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Houston, you have a problem.

… as of course you already know about 1,000 times better than I do. I just had to use that headline.

Is there anybody reading this blog who’s in a position to comment accurately on what’s happening there?

According to media reports, local officials first told Houston residents to STAY PUT. Now they’re ordering evacuations, but …

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.” …

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.”

They’re also reporting on the nine trillion ton cube of water (“two miles high, two miles wide!”), and making Harvey out to be the largest rainfall ever to hit the U.S. — with more to come. Except of course that describing rainfall in terms of cubes or other colorful terms (“fill the Great Salt Lake — twice!”) is meaningless except for impressing the rubes.

How is it … really? How is it for those of you who are there or near there?


  1. Bear
    Bear August 28, 2017 7:11 am

    Thirty years ago, Houston interstates would flood (2 feet deep) during merely thunderstorms. Thirty years of building and paving later, I can’t imagine the issue got any better. One of these years, the urban ratmaze planners need to figure out that they have to use permeable surfaces and extensive drainage systems.

  2. Fred M.
    Fred M. August 28, 2017 9:08 am

    Where to start! First some of my bona fides…two of my volunteer groups are the MRC (Medical Reserve Corp) and CERT (Citizens Emergency Response Team). I have been called out to assist with shelter for the displaced people form the coast (The city of Dallas asked if the Denton County MRC would help to staff the mega shelter operations that they are currently setting up. They plan to shelter up to 5,000 people at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center (Dallas convention Center)). That is just one of the shelters in North Texas. What is very surprising to me is that even with all the advanced warning given by the Weather Service and newscasts, the vast majority of people didn’t even prepare with extra water and food. I believe it’s that attitude “that it won’t happen to me” that got them into trouble.
    While many of the communities west of Houston were successfully evacuated, Houston was told not to evacuate, to stay in place. This was partly as a result of a major storm they had a few years ago when there was a mandatory evacuation and 3 million people decided to leave at once, causing a massive traffic jam and people were flooded out of their vehicles, some even died as a result of the exodus. I believe the Mayor and head of Emergency Preparedness for Harris County did not want a repeat of what happened in the past. Only they waited too long to tell people they should leave; when they finally did all the roads were flooded and people were stuck in their homes. What they should have done from the beginning was to advise those residents who had friends and /or relatives in other parts of Texas, or out of state, to voluntarily leave for those places. The exodus would have been slower, without panic, and more people would have been removed from harms way.
    Houston is one of those cities that doesn’t have planning rules and regulations and as a result commercial, industrial, and residential uses are all mixed up. Streets and drainage were not constructed to take into consideration the large number of storms that frequent the area; I’m talking about heavy, heavy downpours of inches of rain in minutes.Houston is a corrupt city, like most cities their size, and cronyism and favoritism are rampant in awarding capital construction projects. It’s a shell game; monies are diverted from one needed project to those which are the pet projects of Supervisors and Councilmen. There needs to be an investigation of Houston hierarchy and these people should be put in jail. At a minimum the mayor and council should all be removed from office for misfeasance and malfeasance!

    New Orleans–
    New Orleans has still not yet recovered from the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. It’s important to note that much of the central part of New Orleans is below sea level.During that hurricane, levies failed and neighborhoods flooded. The people who suffered the most were the poor people who couldn’t leave if they wanted too. Monies earmarked for levy replacement and strengthening were diverted to other uses, including lining the pockets of the politicians. so when the levies failed the mayor blamed the Corp of Engineers for failure to safeguard the levies. Well not much has been done by New Orleans to protect the people from another disaster. And it’s here! The city is responsible for maintaining the pumps used to remove water from the below sea level areas and pumping it into the channels. Of the dozen or so main generator used to energize the water pumps, the city only had one or two operational in July. It wasn’t until then that they realized they needed to repair the other down generators before the hurricane hit or they would be under water again. The mayor kept assuring the residents that they were working on the problem and are working 24/7 to effect the needed repairs. I believe they had 6 or so generators working to handle 30 or so pumps…not nearly enough. So as water accumulates in those area ravished by Katrina, the poor people will once again suffer as a result of mismanagement and corruption. Remember that Congressman from New Orleans who was charged with bribery and the police found almost $100,000.00 in cash in his home freezer? Think of all the scoundrels who have gotten away with violating they laws.

    What’s sad is that many people have lost everything as a result of Harvey; their homes, their possessions, and their cars. Many don’t have the wherewithal to start over in another part of the state so they will become a taxpayer responsibility for years to come, just like with Katrina. I wish I had the right answers and solutions, but it will take a concerted effort by many for years to come.

  3. Claire
    Claire August 28, 2017 9:41 am

    Thank you, Fred M. — both for the volunteer work you’re doing and for the detailed, insightful, and alas all-too-unsurprising account (political corruption) of what’s going on in Harvey’s path.

  4. larryarnold
    larryarnold August 28, 2017 10:43 am

    I’m a bit closer, an hour west of San Antonio. We’re planning on keeping shelters open through Tuesday, then seeing if we need them through Friday. Red Cross is taking brand new volunteers showing them a two-hour video, and putting them into shelters for OJT.

