Tag Archives: Hurricane Irma

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

‘Enemy of the people’ are here to serve

“There are three kinds of people who run toward disaster, not away: cops, firemen and reporters.”

The above quotation comes from the Newseum, an exhibit in Washington, D.C., put together years ago by the Poynter Institute, a first-rate umbrella media organization. A young friend of mine — who happens to be a former colleague who’s still in the print journalism business — posted this today on Facebook.

Interesting, don’t you think? I do. Now I shall explain briefly why.

Donald J. Trump spares no opportunity to denigrate those who report the news to the public. The president of the United States came to Texas recently to tour damage done by Hurricane Harvey and decided to say that the “first responders” go places the media won’t go, “unless there’s a good story.”

The idiot in chief misses the point. He whiffs. He fans, man.

The media answer the call to serve the public. No, they don’t necessarily put themselves in harm’s way to the extent that firefighters, police officers and emergency medical personnel do. They are there, however, to report to the public what is happening to our communities and to our fellow Americans.

I said that media reps don’t “necessarily” endanger themselves. That’s not entirely true, of course. Reporters — broadcast, print and photojournalists — do step in to offer aid. They lend comfort to stricken victims. They perform rescues. They act, shall we say, quite heroically.

For the president to continually denigrate these individuals and the organizations they represent is disgraceful on its face. For him to refer to the media as “the enemy of the American people,” furthermore, defames the vast array of professionals who do what they are trained to do: report the news and deliver it to an audience that is thirsting for information.

I am proud to have been a member of a noble craft. What’s more, I continue to swell with pride in the job many of my friends and former colleagues continue to do.

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.

Limbaugh to flee storm that creates climate change ‘panic’

I cannot let this one pass without a brief comment.

Radio talk show host/blowhard Rush Limbaugh is packing up his belongings and heading for safety in the face of Hurricane Irma, which is bearing down on South Florida, where Limbaugh lives.

Why is this even worth anyone’s attention? Limbaugh said on his talk show that the “liberal media” are hyping the dangers of these killer storms to boost their belief in climate change, which I reckon Limbaugh thinks is a hoax — putting him right next to Donald John Trump Sr. in the climate change denier ranks.

I am left to presume that when faced with the grim reality of Mother Nature’s wrath, Limbaugh is going to do the smart thing after all.

Which is to get the heck out of Hurricane Irma’s path..

Do I expect the talk show gasbag to come to his senses? Will he stop blathering the nonsense about climate change?

Umm. Not for an instant.

A-Team steps up to help Harvey victims

These five men belong to an exclusive club, with an exclusivity exceeded only by the former pope’s club.

They are the five men who’ve been elected president of the United States. They have gathered for a joint fundraising effort to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey, which savaged the Texas coast in late August.

They are collaborating on a One America Appeal website that asks Americans to donate what they can to aid those who are stricken by the pummeling delivered by Harvey.

Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have recorded a video that kicks off the fundraising effort. My hunch is that it might be updated as soon as Hurricane Irma finishes delivering more destruction to Florida in the next few days.

But this is bipartisanhip to the max. Two Republicans and three Democrats have locked arms in a call to aid our fellow Americans.

See the video here.

As President Bush 43 noted, “We’ve got more love in Texas than water.”

Considering the amount of rain — 50 inches of it! — that fell on Texas during Harvey’s unwelcome visit, that’s really saying something.

Thank you, Messrs. President.

Time to tap that limitless prayer well … once again

It’s a good thing that humankind’s wellspring of prayer knows no limit. We can pray forever. For eternity. Until the end of time.

I now shall do so yet again, just as I did for our friends and the millions of others along the Texas Gulf Coast as Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey bore down with all its rage and savagery.

The recipients now are those who sit in the path of Hurricane Irma.

Oh … my. What awaits them?

Irma is churning across the Atlantic Ocean. The storm has drawn a bead on South Florida. It’s a Category 5 monster, with sustained winds of about 185 mph. Have you seen the traffic moving north, away from that monster? And have you wondered — as I have — about the few motor vehicles one sees on the news video heading south, toward the storm’s Ground Zero?

We don’t have many friends in South Florida. But I worry specifically about a former colleague and friend. She’s a journalist who lives in Fort Lauderdale. I am going to pray extra hard for her and her loved ones’ well-being.

While all this has occurred here in Texas and what is about to occur along the Florida coast, my hometown of Portland, Ore., is choking from the smoke and ash being deposited from that hideous Eagle Creek fire just east of the city.

The fire started on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge, but it has jumped the big river and is now burning forestland in Washington. I read today that firefighters are beginning finally to contain the blaze — and that the weather might be about to turn in the firefighters’ favor with shifting wind and some rainfall expected over the weekend.

Let it rain! As a friend of mine pleaded, we need to send some of that Texas deluge north to the Pacific Northwest. If only one could do such a thing.

Hurricane Irma is being called the monster of all storm monsters. It’s stronger, windier, larger than any storm in anyone’s memory. Hurricane Andrew in 1992 was a pigmy compared to what Irma is expected to deliver. That’s pretty damn scary, given the damage Andrew brought to South Florida and then to the Louisiana coast.

I guess I should ask those who read this blog to join me in some prayer for our fellow travelers over yonder in Florida and along the Caribbean. Keep praying, too, for those along the Texas coast who are trying to cobble their lives back together. And, yes, please pray that firefighters extinguish the Eagle Creek fire sooner rather than later.

Just remember: Our prayer source is infinite.