The other side of the Texas story is somewhat personal.

I was born in San Antonio at Fort Ssm Houston Army Hospital. Though both of my psrents were in the Army at the time of my birth, I'm not a military brat by any means or stretch.

Both were honorably discharged, and before I reached my first birthday, the family had relocated to New Haven, CT, my father's birthplace and home. 

My mother's branch of her family was in San Antonio where we visited when we made the pilgrimage to Texas, once by plane and twice by car...

However, the bulk of my maternal relatives were in Houston where her brothers and sisters, my aunts and uncles,  lived and had families, my cousins....

The eldest sister, "Big Sister", as dhe was called, was in San Antonio, where she raised her younger siblings, including my mom. She was my aunt but my brother and I always called her 'grandma'...

I have a number of cousins in Houston, most of whom would be at or near my age. I've lost touch with them, but I know they and many of  their offspring, my second and third cousins, are there, in Houston, somewhere:

Views: 170

Comment by Ron Powell on August 29, 2017 at 11:16pm

This post was inspired, in part, by Foolish Monkey who complained that no one had posted about the Houston flood disaster.

Now,  I've posted about the storm in Texas,


Comment by MV Neland on August 30, 2017 at 1:43am

We can hope that any good to be wrested from this disaster, besides the herorism and community support that abounds in Houston right now, is an understanding of what catastrophic and frequent inundation actually means in relationship to climate change and our warming seas. Such realization is still in short supply.  What town or city could endure such flooding unscathed? One meteorologist said that Texas now routinely has 100 year storms every other year and just had two 500 year storms one year right after another. This might make the third 500 year storm in under five years.

Denial is madness. Doesn't matter what the mechanism is that is driving global warming, if we don't prepare for the fact of continued warming, whatever the cause.  If the theory is at all accurate, we are now experiencing the hydrocarbons released 75 to 100 years ago. What we burn today won't even be felt for another 100 to 200 years from now. The Pacific Northwest is in a hazy fog from burning forests. Parts of India and Texas are flooding to the rooftops. And, Greenland is having wildfires burning at a rate outpacing the last 10,000 years.  And, we're this close to discovering an icefree Antarctica and an icefree Arctic Ocean. ALL coastal cities are at risk.

If you haven't actually been IN a flood, it's hard to imagine the incredible force of innumerable tons of rising floodwaters seeking the course of least resistance through your neighborhood streets. I lived along a 50 foot high riverbank and measured the rise of churning muddy water every hour through the day and night. It stopoed ten feet short of breeching. That was a 40 foot rise in 24 hours. As a child i saw railroad cars underwater standing in a wash of chemical and typhoid stew along Portland's banks after two days of warm rain on snowmelt. We call it the Pineapple Express. It caused the later flood, too. Warm air and warm water picking up volume. Basic physics. Nothing political.

It takes years to truly prepare for the enormity of these kinds of overheated storms. A few days of warning is like building water channelers out of popsickle sticks and chewing gum.

Exxon just released a statement that two refineries are leaking toxins into the floodwaters. More such leaks along the ship lane are expected. Everyone in the chemical and refinery business there said such flooding was impossible in Houston. Now, if Exxon execs were having to be the heros boating and wading around in their own refinerie's poisons swilling around them in the turmoil, those Gulf businesses would reconsider what "impossible" means. And, Trump's praise for Houston's amazing crowdsize that turned out to greet him away from the flood areas would be seen as enough reason for impeachment itself.


Comment by moki ikom on August 30, 2017 at 3:00am

Domestic refugees, any refugees.... we have a Trump for that, "No way Jose!" not even an "okay, under the freeway".

Comment by koshersalaami on August 30, 2017 at 5:27am

I'm hearing some about economic costs, even on the physically unaffected end. I represent a small manufacturer in Houston who I've been in frequent contact with as I know the couple who own and run it and I was worried about their safety. Their house, business, and employees are fine, but that doesn't mean they can operate because they're dependent on shipping both to get parts and to get goods to their customers. He says "So a supermarket manages to stay open, but the bread truck can't reach it and theiy're short staffed enough not to be able to keep their shelves stocked to keep up with demand. One guy missing can keep three or four more people from doing their jobs. It shows you how interrelated economies are."

the other thing this guy told me is that the press has to concentrate on Nouston because of its population, but places like Corpus Christi are in far worse shape because in addition to the water they got high enough winds to do real damage. If they'd been hit alone they'd be all over the news but now they don't even rate the news. 

