble looking back at previous homesteads. My wife and I recently took a quick gander at our former residence in Beaumont. I was pleased to see it so well-maintained, given that I was afraid the old street had been inundated by Hurricane Harvey in the summer of 2017. It didn’t happen … thank goodness!

When we have returned to Oregon on occasion over the years, I have driven by our former houses. I have seen the house where I lived from 1962 until 1971, taking note of how the old neighborhood has, um, “matured” over the years. I even have looked at the little ol’ house where I lived from 1953 until we moved to the ‘burbs in ’62.

There’s more: We’ve even cast wistful gazes at the houses where our grandparents lived, and where my sisters and I spent lots of time as children.

I haven’t yet been able to look at the Amarillo house. Maybe one day. Perhaps that time will arrive when we have spent a bit more time in our new digs in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.

We have been in and out of Amarillo for the past several weeks, taking care of personal matters, driving around town to run this and that errand. Only once have we driven anywhere close to the old house in the southwest quadrant of the city.

I don’t think my feelings are unique. When I get around to looking back at the old place, well, maybe that will be the next rite of passage toward full-fledged retirement.

He can’t stop giving back

J.J. Watt just can’t get enough of doing good for others.

First, the stalwart Houston Texans defensive end went about raising money for Hurricane Harvey victims this past summer. He set the bar at about a quarter-million dollars; he ended up raising tens of millions of dollars for those who suffered grievous loss from the deluge that inundated Houston and the Golden Triangle.

Then there’s more.

Watt is going to pay for the funerals of the 10 people killed in the Santa Fe High School massacre that erupted the other day. Of the victims, eight of them were students; the other two were teachers.

J.J. Watt isn’t content with just letting his immense athletic talent pave the way toward notoriety. Oh, no. He exhibits his huge heart and compassion for others who are in pain.

Bless this generous young man.

This place is for the birds

HIGH ISLAND, Texas — I’m officially mad at myself.

My wife, sons and I lived on the Texas Gulf Coast for nearly 11 years and we never visited this place. It’s the Smith Oaks Rookery on High Island, about 40 or so miles from Beaumont.

It also is one of the premier “birding” sites on Earth. That’s right. One of the best in the world! People come from all across the world to see this place.

My wife and I visited this oasis with friends; a couple of our friends visited briefly with a visitor from Maine, who happened the know the species of a particular bird that caught our eye. She’d never been to Smith Oaks, but knew the bird’s identity.

The rookery stood in the path of Hurricane Harvey this past summer. It suffered some damage. The fresh water turned brackish because of the storm surge that swept ashore from the Gulf of Mexico.

On this day, though, it was full of birds. Herons, spoonbills, cormorants, egrets. They were everywhere. This happens to be the nesting period. Birds were building nests. Some were tending to and feeding young birds.

What a wonderful sight to see!

If you look at the picture I posted with this brief item, you’ll notice an alligator at the water’s edge. The beast looked to be about a 10-footer. He was one of two prehistoric creatures we saw lounging in the 70-degree sunshine.

The rookery is sponsored by the Houston Audoban Society. You pay a small fee to enter it. I’ll just say this right here: It is money well spent.

I need to ask myself now: Why in the world did we never visit this place when we lived just down the road?

I suppose it isn’t that uncommon to take for granted nature’s treasures that sit just beyond our doorstep. So, we had to drive here all the way from the other corner of this huge state to take in a natural wonder.

Harvey’s impact will be felt for a long time

BEAUMONT, Texas — Here’s the buzz my wife and I are getting while visiting friends in the Golden Triangle: Hurricane Harvey left a lasting — but not indelible — impact on this region.

We’re hearing that many neighborhoods remain under repair. The Northwest Forest neighborhood west of the city is “like a Third World country.” Streets are under repair. We noticed huge slash piles of brush stacked up under tall timber along Interstate 10 as we entered the city.

But the city will fight its way back.

Hurricane Harvey stormed ashore for a second blast in the late summer of 2017, dumping a record-setting 50 inches of rain in a 24-hour span of time. It deluged the city water system. Two of our friends told us of being without water for more than a week, while the electricity was restored in short order.

“Riverfront Park is destroyed,” we were told. The park used to be a site of outdoor activities next to the Civic Center along the Neches River. It’s now gone.

We all have read about huge fundraising efforts ongoing to assist the folks in Houston, about 80 miles west of the Golden Triangle on Interstate 10. Houston Texas all-pro defensive end J.J. Watt has become an iconic figure in the Bayou City for his work raising more than a quarter-billion dollars to assist in the repair of Texas’s largest city.

Yes, Houston needs help. The state and the federal government have stepped up to lend disaster assistance.

The pain stretches a good bit beyond the big city. Beaumont is feeling the pain brought by the storm’s rage.

