Tag Archives: Hurricane Harvey

‘Real disaster’ struck Texas … no kidding!

Texas emergency officials have reported that Hurricane Harvey has killed 88 people.

Eight-eight families have lost loved ones. They are grieving to this day. Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas Gulf Coast twice, first as a Category 3 hurricane and then as a tropical storm.

Watching the storm’s savagery from afar, I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that it constitutes a “major disaster.” The hurricane blasted the Coastal Bend region with killer winds and storm surge. The tropical storm deluged Houston and the Golden Triangle with unprecedented rainfall: 50 inches in one 24-hour span of time, a record for the continental United States of America.

Harvey hit us real hard

I want to mention this because of something that Donald John Trump Sr. told our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico. He seemed to chide them because — at the time of his visit — “only” 16 people had been killed by Hurricane Maria, which destroyed the island’s power grid and its potable water supply.

Yet, the president seemed to suggest that Puerto Rico was “fortunate” to have suffered so little loss of life, unlike what happened to New Orleans in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina stormed ashore.

Well, I guess I ought to remind the president that the Texas coast didn’t suffer the amount of deaths that other storms have brought, but he dare not dismiss the damage from the Coastal Bend to the Golden Triangle as anything short of a major disaster.

Setting the record straight on Trump critiques

I feel the need to mount a brief self-defense.

Some folks on my social media network have accused me of being perpetually negative toward Donald J. Trump. That is not true.

I pledged when Trump became president of the United States that I would praise him when he did something praiseworthy. Yes, those events have been limited, but I believe I have been faithful to my pledge. For instance:

* I praised Trump’s signing of a bill that made it easer for whistleblowers to rat out wrongdoing within the Department of Veterans Affairs.

* Trump drew praise from yours truly for launching the missile strikes against Syria after the Syrian government used chemical weapons on its citizens, killing many civilians.

* The president and the first lady earned kudos from me when they went to Houston after Hurricane Harvey savaged the Texas coast.

* I offered a follow-up comment on the president taking selfies with victims of Harvey’s wrath, showing a glint of humanity.

* I offered a good word for Trump when he went to Las Vegas recently to lend aid and comfort to the victims of that horrific massacre while offering words of support to the first responders who acted so heroically.

One critic of this blog calls me “bitter” over Hillary’s loss to Trump; another critic thinks all “liberals” look for reasons to speak ill of the president, and he thinks I’m one of ’em.

I’m not bitter. Disappointed, yes. As for looking for reasons to criticize Donald Trump, I never have to hunt for them. They do seem to present themselves with stunning regularity.

So … there you have it. The president has earned praise from yours truly. I want to offer more. First, though, he’s got to earn it.

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.

No good news in media? Whoa! Hold on here!

Every now and then I feel the need to rise the defense of my former media colleagues who get pilloried unfairly for the way they report the news.

Today provided me that opportunity. It was in a fascinating venue, to say the least.

Our Sunday school class broke into small-group discussions this morning. We had watched a video that talked about extending blessings and expressing gratitude.

Then one of our table mates asserted that “you never hear” good news in the media. Our friend indicated that the media are concerned only about bad news, about negativity, about tragedy and sadness.

“I have to respectfully disagree with you,” I said.

The context of the gentleman’s assertion was the Hurricane Harvey recovery effort and he sought to make a point that the media don’t report on all the effort being made to help the victims fight back from the misery brought to them by the killer storm.

I couldn’t restrain myself. I noted that the media have reported time and time again about the positive aspects of the storm recovery. How did the public know, for example, about the hundreds of relief volunteers lining up at storm shelters in Houston and along the Gulf Coast? The media reported it!

That’s just one example.

My wife noted correctly media consumers aren’t likely to be drawn to be positive news, but they certainly are drawn to negative coverage. It’s the nature of the proverbial beast.

I spent nearly four decades working in the media. I have challenged readers of the newspapers where I worked who have complained to me about “all the negative news” in the paper to look through any edition of the paper and count the stories that have positive spins and those with negative spins. I’ve always believed they would be surprised to learn that the paper contained many more positive stories than negative ones.

