By Don C. Brunell
All of the things that went wrong in New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina in 2005 appear to have been corrected with Houston’s recent Hurricane Harvey. Chalk it up to a series of important lessons learned.
By now everyone knows that Harvey came ashore from the Gulf of Mexico, dumped a record 51 inches of rain on 22 million people from Corpus Christi to Port Arthur, Texas and sent thousands to shelters.
The hurricane hit Houston, America’s fourth largest city and an urban area that accounts for 3 percent of our nation’s Gross Domestic Product. It had the makings of a mammoth disaster, but despite the enormous damage, Texas seems to be working through it. However, there is a long road ahead.
The storm dumped an estimated 27 trillion gallons of rain on Texas and Louisiana in six days, Ryan Maue from weather analytics company, WeatherBell, told CNN. That’s enough to fill the Houston Astrodome 85,000 times or San Francisco Bay 10.6 times at high tide.
Harvey knocked out water treatment plants, hospitals and large oil refineries particularly in the Port Arthur area.
Forbes reported that 3.04 million barrels per day of refining capacity is still down in Texas. That is equivalent to 16 percent of the country’s oil refining capacity. As a result, the price of a gallon of gas shot up an average of 10 cents overnight on Sept. 1.
Harvey’s death toll currently stands at 52 compared to more than 1,800 people from Katrina.
So where is the silver lining?
This time our elected officials from President Trump to governors of Texas and Louisiana and the mayors along the Gulf Coast were well-prepared and coordinated. Local, state and federal government law enforcement and emergency responders and the Coast Guard, Texas National Guard and other military units were ready. Help came swiftly. The result is more than 72,000 people and thousands of pets have been rescued so far.
Louisiana’s Cajun Navy landed in Houston as Harvey came ashore. Its armada of fishing boats and raised (big-wheel) pickups immediately started picking up victims stranded in flooded homes.
When police and fire officials needed flat bottomed boats, Bass Pro Shop sent 80 and $40,000 in provisions to match. In addition to Houston’s churches, schools and public buildings, neighbors and friends are providing shelter. Local businessman Jim McIngvale – better known as “Mattress Mack” – opened his Gallery Furniture stores and more than 400 people have new beds and furniture. McIngvale also helped some of the 40,000 Katrina evacuees who relocated and then stayed in Houston.
Large corporations such as Walmart have pledged millions in donations. Walmart opened its stores to supply necessities. That’s in addition to the $20 million in cash. A Chick-fil-A manager even sent a rescue boat to an elderly couple’s home to evacuate them to the restaurant after they phoned in an order for two chicken burritos.
All-Pro Texan defensive end J.J. Watt has collected nearly $20 million including a million from TV host Ellen DeGeneres.
President Trump seeks nearly $8 billion in federal disaster relief. Hopefully, it will not be delayed or loaded with other spending demands from Congress. “Give Texas everything it needs, and do it right quick,” Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan declared last weekend.
Texas is showing it has strong American spirit and people from across our nation are pitching in to help people in need regardless of ethnic, gender or income background. Anyone who calls gets it.
It is refreshing to see people helping people and public servants and volunteers working side-by-side. No doubt there are glitches but it is saving lives. It is the way our country should operate. The real silver lining is that Hurricane Harvey is bringing Americans together.
Don Brunell, retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He lives in Vancouver and can be contacted at TheBrunells@ msn.com.