I have no doubt that our friends in the Golden Triangle will recover. They will triumph. They will get on with their lives.

I’m betting, though, they’ll never listen again to the sound of rain with the same serenity it used to bring.

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.

Happy Trails, Part 92

LOCKHART STATE PARK, Texas — We are glass half-full types of people. My wife and I have tried to live that way for our entire life together, which totals more than 46 years.

Thus, it is with that optimistic outlook that we ponder what could have been a catastrophe, but which turned out to be only a minor hiccup on our retirement journey.

We ventured to San Angelo State Park a few days ago. As we approached the park, about 30 miles from our first night’s destination, we made a sharp left turn across the median on U.S. 87.

The steering wheel locked up. The brakes weren’t nearly as responsive as they should have been. We limped across the highway and onto the parking lot of a state rest area.

I noticed at that moment the water temperature gauge on the dashboard was registering “very hot.” We managed to get the truck — with our fifth wheel in tow — to a spot out of the way, next to a curb.

We spent the night in the rest area. We got the truck repaired the next day and proceeded to the state park.

Why is this good news? Because what happened to us about 30 miles from our destination could have happened in the middle of nowhere. It could have happened, say, in the middle of the Eisenhower Tunnel just west of Denver; it could have occurred on the bridge crossing Lake Pontchartrain west of New Orleans; it could have happened in the middle of the Nevada desert, or in some remote area of southern California.

That it happened at a well-lit rest area in West Texas just a few miles northwest of a significant city — San Angelo — sent us a clear message that we should count our blessings.

We do that. Every day. We are blessed with sons who make us proud; our health is good; we sold our house in a timely fashion; we are enjoying our freedom and mobility.

Our pickup difficulty only slowed us part of a single day. We have proceeded to Central Texas. We will head soon to the Golden Triangle to catch up with friends who were bedeviled by nature’s fury, which came to them this past summer in the form of Hurricane Harvey. Then we’ll head for the Metroplex to visit with our granddaughter, her brothers and her parents.

It could have gone a lot worse than it did on that first day of our latest sojourn.

We must be living right.

Texas GOP is at war with itself

I never have thought of Greg Abbott of being such an intraparty back-stabber.

But what the heck. The Texas governor is now in open political warfare with a fellow Republican, state Rep. Sarah Davis. He has been running attack ads against Davis, who in turn said she cannot commit to voting for Abbott in the upcoming March Republican primary.

Davis chairs the Texas House General Investigating and Ethics Committee. She criticized Abbott for failing to consider ethics reform in a special session this past summer. Abbott took it personally, I guess.

So he’s been campaigning against Davis, R-West University Place.

This is a rare event. Governors are not known generally as waging battle against politicians from their party. Abbott has tossed that tradition aside by endorsing Davis’s opponent in the GOP primary, Susanna Dokupil.

The anti-Davis ads accuse the incumbent lawmaker of opposing Hurricane Harvey relief and supporting late-term abortions.

This is brutal, yes?

I was out of daily journalism when Greg Abbott was first elected governor. I knew him when he was running for the Texas Supreme Court and later for state attorney general. I always found him to be a cordial gentleman.

He is showing another side of himself as he runs for re-election as governor. To be candid, it’s rather unflattering.

Always time to thank first responders

Not quite five years ago I posted an item on High Plains Blogger that thanked the first responders who helped Amarillo cope with a massive snow storm.

This year, we haven’t been through that particular form of discomfort. Our first responders haven’t been pulling motorists out of snow drifts, or worked day and night to restore electrical power.

Others, though, have been busy fighting grassfires that erupt in the wind and bone-dry conditions that have signaled the return of severe drought conditions to the Texas Panhandle.

A special word of thanks goes out today

I’ve noted before in this venue about how we should always appreciate the work of those who answer the call when times get tough.

The Texas Gulf Coast has been through an epic deluge created by Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey. The 2017 hurricane season also brought destruction and misery to Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. California residents — from Napa Valley to Santa Barbara — have been victimized by raging flames. Americans throughout the Upper Midwest to the East Coast this winter have been battling unspeakable cold, wind, snow and sleet. So has the Deep South, which has seen record cold.

They, too, depend on those first responders to lend aid, comfort and support.

I am absolutely certain they appreciate all the hard work that goes into their protection.

This is my way of offering yet another word of thanks to the men and women who sign on to rush toward hazard — even danger — on our behalf.

I am grateful to have been spared the monstrous snow event that we’ve witnessed during our 23 years on the Texas High Plains. Yes, I want some moisture to fall from the sky — just not in the amount that poured forth in February 2013.

Our firefighters, police officers, utility crews, emergency medical personnel deserve our thanks always. We need not wait for disaster to visit for us to express appreciation for all that they do.