In this Internet Age, one can find links to news organizations’ home pages that guide readers to “positive news.” My wife wondered this morning, “I wonder how many readers actually open those links and read those stories.”

On a whole array of issues covering the complete landscape of reportage, the media continue to do their job with professionalism, compassion and dedication. Do all media representatives live up to that standard? No, but you can find bad actors in every single profession or craft in this country or around the world!

I would argue that the media’s focus on negative vs. positive news isn’t necessarily the issue. The question ought to be asked of the public that consumes this information.

Houses of worship deserve FEMA assistance

I can almost hear the grumbling now: The U.S. Constitution prohibits any relationship between government and religious organization, which means churches shouldn’t be eligible for federal emergency relief assistance.

I’ll respond this way: As Col. Sherman T. Potter would say: Mule muffins!

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton have asked for aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help houses of worship ravaged by the wrath of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey.

Abbott and Paxton wrote in their letter to FEMA: “When Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas, wreaking devastation over a huge swath of the Texas Gulf Coast, scores of churches and houses of worship jumped into action to serve thousands of Americans in their time of need.”

Indeed, those houses of worship also suffered grievously from Harvey’s savagery, just as every other inhabitant along the Texas Gulf Coast.

I get what the U.S. Constitution says about the prohibition against making laws that establish a state religion. This is different. FEMA stands as an agency committed to helping all Americans.

Harvey delivered a killer punch to Texas. It brought substantial misery all along the coast from Corpus Christi to the Golden Triangle — and many miles inland.

Everyone affected by the horrific storm — including houses of worship — deserve assistance from the federal government that aims to serve them.

Trump makes good on Harvey pledge; thank you, Mr. President

Donald Trump’s pledge of $1 million to help the victims of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey had been met with some skepticism.

Critics actually doubted the president would deliver the goods, that he would make the donation he promised to make.

The president has delivered.

He has sent $300,000 each to the Salvation Army and the Red Cross; Samaritans Purse and Reach Out America each got $100,000; the president sent $25,000 each to a number of other charities, including ASPCA, the Humane Society and Habitat for Humanity.

They’re all doing great work to help people — and their pets — recover from the devastation brought by the monster storm that tore across the Texas and Louisiana coasts in late August.

I want to applaud the president for making good on his pledge. Some of that money is going to help my peeps — friends and former colleagues — who live along the Texas Coast and who have been coping with the misery brought by the storm.

We hear on occasion that the best way to help so many people affected by these tragedies is simply to send money. Donald Trump, a man of considerable means, has done the right thing.

Well done, sir.

J.J. Watt now can concentrate fully on his day job

J.J. Watt is a tremendous football player.

He also is a young man with a huge heart. You see, this Houston Texans defensive lineman took it upon himself to help raise money for the stricken residents of his adopted hometown, Houston.

He started out with a goal of raising $200,000 for those who were suffering from the wrath of Hurricane Harvey, which pummeled Houston in late August.

Watt has called a halt to his fundraising effort. He’s raised a cool $37 million.

Watt shows his true stuff.

The National Football League honors one of its players annually with the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. It’s named after the late, great Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton, who routinely devoted much of his off-the-field activity to helping those who needed help.

J.J. Watt has gone not just above and beyond the call to help his fellow Houstonian and other Texas Gulf Coast residents. He has orbited Earth and at least a couple of other planets in providing assistance to those who remain in serious trouble as a result of Harvey’s savagery.

As Sports Illustrated reports: “Watt recently closed the fundraiser after raising an astonishing $37,097,298, which is more than 185 times his initial goal. More than 200,000 people donated, meaning Watt got as many donors as he expected dollars.”

Astonishing, yes?

I believe young J.J. has earned the Payton Man of the Year Award.

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.

Let’s banish partisan stereotypes

There’s a common stereotype kicked around about Republicans and Democrats.

