Tag Archives: Houston flooding

J.J. Watt: early favorite for NFL Man of the Year

They played a professional football game in Houston today. The Houston Texans took the field against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

But this blog post isn’t about the game. It’s about the entrance of a single player.

The Texans’ defensive end J.J. Watt  entered the field carrying a Texas flag and he was greeted by a thunderous ovation. You see, Watt has been raising millions of dollars to aid in the recovery of his adopted hometown, Houston, which was inundated by floodwaters brought ashore by Hurricane Harvey.

I am not sure how much Watt has helped raise so far, but I believe it’s somewhere a good bit north of $15 million. He started the fundraising effort hoping to raise about $250,000.

There’s no stopping this young man. The Houston fans showed their appreciation the best way they could today. They offered full-throated cheers to a young man with a heart as big as the city and state that are saluting his effort to help Houston.

It remains my fond hope that as the Texans hit the road to other NFL cities that fans loyal to their home teams salute this young man appropriately, too.

I have a strong hunch that when the NFL hands out its post-season awards, J.J. Watt stands a good chance of being named the league’s Walter Payton Man of the Year.

He’s earned it.

Houston, we have a development problem

There will be time — in due course — to start thinking seriously about the future of a city that’s been devastated by Mother Nature’s awesome power.

It is beginning already, though.

Houston is still bailing out and digging out from impact of Hurricane Harvey. Residents remain displaced. Many thousands of Houstonians are grieving and wondering where they go from here, what they’ll do to rebuild their shattered lives.

Meanwhile, city officials have begun to start asking: What have we done to exacerbate this tragedy?

Houston is known as a city with limited urban planning guidelines. Over many years the city has quite willingly paved over grasslands and wetlands with pavement. They’ve built highways and bridges, paved streets, laid down parking lots, erected skyscrapers. Residential neighborhoods have sprung up where alligators once swam.

The result of all that has helped produced what we’ve witnessed in recent days. Indeed, Harvey’s savagery isn’t the first such incident to bedevil Houston. Hurricanes Ike and Rita, anyone? Hurricanes Carla and Alicia? Yes, we remember those events, too.

What does Houston do? How does the city cope with the potential for future disaster? I fear it’s too late. The city isn’t going to bust up the asphalt. It’s not going to knock down those buildings and bridges. It won’t shoo away the millions of residents who have flocked to the city.

I suppose the city is now left to ponder ways to control more tightly developers’ designs on future construction. I remember some discussion after Hurricane Katrina laid siege to New Orleans in August 2005 about how the city should rebuild whole neighborhoods washed away. There was some talk of turning former Ninth Ward neighborhoods into wetlands and relocating the residents who fled the storm’s fury.

Houston might need to ponder a similar response to recovering from the damage and destruction delivered by Hurricane Harvey.

A word of caution: Don’t dawdle, Houston. The changing climate might well produce another killer storm soon. I don’t need to remind our friends along the Gulf Coast — but I will anyway — that we are now entering the peak of the 2017 hurricane season.

Tragedy creates plenty of perspective

I’ve been spending the past few days trying to account for the status of some dear friends living in the Houston and Golden Triangle regions of the Texas Gulf Coast.

I can report that most of them are dry. They aren’t flooded. One friend’s home in Lumberton, just north of Beaumont, took about 5 feet of water. I don’t know where he and his family are staying at the moment.

Not all of my friends are accounted for, but I have faith they are still with us.

But one person with whom I worked in Beaumont offered a fascinating message to me that reminds me of how one is able to place their own suffering into its appropriate context.

She reports that she is “dry but sweaty.” She and her husband have no electricity in their suburban Beaumont home. They didn’t take any water, for which I’m certain they are grateful.

She also notes now “incredibly fortunate” she and her husband feel, given the level of suffering that so many thousands of their Golden Triangle neighbors are enduring from the storm that savaged that region.

My family is a good distance from what one could call Ground Zero of Hurricane Harvey’s wrath. One of our sons lives with his family just north of Dallas; another son lives in Amarillo, as do my wife and I, as well as my mother-in-law. We’re all watching this tragedy unfold from some distance.

