Tag Archives: Texas Gulf Coast

Happy Trails, Part 68

It’s done.

The house we called “home” for 21 years has been repainted. The yard outside has been cleaned up. It has been “staged” with knickknacks to dress it up just a bit.

My wife and I — along with Toby the Puppy — are now living in our recreational vehicle. We’re comfortable.

Now the wait begins.

We have sold three houses in our 46-plus years together. The timing wasn’t good for two of them. One of the sales went quickly. The other two, um, not so quick.

We’re now hoping the timing of this marketing endeavor is more in our favor. Our real estate agent tells us it is. Contractors we know say the same thing. The painter who gussied up the inside of our Amarillo house has echoed that sentiment.

Here, though, is the deal. We aren’t anxious in an impatient sort of way. We know the sale will occur in due course. We do not expect under any circumstances to be waiting for an inordinate amount of time. However, we are feeling slightly relieved that our task of getting it ready to sell is done.

We’re feeling oddly serene about it.

This retirement life has allowed us to view matters through an entirely different prism.

We sold our first house because we needed the additional space; my mother was ill and had moved in with us, so we needed to move quickly into a bigger house. The second sale came after we moved from Oregon to Texas in the early 1980s. The third sale occurred after we moved from Beaumont to Amarillo in yet another career move.

We had places to go, things to do. Time was not our friend.

This time we still have one more place to go. There’s no career to chase. Just a granddaughter who we want to watch grow up.

We’ll get there.

Trump declares ‘war’ on California? Hmmm …

California Democrats believe Donald John Trump has declared war on the nation’s most populous state.

They cite the president’s recent actions regarding (a) recreational marijuana use, (b) offshore oil drilling and (c) increased enforcement of immigration laws.

Let’s ponder that for a moment.

I cannot define any president’s motives. People who are  “done wrong” by presidents often accuse them of political retribution.

It was said during the late 1960s that Democratic President Lyndon Johnson hated the Texas Panhandle so much because several counties voted for Republican Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election that he took it out on the region by closing the Amarillo Air Force Base. Many longtime Panhandle residents still hold a grudge against LBJ for that decision.

Now we have the current president — a Republican — imposing policies deemed detrimental to the nation’s most staunchly Democratic state. Democrats say they are certain that Trump is angry enough to punish the state for purely partisan reasons.

I, um, don’t know about that.

Trump vs. California?

The president’s offshore drilling proposals also involve the Gulf Coast, which comprises states that all voted for Trump in 2016. Immigration enforcement? Texas, too, is affected by whatever stricter policies come from the Trump administration.

I suppose one might make a case that California’s recent legalizing of recreational pot use might be construed as some sort of payback. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the federal government is rescinding Obama administration rules softening punishment for those caught using marijuana, which the feds still consider a “controlled substance.”

And while we are talking about President Obama, I will mention that Barack Obama could have ordered one of the decommissioned space shuttles to be displayed in a museum in Texas. Hey, the state is home to the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Neil Armstrong’s first words in July 1969 from the moon’s surface were, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

Texas was shunned. Why? Well, some have said President Obama had no love for Texas, given that the state voted twice for his Republican opponents.

I am not a big fan of this kind of political conspiracy theory.

Still, California Democrats do make a fascinating point. They say Donald Trump is the first president since Dwight Eisenhower to fail to visit California during the first year of his presidency.

Hey, the state qualifies as the world’s fifth-largest economy.

What gives, Mr. President?

Texas coast remains in dire peril

I want to give a shout out to my former neighbors along the Texas Gulf Coast.

They are working diligently to preserve one of the state’s most underappreciated resources: its beaches.

The Texas coast is in peril. It is disappearing before our eyes. It has been disappearing for, oh, many decades. I took an interest in the coast when I moved there in 1984 to take up my post writing editorials for the Beaumont Enterprise.

The Texas Tribune reports that Jefferson County officials are working with a consortium of industry officials, environmental activists, outdoorsmen and women and others to protect the coastal wetlands from drastic erosion.

According to the Tribune: Subsidence, sea level rise and storm surges have all contributed to significant land loss, averaging 4 feet per year along the state’s coastline, according to the Texas General Land Office. In some places, more than 30 feet of shoreline disappears underwater annually.

