Thinking of Houston

Let me begin with a simple hope that all our friends and readers in the path of Harvey are all right. The images coming from the impacted areas have been both inspiring and terrifying. There will be time later to dissect whether enough was done to prepare the area for what would happen. For now, if you are the praying kind, offer up a prayer or three for everyone impacted by the storm. If you have the means, donations are being accepted as well. Right now, approximately 8,000 people are sheltering in the Houston Convention Center — which had been set up for 5,000 — and more are showing up as I type this. Patients have been evacuated from the hospitals. Here in the DFW area, shelters have been set up as well and are filling up. There are any number of people needing help now and who will need it in the future.

As a writer, part of my brain looks at what is happening and files it away for later inspiration. There has been a little bit of almost anything a writer could hope for in the aftermath of Harvey. Videos of rescues by helicopter and boats, by neighbors and strangers who are pitching together to do the right thing. There are examples of politicians cutting through the red tape so doctors from out-of-state can come here and legally practice medicine and assist with those needing medical attention. Other regulations concerning repair and building of utilities have been waved so the companies can move in as soon as the flood waters recede to start rebuilding. We have example after example of how local and state official should — and should not — respond in a disaster.

But we also have examples of some of the, shall we say, less smart behavior we, as humans, tend to exhibit in the face of danger. There is a video of a fellow trying to swim down a freeway in Houston. He swam for a ways and then turned around, only to be greeted by a Houston police officer who basically told him not to be so stupid again. Then there was the guy who, despite everyone lining the freeway and yelling for him to stop, the water was too deep, who was determined to drive his pickup through the high water. When his truck started floating — yes, floating — down the highway, he climbed out the window. Instead of swimming to safety, he moved to the font of the truck and tried to push it backwards. When that didn’t work, he still didn’t swim to safety. He returned to the bar of his truck to save his glasses. He tried to save stuff that had been in the bed of his truck. His truck that was now in 10 to 12 feet of water. Yes, he did finally decide to get out of the water but he could have died in an attempt to save a truck that he never should have driven into the water in the first place.

All this is a roundabout way of saying there is inspiration around us all the time but, if you want to see just about any and every aspect of the human condition, look at how we react during a crisis. Most of all, keep all the communities impacted by Harvey and its aftermath in your thoughts. It is going to take months, if not years, for some of the communities to recover.

46 thoughts on “Thinking of Houston

  1. There are plenty of things for any of us writers to be inspired by, and then there are … those whose purpose in the writing is to be the horrible warning.

    Because sometimes, I gather there are people out there who seem to be on this planet simply to be the horrible warnings.

    Hoping the best for Houston.

    1. I agree. There are some I swear could be examples of Darwinism in action and yet there are more, thankfully, that show the best of the human condition. Too often, we tend to forget that and it takes a tragedy like Harvey to remind us. Funny how the media doesn’t bother to show us the good until something like Harvey happens and then it falls over itself to show us all the good that happens amid the bad.

  2. Ironically, my daughter and I had plotted out a hurricane emergency for the next Luna City book – we do them in real time as it were, and tie events to the calendar, and well … the end of summer is the start of the Gulf hurricane season. So we had a twist of plot involving an influx of evacuees coming up from the coast and being stranded in Luna City … and right on cue, enter Hurricane Harvey, stage left…

    1. After several floods, a late aunt and uncle elevated their house high enough to survive the next one, and turned the area beneath into storage.

      Back during Alberto in 1994, I remember seeing someone hook a tractor to their mobile home and tow it to high ground. Helped some friends move to higher ground that weekend..

      1. Good on ’em! Around here they take the axles out from underneath and cut the tongue off with a torch…

  3. This is the second time I’ve seen this. Tropical Storm Alberto, 1994, stalled over the Alabama-Georgia line and caused flooding, though there wasn’t as much storm damage and the rain might not have been quite as much as Houston is suffering through. My wife last night surprised me with “That can’t happen here, can it?” and I explained it certainly could. All it takes is a weather system that can make these things stall out.

    1. I remember that one. One of my classmates at college couldn’t work in the peach orchards because the water was deeper than she was tall. So the tallest men were going among the trees with boxes on their heads, picking what fruit could be salvaged. It was neck deep on some of them.

    2. It can happen just about anywhere. I went through the “100 year flood” in 1980. Whole sections of metro Phoenix and Tucson essentially cut off (one older, narrower bridge each). My sister being lifted out of her house by National Guard chopper.