    CERT is covering some shelter shifts and working the Sheriff’s command trailer, and on standby in case of problems here. (Our Guadalupe River is rising, but not to flood stage yet.)

    Even later in the week, we aren’t expecting to send many evacuees home. Communities on the coast are planning to set up shelters there so people will be close enough to start cleaning up.

    Our Youth Exhibit Center is a pet shelter, housing a bunch of cats and dogs, an exotic lizard, and several horses.

    Folks in the people shelter are reporting that they’ve received information and pictures showing Rockport has been flattened, and extensive wind damage is prevalent in that part of the coast. There’s a lot of “the Interstate isn’t under water, but the on-ramps are.” Many are hearing bad news, with some whose homes are damaged and some who still have homes but their workplace is gone.

    But the evacuees we’re getting are from places where local government was prepared, and will be more responsive in getting communities up and running again.

    Gov. Abbott has suspended the hotel-motel tax for refugees and first responders, and is doing what needs doing to get all levels of relief flowing.

    Whatever you usually think about the big corporations, they’re delivering what’s needed where it needs to go. Our filling stations got special gasoline shipments from across the country, and are operating again. Our local Wal-Mart got a semi full of bottled water, because there were already enough semis headed further south.

    And the leader of our local prepper group says she’s getting lots of “When is your next meeting?” calls.

  5. jc2k
    jc2k August 28, 2017 11:21 am

    My brother is in Katy (adjacent to Houston to the west). They got at least one tornado and some serious lightning, but he reports that he hasn’t seen any serious local flooding. He stopped at the grocery store this morning just ahead of the horde. By the time he was leaving, every register had a line to the back of the store – they’ll likely be cleaned out by now.

  6. Htown
    Htown August 28, 2017 11:33 am

    I live on the west side of Houston. All of the major highways have flooding, and a handful of parts of town are submerged.

    The evacuations are being ordered in certain parts of town (Sienna Plantation, parts of Katy) because of imminent flood risk. My neighborhood hasn’t flooded, and probably won’t, but it’s generally getting worse around town as the rain adds to the buildup.

    The two giant reservoirs that hold floodwater are at risk of overflowing, so the city will began releasing water from them into the already flooded bayous. Homes along those bayous are being asked to evacuate.

    How bad it is varies by what part of town you’re in. But nobody can travel much.

  7. Claire
    Claire August 28, 2017 11:55 am

    Thank you Htown, jc2k, and larryarnold for the eyewitness reports.

    Given the way the storm is stalled, I imagine dams and dikes are becoming more serious concerns by the hour.

  8. Tonerboy
    Tonerboy August 28, 2017 12:50 pm

    As HTown said “depends on where you are. I am 20ish miles NW of downtown Houston and, while in the last 2 days roads were passable, today begins the major flooding of neighborhoods and city streets as we get more rain. I came into the office at 7:30 and the roads were wet, with some large puddles. By 10am or office became an Island and it is slowly creaping up to the doors.
    The local CYfairVFD has been working non-stop rescuing people from neighborhoods around me as the water continues to rise. Most businesses around my area are closed, including stores and fast food places.
    All school systems for miles around Houston have suspended school until NEXT Tuesday. Many local people have stepped up with boats, air boats, high-water trucks, etc. Even people in canoes. The “Cajun Navy” has showed up from Louisiana to provide rescue efforts.
    From what I see, many people waited too long to get to higher ground, some because they just can’t afford to pack up a family and drive to a motel for a few days. Pets become a problem as allot of motels won’t take pets. For those who have no “preps”, it becomes a panic situation when they see the streets fill.
    This will be playing out over the most of this week. Several communities that got flooded out last year are getting hit today.

  9. Claire
    Claire August 28, 2017 2:30 pm

    Tonerboy — Will you and your officemates be okay? Do you have supplies there? Higher floors you can retreat to? Friends with boats who can come rescue you if need be?

    I’ve read about the famous Cajun Navy being on the scene. Houston’s such a huge sprawling place; they seem to have an impossible task.

  10. Tonerboy
    Tonerboy August 28, 2017 3:22 pm

    I actually work for the fire/rescue department. Were now on the list to be pulled from the building.

  11. Claire
    Claire August 28, 2017 6:15 pm

    Oh my, Tonerboy. No wonder you were so dedicated about getting to work come hell or high water.

    M — How depressing (but unsurprising) about the Cajun Navy’s boats and rescue efforts being so abused. The panic of the unprepared — or those who believed their local government when it told them to stay put.

  12. Desertrat
    Desertrat August 29, 2017 8:36 pm

    Texas set up the Interstates for one-way-only travel out of Houston, if an evacuation had been ordered. Maybe the same for US 59 and US 290.

    Rainfall totals:

    Friends in Rockport sent photos of their house; minimal damage. The next-door neighbors, however, lost most of their roof.

    Back in my other life, I studied rainstorms and floods. Texas has had quite a number of 30″ rains in under 36 to 48 hours, but they were generally small in area. Nowhere near the widespread nature of this monstrosity. I only know of one 40-incher, the Thrall-Taylor storm of 1922, but again, it was limited in area.

    FirstWife said that Austin’s 10″ was slow and steady; no high-intensity “quickies”. So, no problems there.

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