As a native Texan, it’s particularly painful for me to watch what is happening there.
I grew up in Corpus Christi, and my stomping grounds included coastal towns like Rockport and Port Aransas.
It’s never pleasant, but you expect hurricanes to hit and damage such towns just as Hurricane Celia did to Corpus Christi in 1970.
Last week was Hurricane Harvey’s turn as it suddenly grew from a Category 1 to a Category 4 storm before moving ashore and devastating the towns of my youth.
That damage has almost been forgotten as the tragedy of Houston, another city I have lived in, unfolded all week.
The flooding there should have come as no surprise.
Regular floods have been a part of Houston’s past, and various studies predicted they would only worsen, although only the worst scenario imagined 50 inches of rain in just a few days.
When you build a city in a flood plain that grows to 6.5 million people living in its metropolitan area, when you fill in wetlands and cover the earth with concrete and other impervious surfaces, when you cut down trees and remove other vegetation that help absorb rainfall, storms are going to bring floods with them.
It’s not too soon for other cities, including Jacksonville, to learn lessons from Houston.
Development is going to occur, but it should be done smartly and not with an eye toward making the most money the fastest.
Stop filling in wetlands. Leave room for parks. Surfaces that allow rainwater to seep into the ground are better than the asphalt parking lots that send torrents of water onto roadways.
And find ways to capture that runoff in underground cisterns and reservoirs that will store and treat it for use as a supplement to the Floridan aquifer, which is in dire need of help.
Engineers should be working on such ideas or other alternatives now.
It will be expensive. But the saying applies: You can pay me now, or you can pay me later.
It will cost billions of dollars and years of lost productivity for Houston to recover.
As is often the case with such disasters, the blame game is beginning.
Why weren’t Houston’s residents ordered to evacuate?
Houston is a traffic jam on the best of days. Can you imagine what the freeways there would have turned into with 6.5 million people fleeing?
And where did that water from the deluge go?
It flooded the roadways, and an even bigger disaster would have ensued with thousands trapped in their vehicles.
Those who believe climate change leads to such events will use Houston as an example of things to come.
Others will argue Houston was just a fluke.
The deniers, however, will be foolish to continue ignoring that what climate scientists have been predicting is occurring.
Rick Scott, our governor, should pay particular attention to that.
Since I left Texas several decades ago, the politics there have become ridiculous, not unlike Florida’s.
At least Florida hasn’t talked about secession, which Texas does quite regularly with the encouragement of its current governor, Greg Abbott, who complains frequently about the federal government.
But who is Abbott calling on for help now? The federal government.
There’s another lesson learned from Hurricane Harvey.
After Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc in New Jersey and New York, both of Texas’ senators, Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, voted against a federal relief package for those two states.
Now they want federal aid for Texas.
Humble pie never tastes good.
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