      Interesting thing is that the alarmists for the MSM have declared five “100 year floods” since that time, one just last year. Right… Apparently none of them, including 1980, have surpassed the 1862 flood – when Confederate Army scouts were positive they were in sight of the Pacific Ocean when they weren’t even close to the Colorado River.

      1. Went the wrong way. Again.

        During Rita, in a panic, he packed his wife, two teenagers, his mother and a pregnant dachshund into his SUV and drove straight into the path of the hurricane. Spent the night in a hotel lobby–howling wind, debris breaking a window, the works. Here? A few sprinkles.

        Now? After calling us in a panic three times a day about when “we” ought to evacuate, he gave up and packed his (now)90 year old mother into his car and drove _toward_ Houston and closer to the storm track. Got about ten miles, spent the night in a hotel lobby, can’t get home, called us to feed and water all his animals. Eight or nine outside cats. Four dogs outside. A darling Great Pyrenees puppy locked in one bathroom. A cat with two tiny kittens locked in another. Canaries in a big outdoor avery. Chickens, ducks, peacocks . . . Yes. He left them all and drove off _toward_ the worst of the storm.

        You can’t makeup characters like this, no one would find them credible.

        1. *** busily taking notes***
          I have a hurricane evacuation sequence in the next Luna City installment. My daughter has started telling people, “Be careful what you say to us — it might wind up in the next book!”

          1. Construction in a certain location has been very busy. Got real quiet as the storm was coming. Speculation is that they took time off this really big project because trucks and stuff are going to be at a premium in the vicinity of Houston, and that they can drive over there.

            That said, this isn’t something I’ve seen every part of with my own eyes, and I haven’t talked to the people in charge either. And I’ve been too busy to pay much attention.

            There’s another big construction project in the same town, and I know it is still going. However the people paying for that have more money, the schedule is probably tighter, and less of the stuff involved could be shifted to Houston.

          2. Well, you can’t have his wife divorcing him and leaving her 19 (not a typo) dachshunds (multiple pregnant females) behind.

            Okay, she kept coming back to feed them and found them all homes. But I’m not mentioning that in the book I use it in. Honest, I wouldn’t believe they exist, but, there they are.

        2. Alberto ’94 flooded I-75 and I-16 in Macon, Georgia, forcing traffic to reroute over two-lane roads. It was still the pre-GPS era, but it was absolutely incredible how many blindly followed the tail lights and didn’t pull over to regroup and find a less congested route. Some of it meant driving way east, but it still would have been faster than what happened on some two-lane roads.

          This is why I always carry paper maps in addition to a GPS, and more than once have had t pull over and regroup after an unexpected detour.

        3. Wow. I guess I can’t imagine stupid very well. Duct tape boat is genius compared to that.

          And the guy ran off and left his whole farm? You are a saint, Pam.

          1. He feeds our horse when we go on vacation, so however mind boggling, we owe him more than a few emergency feedings. Quite apart from liking his dogs. And don’t tell my husband how close I was to bringing the puppy home. Just, you know, for a few days.

        4. Time to take his keys away when he gets back. I’m seeing some worries now about a developing tropical storm – and weather patterns that will pull it towards the Gulf again.

          1. I know. They’d better get food shipments into stores PDQ, so we can stock back up. The local rivers are starting to crest and will be going down soon. Well, here on the west side of Houston they be dropping by Friday night, The Texas/Louisiana border is still getting torrential rains. The sheer persistence of this storm is mind boggling.

  4. It’s very heartening to see Americans once again being much better than their media depictions might suggest.

    1. They did after Hurricane Katrina, too, but the early reporting was enough to get my husband to decide the news was a bunch of liars. Remember the “rape squads in the Superdome” stories? You might not, because they buried those fast when it turned out that the problems in the Superdome were no worse than you might expect from an overloaded emergency shelter. But they did report on the total breakdown of law & order there and possibly scared people away who would have needed that assistance badly.

  5. It’s a great example of people working around government until the stage is reached when government is useful again. And of sideways government – for a while Texas Parks and Wildlife was helping coordinate boats, directing people from out of the immediate region to where the need was greatest, then the locals took over.

  6. And MSNBC is complaining that Trump visiting Houston this early may be diverting finds from disaster relief efforts.

    We all know how they would react if he waited two days..

