Tuesday, September 15, 2015

About Gulf Coast Living and storms

As I mentioned, I'm going to write a bit, here, about the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. I'm not promoting these posts, because what needs to be front and center are the direct victims.

So I will start off with links to some of those posts:

I moved to Houston perhaps a few months before Tropical Storm Allison hit. Actually, it hit twice: once on Tuesday, and then it came back on Saturday.
Tropical storms are a common occurrence on the coast. Usually there's heavy rain, sometimes thunder & lightning that seem far stronger than any I remember in the MidWest

In time you learn the usual flood patterns, the routes to get home -- or when to leave early and just stay home.

We were in a 2nd floor apartment for Allison, so we were safe. However, we gave our family a scare, because the apartment was on "Medical Center Boulevard" (in Webster, about 30 minutes south of Houston), and the Houston Medical Center district was hard-hit.

What made Allison bad, was that the storm moved slowly, and so it lingered. Dumping lots and lots of rain over a single area. And on Saturday, my car got flooded in all of the rain. I had insurance, and we got it fixed up.

Hurricanes are not nearly as common as tropical storms. Sure, several make landfall in the United States every year. But you can also live in one hurricane-prone area for about 5-10 years and never have a hurricane hit your region.

The response to Hurricane Katrina, from where we lived in Houston, was like a slow-motion horror movie. I was following the storm, so I saw news about people trapped in attics, or climbing to roofs, almost immediately. I knew that at least one of the "shelter in place" locations had experienced roof damage.

But I was stunned that it took ~4 days to get the people out of the unsuitable shelter. Stunned by the nationwide response, or lack thereof, to a fellow coastal city -- every other hurricane I had seen from a distance, even TS Allison, there was immediate, coordinated support to the region.

We were part of a UU congregation at that time, and I registered our house as available to take in evacuees. But nobody took us up on the offer. We tried to support a fellow congregant, who had 12 people at her house.

After people were relocated to the Houston Astrodome, I heard from one of the volunteers about some of her experience volunteering. Nothing bad - the people she was helping were polite and grateful.

The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was my, personal, first encounter with the concept that poor people ARE the authorities on how they need to spend their money.

I grew up with the patronizing concept that people are poor because they don't know how to save & spend money on what is important.

I don't recall who it was, post-Katrina, that pointed out to me how, if there are 15+ people in a household, they might collectively have the bare necessities worked out for the time being. But when there are so many crowded in together,a big-screen tv might in fact be what they need in order to allow everybody to watch a show together. And that would be something to do while they wait for insurance to settle, while they are looking for a new job, while they are piecing together new lives from what happened.

3-4 weeks later, we were the evacuees.