Tag Archives: Hurricane Harvey

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.

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.

Remember when Texas was awash in water?

Mother Nature is so darn fickle.

It was just a year ago when Texas was in the midst of a drenching. Rain soaked the landscape from the Panhandle to the Rolling Plains. The snowfall early in 2017 was welcome, too. The first half of the year brought ample moisture, pleasing our farmers and ranchers to no end.

Then came Hurricane Harvey’s one-two punch along the coast; it arrived as a hurricane and pounded the Coastal Bend with storm surge and heavy wind and returned a few days later as a tropical storm and inundated Houston and the Golden Triangle under 50 inches of rain.

The Texas drought was over! Or so the National Weather Service proclaimed.

Hold on a minute. What happened?

It stopped raining in the Panhandle. Around 40 percent of the state is undergoing moderate to severe drought. The Panhandle has been dry for 107 straight days and is approaching an all-time dryness record, which was set in — gulp! — 1902.

As the Texas Tribune reports: The Texas Panhandle has become ground zero in a drought that has crept into much of the state just five months after Hurricane Harvey — including areas that suffered massive flooding during the storm.

When he was governor of Texas, Rick Perry said it would be helpful if Texans would pray for rain. The 2011 drought was a punishing event and the governor sought to look toward the heavens for relief.

It came eventually. Did the prayer help? It’s equally tough to prove or deny categorically. We are left, then, only to believe.

With that, perhaps it’s time we sought help once again from the Almighty.

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.

Heroes are answering the call again

Here we go yet again.

Fires explode across tens of thousands of acres, driven great distances by hurricane-force winds. Homes are incinerated. People’s lives are put in extreme jeopardy. Prized possessions vanish in the extreme heat.

Who answers the call to help? The firefighters, police, emergency medical personnel. That’s who.

It’s happening yet again in southern California. Those dreaded Santa Ana winds are devastating a region and imperiling the lives of millions of Americans.

It should go without saying, but these men and women are the truest heroes imaginable. They run into the firestorm. They fight these unspeakable forces from the air and on the ground. They expose themselves to heat, flame, smoke and utter exhaustion.

And then we have neighbors helping neighbors. They, too, deserve our prayers and good wishes as they all — every one of them — battle to save what they can against forces far stronger than anything they can ever hope to control.

This has been a tough year for so many Americans. The Texas Gulf Coast and Florida are still battling to recover from the savagery of hurricane wind and rain. Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands residents cannot yet get full power and potable water restored after enduring their own misery from yet another storm.

The Santa Rosa fires up north from the inferno that is engulfing southern California at this moment brought their own measure of agony to beleaguered residents and the responders who rushed to their aid.

We should salute them all. We should pray for their safety. We should hope for as speedy a recovery as is humanly possible.

Thank you, heroes. All of you make the rest of us so proud.

This award transcends athletic prowess

I cannot stop smiling when I think of this news item.

J.J. Watt and Jose Altuve have been named Sports Illustrated’s co-Sportspersons of the Year.

Why does this bring a broad smile to my face?

For starters, Watt — a standout All-Pro defensive end for the Houston Texans — hasn’t played a lot of football this calendar year; he has been injured. He did, however, step up in a big way to help Houston’s beleaguered residents recover from the battering delivered by Hurricane Harvey this past summer.

Watt helped raise more than $37 million for hurricane relief. He became the voice and the face of Houston’s still ongoing battle to rebuild after being inundated by record-breaking rainfall that Harvey brought with it.

And then there’s Jose Altuve, the American League’s Most Valuable Player in 2017. He had a stellar season for the World Series champions. However, SI decide to honor both young men because Altuve, too, embodied the “Houston Strong” motto that has helped fuel the city’s recovery from Harvey’s wrath.

As the Associated Press reported: “I think the World Series gave the people a big smile and hope during the tough time they were getting through,” he said. “And I feel really happy that we did it because they really deserved it.”

For those of us who have grieved along with the Texas Gulf Coast residents affected by nature’s intense power, this award sends a heartfelt message that professional athletes — who often receive their share of criticism for their off-the-field antics — are quite capable of exhibiting heart and compassion to those who are struggling.

Indeed, many professional athletes have done much to lend their high profiles to worthy and noble efforts. This award should be seen as a statement of thanks for all the good work that these men and women do when most of aren’t looking.

Sports Illustrated chose well.

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?

Houston, you have reason to cheer

I’ll get this off my chest right off the top: I am not a huge fan of the Houston Astros, who’ve just won the 2017 World Series of baseball.

I am, however, cheering mightily — if quietly at this late hour — for the city of Houston, which has suffered grievously at the hand of Mother Nature.

Hurricane Harvey inundated Houston, along with the Golden Triangle, where my family and I lived for nearly 11 years before we moved to the High Plains of Texas. We have many friends in Beaumont and in Houston.

They’ve been through hell, along with millions of other Gulf Coast residents.

Tonight, though, they are smiling because the Astros won the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Astros have won the first Series in franchise history. That’s a 55-year drought!

Houston needs this win to help lift its spirits. It is still struggling to recover from Hurricane Harvey’s wrath. Tonight, though, my guess is that the daunting recovery seems a little less so as Houston and Gulf Coast baseball fans celebrate the Astros’ biggest win in their history.

How ’bout them Astros!

This year’s World Series is going to carry very special meaning to one of the cities represented in Major League Baseball’s championship event.

I’m talking about Houston, Texas, from where the Houston Astros hail. They won the American League pennant with a stirring seventh-game victory over the New York Yankees.

OK, here goes. I’m going to pull extra hard for the Astros to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Fall Classic.

Houston has been through Hell on Earth since Hurricane Harvey inundated the nation’s fourth-largest city under 50 inches of rain that fell over a 24-hour period. The heartbreak and cataclysmic misery felt throughout Houston defies description.

Indeed, as the Astros and the Dodgers prepare for the World Series, the city is still seeking to reconstruct itself. Its millions of residents are trying to make sense of their lives upended by the deluge.

My heart usually rests with the American League team as it is. I grew up rooting hard for the New York Yankees. I was a Mickey Mantle-worshiping kid. Indeed, I truly enjoyed big-league baseball long before the Age of Free Agency changed the game forever by giving players opportunities to move from team to team — which they have done with stunning regularity for the four-plus decades since free agency became the vogue in MLB.

I used to follow the careers of players who stayed with one team their entire career: Ted Williams (Red Sox), Stan Musial (Cardinals), Roberto Clemente (Pirates), Cal Ripken Jr. (Orioles), Tony Gwynn (Padres).

I long have watched the Astros compete in the National League. Then they switched to the AL, which means the Astros are the first big-league franchise in baseball history to compete for the World Series crown representing both major leagues; they were swept a few years ago by the Chicago White Sox.

Here we are. In the moment. Houston has suffered terribly from the savage beating delivered by nature’s wrath. Its residents are in dire need of something to cheer.

A World Series title by the Houston Astros would be the nearly perfect tonic for a city in deep distress.