      1. On the news today they are complaining about Melania’s shoes during the Houston visit. For real. Her fricking shoes.

        1. It’s before Labor Day, so white is just fine. They want to have clothing standards, they need to learn what the standards are. White shoes go with everything between Easter and Labor Day, black go with everything between Labor Day and Easter. It’s not hard!

          *Adds appropriate ladies’ shoe colors to the list of things her five-year-old knows more about than journalists.*

      2. In Trump’s case though, I’m less worried about the funding, oddly enough.

        And yeah, people expect it. And there are certain duties and obligations expected of the man in office. This is one of them.

        I just shake my head and reach for the snacks at the blatant hypocrisy of the media at this point.

        1. The visit by the POTUS does not fill sandbags, pluck people off of their roofs, or hand out blankets at the shelter. What it does do – when it is not just for the optics – is give the people who are doing that work an “attaboy!” – and make the bureaucrats in their warm dry offices nervous that he is paying attention to what they are doing or not doing.

          A swarm of “journalists” does not fill sandbags, pluck people off of their roofs, or hand out blankets at the shelter. What it does do – every time – is get in the way of people doing that work, criticizing every move they make – and, these days, does not make the bureaucrats in their warm dry offices nervous at all, because it is their bosses under the microscope, not them.

          1. I don’t know if it gives an “attaboy” or not. We had a crew at one disaster a president visited, and they never mentioned it at all. When the news crews show up, most of ours don’t care to be on TV, and, in general, don’t think much of them.

            I know of one lineman who loves to tell the story about a certain cable network, who I now may have confused with another, showing up and claiming how high the water was at a certain location. Except he’d just been through there, and it was only inches deep at the time. It did get much higher, but it wasn’t during the report. Then there’s that news reporter sitting in a boat, only to have some people wade past in water below their knees.

            1. Have to take your word for it. Many people don’t like anyone running around that isn’t actually doing something. (Although I don’t think the POTUS, whichever one it was, was probably anywhere around your crew – they mostly tour the relief points.)

              We should remember those like you too, though – getting the lines back up when the weather is very uncertain. Big storms always have a lot of little storms (including twisters) along for the ride.

  7. “But we also have examples of some of the, shall we say, less smart behavior we, as humans, tend to exhibit in the face of danger.”

    I never fail to be amazed by the number of people out there who go through life with no f-ing clue. There’s going to be a hurricane, and flooding. Do people not plan for this shit? Most seem to, but some don’t.

    Some of those who don’t are in positions of authority. Have y’all seen the picture of the old folks home with the old ladies up to their chests in water? That really happened, apparently.

    Its stuff like that which makes me a believer in smaller government. A stupid man alone will only kill himself and maybe his own family. A stupid man in government can kill -my- family.

    1. The guy with the truck had a bad, BAD, case of tunnel-vision-thinking. Lucky he didn’t die of it.

        1. It goes between two extremes, and if you don’t have experience in something, it’s easy to gravitate either way.

          At one end is the “Naw, it ain’t gonna happen,” and then get caught flat-footed. The other is “It’s gonna be bad; it’s gonna be bad,” then end up with a bunch of skeptical people when it doesn’t pan out.

          We’re fortunate in that we can gravitate toward the latter, and count our blessings when it doesn’t get as bad as predicted. But where you’re evacuating people, you run the risk of people ignoring the next one and winding up dead.

          1. Atlanta has just such a relationship with snow and/or ice storms.

            They blindside us.

            Gov and private sector make well-thought plans for the next one.

            The next *two* are squibs or outright false alarms. Gov and private sector wipe egg off faces and shelve plans.

            Then the next one comes and people die. Who gets blamed?


            1. Georgia also seems to have urinating contests during disasters. Years ago there was a clash between Savannah and the State of Georgia over when to certify the return of evacuees. That time Savannah dodged the bullet, but when the city said evacuees could return, the state said “No,” and the city said “We were the ones to tell them when to evacuate, and we say they can come back.”

              Last year, IIRC, when they had another evacuation, the city gave the all clear for return, but a couple of Georgia State Patrolmen refused to allow entry, even after a couple of deputies came out and said they could return. The GSP officers refused until they heard word from the state. And so it goes.

              It trickles down. A Georgia lineman told me of a “Three month old deputy” who waved off extra trucks requested by a fire chief, and then threatened the fire chief with arrest.

  8. Your link also mentioned a Great Pyrenees puppy that was locked in a bathroom. Do you know if he needs a home?

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