Last week, as readers know, Hurricane Harvey roared ashore in Texas, making its first landfall at Rockport around 03:00 UTC. It is the first hurricane to make landfall in the southern United States in twelve years, ending a record stretch that began following the devastation caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma in 2005.
Since then, Harvey has pummeled Texas with rain, rain, and more rain. Houston and outlying airports are experiencing a thousand year flood of catastrophic, epic proportions. The metro area’s airports and seaports are shut down, highways are awash in multiple feet of water, and homes and businesses are flooded, with some dwellings and commercial buildings submerged practically to their rooflines.
And the rain is still falling, adding to the state’s misery. Damage is already in the billions and may well surpass the records set by Katrina and Sandy.
The five costliest Atlantic hurricanes, via Wikipedia
at peak intensity
|Katrina||$108.0||2005||Category 5 hurricane|
|Sandy||$75.0||2012||Category 3 hurricane|
|Ike||$37.5||2008||Category 4 hurricane|
|Wilma||$29.4||2005||Category 5 hurricane|
|Andrew||$26.5||1992||Category 5 hurricane|
Harvey has been downgraded to a Tropical Storm since it came ashore last week, but that’s no comfort to the millions of people grappling with the havoc it’s causing.
How unprecedented is Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey? So unprecedented that the National Weather Service had to devise a new color scheme for their graphics in order to effectively map the amount of precipitation the Texas coast is seeing.
Take a look:
In the past, to get a sense of the destructiveness of storms like Katrina or Andrew from the air, society relied on stills and video shot by military helicopters or news choppers. But now, due to the proliferation of drones, we’ve got far more eyes in the sky. Take a look at these videos, all captured over the past two days, which powerfully document the massive flooding that the state is experiencing.
Here’s a roundup of mass media coverage assessing the storm’s impact:
- Associated Press: Photo of mother and baby’s rescue from Hurricane Harvey flooding becomes symbol of storm
- KPRC 2: Harvey’s winds increase slightly as it moves back into Gulf
- Houston Chronicle: These are the roads that are closed in Houston due to Hurricane Harvey (includes map)
- KHOU 11: Officials warn of possible uncontrolled releases at Barker, Addicks Reservoirs (includes video)
- ABC 13: Meet the volunteer ‘Cajun Navy’ saving lives in Houston
- Fox 26: Ten Harvey-related deaths reported in the Houston area
- Houston Press: As flooding from Harvey continues, Meyerland residents fend for themselves (with hi-res photos)
The latest watches and warnings from the National Weather Service are below:
- Flash Flood Warning
- Civil Emergency Message
- Tropical Storm Warning
- Flood Warning
- Flash Flood Watch
- Storm Surge Watch
- Hurricane Local Statement
- Hazardous Weather Outlook
The present forecast suggests Harvey will move out into the Gulf and then make landfall again, causing even more devastation. It will be many days before coastal Texas gets a respite from the extreme weather it is experiencing.
It’s important to note that the trend of increasingly catastrophic storms we’re seeing are linked to the planetary fever induced by humankind’s burning of fossil fuels. Extreme weather of all kinds is one of the consequences of global warming.
A year ago, Al Gore came to Houston to lead a Climate Reality training in Texas’ largest city. While there, Gore talked about Texas’ susceptibility to extreme weather exacerbated by the climate crisis. As reported by the Houston Chronicle:
“Every storm now is different because of how we’re modifying the climate of the Earth,” Gore said.
Warmer air can hold more water vapor and unleash in the form of what Gore called “rain bombs.” He lamented the latest flooding in Louisiana that’s taken at least 10 lives and flooded tens of thousands of homes.
He noted Texas has suffered more multibillion-dollar climate disasters in the past 35 years than any other state. Houston was hit by five major floods from May 2015 through this May – two 100-year floods and one 1,000-year flood. In May 2015, he added,Texas had its rainiest month ever at “almost Noah-like” proportions.
“We have built a civilization for conditions that we are now in the process of rapidly changing, and the consequences are extreme,” Gore said. “These statistics that say once in 1,000 years or once in 500 years are not accurate anymore.”
Emphasis is mine. The term “thousand year flood” is increasingly losing relevance given how frequently events like Harvey are imperiling metropolises like Houston, which is ironically the fossil fuels capital of the United States (many oil and gas companies have their headquarters in the city).
Gore’s appearance in Houston came ten years after this farce of an op-ed by Robert Bradley ran in the Houston Chronicle. Bradley, a right winger on the payroll of the fossil fuel companies, accused Gore of “climate alarmism” and sneered that Gore “was telling whoppers again” despite the fact that Gore’s Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth accurately presented the scientific consensus.
It’s getting harder for shills like Bradley to deny the science of the climate crisis, as the evidence of a warming world is growing more profound by the day.
Other coastal cities face not only the threat of flooding from extreme weather (hurricanes, rain bombs) but sea level rise.
For example, Miami Beach in Florida has already seen water in its streets just from tides. Scenes from this disturbing development were featured in Al Gore’s new documentary An Inconvenient Sequel, which debuted in theaters a month ago.
How can you help victims of Hurricane Harvey? The New York Times has a good primer on which organizations you can trust with your money.
The Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund of Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, which is administered by the Greater Houston Community Foundation.
Carter BloodCare covers hospitals in north, central and east Texas. To donate, call 877-571-1000 or text DONATE4LIFE to 444-999.
The Texas Diaper Bank in San Antonio is asking for diapers and wipes, which can be dropped off in person or mailed to 5415 Bandera Road, Suite 504, San Antonio, Tex., 78238.
For more options, the Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends checking with the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster for a list of trusted disaster-relief organizations in Texas.
We’re stronger together — let’s do what we can to help Texans withstand Harvey!