The following editorial is from the Houston Chronicle.
There will be a time in years to come when another storm with wind, downpours and lightning will remind Houstonians of where they were and what they experienced Saturday during the most devastating deluge this flood-prone city has ever experienced. Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath and his rising flood waters remind us that we are not natural habitants of this environment but human beings who care for each other, help each other, rely on each other for our very existence.
Across this vast city, neighbors are banging on the doors of neighbors, checking on their safety. Volunteers are maneuvering boats through submerged streets, putting their own lives at risk to rescue strangers who have retreated to upper floors, attics and roofs. Other are making their fishing boats, their trucks and their high-water vehicles available to rescuers. First-responders – police, fire and medical – are working without rest to rescue residents and to keep the city functioning to the extent possible. The American Red Cross, communities of faith, service centers and social-service agencies are providing shelter and sustenance to people who have lost everything. Reporters – yes, those much-maligned purveyors of “fake news” – are putting themselves at risk hour after hour to communicate to Houstonians what they need to know during a time of danger.
The selflessness, indeed the bravery, of our fellow Houstonians, who come through yet again when they’re challenged by Mother Nature’s fickle moods, has become a Bayou City trademark. We’ve had more than our share of practice, of course, as a bevy of names – Allison, Rita and Ike among them – serve to remind us.
A new name on that ignominious list, Harvey, is setting records for sustained rainfall across a wide area, “unknown and beyond anything experienced,” the National Weather Service tweeted. Unfortunately, that dubious distinction may be short-lived, considering our recent penchant to experience 100-year rain events. We’re likely to experience future weather catastrophes just as cataclysmic.
Increasingly volatile summer weather and millions of people living in close proximity on a coastal plain, more and more of it paved over, means that flooding is inevitable.
With the exception of the climate scientists in our midst, Harvey and the massive flood in its wake is a dire reminder that our “opinions” about the reality of climate change are irrelevant. Whatever the cause, man-made or otherwise, climate change – and with it extreme weather – is a fact. It’s time to stop arguing and start preparing.
Just as the prospect of a hanging concentrates the mind, paraphrasing the British writer Samuel Johnson, so a massive natural disaster tends to sweep aside the trivial and the unnecessary. To think that just a few days ago our elected representatives, charged with providing for the public good, were debating the need for a bathroom bill designed to shame transgender Texans. What foolishness.
Government exists for a reason. Good government is the expression writ large of our caring and concern for each other. Our efforts to govern ourselves, always imperfect, deserve our respect and support, and not only during times of crisis.
Meanwhile, we have pressing concerns. As soon as we get beyond immediate rescue efforts, we have to turn talk about coastal protection into action. With vast refineries, natural gas terminals and numerous facilities that make and store dangerous chemicals along the Ship Channel and the Gulf Coast, the potential for environmental – and economic – catastrophe grows ever more ominous.
We also have to be sure that Addicks and Barker dams are capable of withstanding future massive floods. These barriers, both seven decades old, are essential for protecting the heart of the city. Their failure would wreak damage unimaginable.
The floodwaters will recede, eventually, but our fellow Houstonians will be without jobs, shelter and transportation. Some will have lost loved ones. We’ll be rebuilding for months, if not years.
This great city, this city we love, is being tested. With courage, with selflessness, with love for each other, we will meet that test, Harvey be damned.
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