Todd Merendino, a manager at the conservation-focused group Ducks Unlimited, said sand dunes used to line the shore near the Salt Bayou marsh, forming a crucial buffer between the Gulf of Mexico and the millions of dollars’ worth of industrial infrastructure that lie inland. The dunes are “all gone now,” he said.

“One day, you wake up and you go, ‘Wow, we got a problem,'” Merendino said. “And it’s not just an isolated problem where one swing of the hammer is going to fix it.”

The problem has inspired a coalition of strange bedfellows in Jefferson County. Local leaders, environmental activists and industry representatives are working together to execute a variety of projects — some bankrolled by BP oil spill settlement funds — to rehabilitate the marsh and protect the area’s industrial complex.

The massive deep freeze that is paralyzing the Deep South and the Atlantic Seaboard notwithstanding, the worldwide climate change that produces rising sea levels is a major culprit.

Gulf Coast officials are seeking to build a berm along the coast at the McFaddin Wildlife Refuge. I’ve been there. It’s a jewel along the coast. It’s a haven for all manner of waterfowl. It is a gorgeous part of the coastal region.

It’s also vanishing.

Here is the Tribune story

The Texas General Land Office once placed coastal preservation near the top of its public policy agenda. I am unaware of where that issue stands today. The GLO has welcomed the likes of David Dewhurst, Jerry Patterson and now George P. Bush as land commissioner since Mauro left the office in the late 1990s. I trust they, too, are committed to saving the coastline for future generations of Texans to enjoy.

I am heartened to hear about the hard work being done along the coast. It’s good, though, to bear in mind that Mother Nature can take whatever she wants, whenever she wants.

At least the state is not going to give it away without a fight.

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.

Happy Trails, Part 61

Now, wait just a doggone minute!

My wife, Toby and Puppy and I are holed up at an RV park on what I have described as the Texas Tundra, where it’s plenty cold.

Wait! I awoke this morning to learn that snow is falling down yonder in that so-called “warm climate” area of Texas. Corpus Christi? Snow. The Golden Triangle (where my wife and I raised our sons)? Same thing.

One of our dear friends in Beaumont has referred to it all as the meteorological “weirdometer.” It’s snowing where it ain’t supposed to snow, but it’s still dry where it does snow, she says.

Yeah, that’s weird, kid.

Climate change? Is it really and truly changing? Aww, I won’t go there … this time.

Our retirement journey has taken a strange turn. Our intention is to spend much of the winter pulling our fifth-wheel RV to “sunny and warm” climes relatively close to home while we try to sell the house where we lived for 21 years.

Maybe we’ll make it happen. Eventually. It’s just a good thing we have no immediate plans to hit the road for points south.

We have to wait for the snow to clear out.

Good grief! Weird!

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.

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?

Happy Trails, Part 50

BEND, Ore. — Our retirement journey has taken us to the place where our life together began slightly more than 46 years ago.

My wife and I got married at 2 p.m. on Sept. 4, 1971. Then we jumped into Dad’s car and drove to our honeymoon location in the middle of the Central Oregon Cascade Range.

But this post isn’t about that event. It’s about how I am discovering new things about our incredible journey so many years later.

We came here to visit with a couple members of our family who retired here five years ago. We have shared a lot of memories, some thoughts about current events and some views about what the future holds for all of us.

I mentioned to my cousin that he seems “well-grounded here.” I said he seems to “know the lay of the land.” He answered, “But you know the lay of the land in Amarillo, yes?” Absolutely, I answered, but “we’ve lived there for 22 years.”

We’re preparing the next phase of our life together. I told my cousin that we are preparing now to learn the “lay of the land” in a new community. We don’t yet know the precise location of where we’ll end up. We do know that we’re going to start over. We’re going to make new friends. We’re going to establish our identity among people who at this precise moment are complete strangers to my wife and me.

Does it frighten either of us? Certainly not my wife. She’s transitions well from place to place. Not me, either. I’ve learned already that I am far more adaptable than I ever gave myself credit for being. I discovered it when our young family moved from Oregon to the Texas Gulf Coast in 1984. We had a great run there. Then my wife and I moved up yonder to the Texas Panhandle.

We’re getting ready for yet another big change.

Thus, the challenge awaits.

I’ve long thought that we all need one final major challenge in our life. For me, at least, this one is 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.

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.