Republicans are hard-hearted; Democrats are squishy do-gooders.

I want to take on the GOP stereotype briefly here by calling attention to something U.S. Rep. Mike McCaul of Texas said about four of his Republican colleagues who voted recently against a package that include $15 billion in aid to victims of Hurricane Harvey.

You’ve heard of Harvey, yes? It blew in twice over the Texas coast, ravaging communities from the Coastal Bend to the Golden Triangle. Four of McCaul’s GOP colleagues voted “no” on the aid package because it sought to raise the debt limit ceiling.

One of the four happens to be my congressman, Mac Thornberry of Clarendon.

Oh, Mac. I mean, really?

Here’s what McCaul said, according to Texas Monthly: “I don’t want to judge them,” McCaul said Monday on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, according to the Austin American-Statesman. “I judge myself and my conscience, and when I have people dying and hurting in my home state, it was my duty and my moral obligation to help them, and I felt that that vote was a vote of conscience to help people in my state and also now in Florida. I think that’s what Americans do, and I think it’s unconscionable to vote against something like that.” 

Actually, he did “judge them.” But that’s all right with me. Judge away, Rep. McCaul.

More from Texas Monthly: “I think having to raise the debt ceiling was the issue, and the fact is that Mick Mulvaney is the director of [the Office of Management and Budget], and he was a Freedom Caucus guy when he served with us, and he told us point blank that you could not appropriate disaster relief if you didn’t raise the debt ceiling, so we were stuck with that choice,” McCaul said. “What do you with that choice? Just stand on principle and vote ‘no’? And I question that principle. Or do you vote to help people back in your home state who are hurting really badly?”

Well said, Rep. McCaul.

So, let’s end the stereotyping.

A word of praise is due two beleaguered governors

I believe it’s time to offer a good word — or three — to two men who’ve been literally and figuratively in the eyes of two monstrous storms.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Rick Scott, both Republicans, have done the jobs they were elected to do, which is to lead their states as they cope with Mother Nature’s unfathomable wrath.

First up was Abbott, who watched along with the rest of us as Hurricane Harvey battered the Coastal Bend region in late August. Harvey wasn’t done with just ripping Corpus Christi and Rockport to shreds; the storm backed out over the Gulf of Mexico and made a second landfall in the Golden Triangle and Houston, flooding that region with a continental U.S. record amount of rain: 50 inches of it, man!

Abbott was seemingly everywhere at once. He called for calm. He received words of encouragement from Donald J. Trump as the president made two trips to Texas to assess the damage, hug some storm victims and pledge the federal government’s full assistance and support.

I also should point out that Houston is Abbott’s hometown, so he’s got some serious skin in the game of restoring the huge city’s infrastructure.

The governor then appointed a “Harvey Czar,” Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp, to coordinate the rebuilding of the state. Sharp, a former Democratic state senator from Victoria — one of the cities hammered during Harvey’s first landfall — has taken on a huge task. I happen to believe he is up to the job.

Next up was Gov. Scott.

Hurricane Irma brought its own form of misery, mayhem and madness to Florida. It struck the southwest coast of that state and them essentially covered the entire state under its storm bands.

Just as Abbott did in Texas, Scott was the voice of calm assurance. He told Floridians to flee the storm, warning them they won’t survive the wind and the storm surge.

From Key West to Jacksonville, south to north, the state was pummeled. Imagine trying to escape Key West, at the westernmost point along the Florida Keys island chain, along the single highway toward the mainland. Where, then, does one go from there, given the mammoth swath of destruction brought by Irma?

Irma has now headed north. It is dissipating, much as Harvey has done. The worst of it remains for the stricken victims. My guess is that Gov. Scott will follow Gov. Abbott’s lead and find an “Irma Czar” to lead the Florida cleanup effort.

This is where political executives earn their pay. This form of leadership isn’t written down anywhere, although they do take oaths that bind them to pledges to protect the constituents they serve.

These men are fulfilling that pledge at this very moment.