If I had been Mayor of Houston in the days leading up to the devastating onslaught of Hurricane Harvey, I would have immediately issued several key orders:
- Respond to the Texas Governor’s words and ask for National Guard units to supervise a mandatory evacuation of the entire city.
- Delegate police, fire department personnel, and some emergency responders to aid the young, the old, and the sickly/crippled to gather belongings and leave flood-prone areas ahead of everyone else.
- Make it clear that any looters, rioters, and assorted thugs looking to cause chaos during the storm would be subject to the most harsh measures available under the law – imply that shootings by law enforcement in certain situations would be ignored.
- Set up large gathering areas and buildings as emergency shelters for those who wind up trapped before evacuation became possible – not sure if it’s within jurisdiction, but try to force rat Joel Osteen to open up his megachurch.
But alas, I did not get to lead Houston through this almost-apocalyptic storm, and my heart aches for those trapped thanks to the idiocy of yet another Vibrant in a position of power.
The first mandatory evacuations of the Houston area were ordered early Monday morning, four days after it was first clear Hurricane Harvey would drown America’s fourth-largest city.
What is now Tropical Storm Harvey dropped more than two feet of rain on Houston in 24 hours before a brief pause Sunday. The storm is expected to move back into the Gulf of Mexico, recharge, and dump more rain onto Houston by Wednesday. Fifty inches of rain are expected in some areas by the end of the week.
Already the storm has killed six people, rendered thousands homeless, and trapped 7 million people, one-quarter of Texas’ population, in a federally designated disaster area.
Officials in Harris and Fort Bend counties told some residents Monday morning to leave ahead of imminent flooding. The Brazos River southwest of Houston is expected to swell to 60 feet and overtop levees. There are fears the levees may fail, in a repeat of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Meanwhile, people living downstream from reservoirs designed to protect downtown Houston from flooding have been told to prepare for the controlled release of water by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to relieve pressure on dams.
When the storm previously known as Hurricane Harvey made landfall Friday, it was the strongest storm to batter the U.S. coast in 13 years and the worst to hit Texas since 1961.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told Houston residents that even in the absence of an official evacuation order, “you need to strongly consider evacuating.”
But there was immediate pushback from Houston officials, who said they knew better.
Harris County’s emergency management spokesperson, Francisco Sanchez, responded to Abbott’s suggestion on Twitter this way:
“Local officials know best. Houston has no evacuation order. In Harris County: very limited to select communities. LOCAL LEADERS KNOW BEST.”
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said on Friday that evacuation was not necessary.
“There are a number of people who are in Hurricane Harvey’s direct path, and evacuation orders have been given to them. But for the Houston area… this is a rainmaker for us. There’s no need for people to be thinking about putting themselves in greater danger.”
Well, Sylvester, I know it’s hard not being able to count past ten or so, but when they talk about getting 30-50 inches of rain in just a few days, they mean GTFO.
As in, get the hell out of dodge or you’re going to drown.
And I know you can’t swim, Sylvester.
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said the safest thing for Houston residents was for them to “stay where you are and ride out the storm… We don’t anticipate any kind of massive evacuation.”
Now it’s too late to leave the city, with almost every roadway in and out closed. Even Sanchez admitted as much on Twitter: “I can keep telling you to stay put, but the reality is YOU CAN’T GET ANYWHERE RIGHT NOW.”
I really feel for some of these people, because they trusted their ethnic leadership in a nice colorblind American way, and were burned so badly that it may prove fatal.
And then will come the looting – it’s actually already started, but they’re just the ones who can get into water without sinking straight away.