Intersection of Concerns

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I’ve been worried about the weather here in Texas. For those that don’t know, I’m in north Austin, and we’ve been getting rain very steadily for the past two days because of Hurricane Harvey. I haven’t seen any evidence of neighborhood flooding, but I’ve also been indoors all weekend and won’t go out on the porch when the rain is coming down hard, so it’s entirely possible I missed it. There’s a storm drain just a few feet from my front step, and while it’s raining heavily there’s often a river leading down the curb to it. It drains quickly, though, so unless it’s something truly catastrophic that river of rain is a short-lived one.

I’m more worried for my friends in other parts of the state. I know a few people down in Corpus Christi, near where Harvey made landfall, and I believe that they all were under mandatory evacuations. There are friends that reported large branches down in San Antonio, where they’ve largely been able to avoid the worst of it.

My deepest concern is for my many friends in the Houston area. The situation there is so bad that the National Weather Service has declared a Flash Flood Emergency for Life-Threatening Catastrophic Flooding, a level of emergency that the NWS has never declared before. Some spots in Houston are expected to receive as much as 50 inches of rain before all is said and done. I’ve seen photos of an intersection where the water was up to the stop light, some seventeen feet deep. I know there are fatalities in Harris County. I have friends that have been forced to leave their homes. I have others that left everything behind because the water was rising too fast for them to stop and grab even the essentials, and they’ve more or less lost everything to the floodwaters.

My friends in Houston have been checking in through Facebook, some marking themselves safe, others not daring to until the storm has left the area for good. The worst-case scenarios that the meteorologists were predicting are now the actual forecasts – Harvey is expected to head back out into the Gulf of Mexico and strengthen before making landfall closer to Houston, making their already dire situation even more so.

There have been questions about why they didn’t evacuate Houston. I think part of that is that no one expected that it would bear the worst of Harvey. Part is that the actual flooding happened so fast that by the time an evacuation could be issued, it would have been too late to safely get people out of the region. Another factor is the logistics of safely getting six million people to higher ground through essentially one interstate highway, that to Dallas, as San Antonio and Austin, the closest large cities to evacuate to, were dealing with their own issues with the storm.

The worst is yet to happen. To prevent failure of the Addicks and Barker reservoirs, they will be doing a controlled release of water starting early tomorrow morning. This in and of itself is predicted to cause a rise in the water levels of the Buffalo Bayou of four to six inches per hour, on top of the rain that they’re still receiving. This release will flood homes downstream for several weeks, but this is being done to prevent an even more catastrophic event.

So many of my friends have been posting pictures of their property and how bad the flooding is there, with even the highest elevations beginning to flood. I honestly can’t recall any of my Houston friends reporting that things were just fine for them and that besides a little rain, nothing’s wrong. This is effecting everyone. It’s a terrifying situation to be in, and I wish there were something that I could do for them. My hands are tied here in Austin and if I were in Houston, where I lived for ten years, I’d be in the same boat as they are – pun intended.

My other big concern, as regular readers of this blog know, is that classes start tomorrow and my college education begins. It’s a big step for a 48-year-old, and I’ve been excited and nervous about getting started.

Earlier tonight I received word that because of Harvey the college is going to delay its opening until 10:00 am and all classes scheduled to start before them – including my 9:00 am algebra class – have been cancelled. So my own personal concern has been pushed back somewhat – my evening biology class is still on at this point, and I anticipate that won’t be changing between now and then.

Tomorrow is going to be a big day for me. I’ll report tomorrow night how things went. In the meantime, keep the Houston area in your thoughts. They’re in for a long, long recovery.

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