I wonder, still, how I might cope with no way to cool myself in the oppressive heat and humidity that is normal for the Golden Triangle this time of year. We know about it well. We lived there for nearly 11 years.

I know, though, that my friend’s faith is strong. So is her resolve. Moreover, she also understands that what she is enduring pales in comparison to the heartache that has gripped so many thousands of others just down her street, around the corner.

Tragedy has this way of reminding us not just of what we have lost, but also of what we retain.

I’m continuing to pray for our friends.

Harvey getting set to deliver a second sucker punch

Here it comes … again!

Hurricane Harvey has been “downgraded” to a tropical storm. The beast delivered its havoc to Houston and is still punishing the nation’s fourth-largest city.

Then it decided to back up, move out over the Gulf of Mexico and pick up some more moisture from the overheated body of water. Now the storm is coming back ashore. Where it makes landfall again remains mostly a guess. It’ll be somewhere east of Houston. Possibly near Beaumont, where my family and I lived for nearly 11 years before moving to higher ground in the Texas Panhandle.

What are we to glean from this mayhem, this madness, the utter terror of our friends, neighbors and loved ones having to endure this wrath?

I am going to maintain faith that our fellow Texans are going to show the kind of strength and resolve they usually exhibit in times of terrible distress.

When the acclaimed PBS series on the Dust Bowl aired a couple of years ago, I learned a lot about the steel that runs up the spines of Texas Panhandle residents who survived that terrible time. The series, titled “The Dust Bowl,” recounted the horror that those survivors felt as they watched the ground beneath them blow away. They were children then. Now, quite obviously, they are much older — but their recollections were vivid and so very moving.

Through it all many of them stayed. They fought through the disaster. They rebuilt their lives.

Those earlier Texans have produced generations just like them today and those among us in real time in this moment are enduring another tragedy, brought by another form of nature’s rage.

The storm named Harvey is coming back in. It’s going to do more damage. That’s the terrible news. There can be no “blessing” to derive from this.

However, I anticipate that even after Harvey finishes its terrible task that our Gulf Coast brethren will find a way to rebuild their shattered lives.

God bless them all.

When, oh when will the water recede … and to where?

I’m having what I guess you could call a 9/11 Moment as I watch the heartache associated with the cataclysmic flooding throughout Southeast Texas.

Over the years since 9/11 it has become harder for me to watch the Twin Towers collapse. Or to watch the jetliners fly into them.

It’s taken a fraction of the time for me to shudder at the sight of the flooding in Houston and in Beaumont. You see, I have this connection with that part of the world.

My family and I moved to Beaumont in 1984. I had taken a job as an editorial writer at the Beaumont Enterprise and my boss at the time me I would be sitting “in the catbird seat” in the midst of a great “news town.” He was right.

We stayed there for nearly 11 years. My sons graduated from high school and went off to college before my wife and I pulled up stakes and left Beaumont for Amarillo in early 1995.

I learned a couple of things about the Texas Gulf Coast rather quickly.

One is that it rains a lot there. We occasionally would get about 6 or 7 inches of rain in the span of about, oh, an hour. It would produce local flooding. Storm ditches would fill up and the water would run into ponds built for the purpose of holding rain water.

I also learned that the water table along the Gulf Coast is not far at all below Earth’s surface. I don’t know the precise measurement, but I became aware that it takes virtually no time at all for water to fill the spongy, goopy soil throughout the region.

All that is worth mentioning as we watch the horror that continues to play out in Houston and in the Golden Triangle today. Those folks are receiving epic amounts of water. Fifty inches are expected to fall on the region by the middle of the week.

I look at the video on TV and wonder: Where in the world is that water going to go? How long will it take to recede? How does that much rain water recede in a region that (a) sits only about 30 feet above sea level and (b) is as flat as it can possibly get? The Gulf of Mexico only is about 20 miles south of Beaumont; I believe Houston is a little farther inland, but not much.

The misery that is unfolding down yonder is far from over … and it is shattering my heart in a way it hasn’t been broken since 9/11.