Comment by greenheron on August 30, 2017 at 6:35am

Sending dollars, but that feels like not nearly enough. Our mayor set up centers in town to donate clothes and bedding and household items, and I can take a box on the way to work–hope they like hippie clothes, organic toiletries, and unopened Christmas socks. My next door neighbor works for FEMA and left here on Sunday. She spent a year in NoLA and doesn’t expect to be back for a long time. Her hub has cancer, just finished his chemo, but insists she go. And GAH Ted Cruz!!  He should be locked in a nursing home flooded with waist deep water and leg chained to a soggy Lazy-boy in his jammies. If I ruled the world.

Trump made it all about him–"what a crowd, what a turn-out!" and yes they should have voted to pass the hurricane relief bill during Sandy, but that's not the people with flooded houses fault, so could the media save that for later milking? Was thinking as I drove around Boston yesterday how Houston is so much bigger, and Boston seems big to me. Imagining all of it underwater gave some sense of the humungous scale.

A big chunk of my homeowner's insurance is flood insurance, required by law. Boston is a coastal city. So is Houston. Why don't they have mandatory flood insurance?   

Comment by Anna Herrington on August 30, 2017 at 9:19am

Sorry to know you have family there, hope they're on high ground. It just looks terrible there, my heart goes out to all - on the news, so many faces look so disoriented and lost.....

Comment by moki ikom on August 30, 2017 at 12:44pm

From  Houston subsidence picture  i'd estimate that over the past half century, the two areas where i lived and went to high school, north and southwest (graduating from latter), have subsided between at least three and four feet respectively since my mom and the five of us kids moved there in 1964 during our homeless expeditions phase of family life in those days. Most of us live on land surface that, if it is not rising to create mountains then, the ground under us is subsiding, sinking toward Earth's hypothetical, Euclidian center as Earth’s sea level for the next many years is only going to be rising.  In Houston’s case, not only is humanity depleting the aquifer underneath the metropolis that hydraulically serves to relatively stabilize the height of the land above any aquifer, but Houston’s humanity like all of us humans, contribute to accelerating sea level rise proportional to the size of our daily carbon footprints. Texas, especially that region of Texas, has directly and indirectly contributed one heck of a whallop of green house gases on Earth for going on a hundred years now.  It sounds callous to say it but it's apparently the truth that Texas, Houston, indeed all of us are now beginning to realize some longterm unprojected costs of our consumerist, ecocidal culture.


The U.S. Geological Survey's Hydrogeology and Simulation of Groundwater Flow and Land-Surface Subsidence in the Northern Part of the Gulf Coast Aquifer System, Texas, 1891-2009 shows the sunken areas of Houston and its surrounding areas.

Courtesy of David Todd/U.S. Geological Survey map by Mark Kasmarek


Hope You Can Swim

Subsidence, the slow-on-the-go caving of a land area, isn’t a new or even unnatural phenomenon in the Houston area. It’s how humans accelerate this sinking that’s not all that normal or awesome.

In the 1980s, Brownwood, the Houston Ship Channel-area subdivision that once housed Humble Oil (now Exxon) bigwigs, basically caved in on itself. That’s because oil workers and municipal companies had pumped out groundwater, which was used for oil and gas production and for residential purposes, at an insanely fast rate for decades.

— The Chicot and Evangeline aquifers along the Texas Gulf Coast weren’t able to naturally replenish the groundwater supply. Loose groundwater regulations at the time certainly didn’t help, and the eventual switch to surface water was too late because the damage had been done — according to United States Geological Survey data, approximately 4,700 square miles of land in and near Baytown and Pasadena sank by at least six feet between the years 1943 and 1973. 

History is repeating itself all over Houston, including in an area northeast of Addicks Reservoir, one of two dams in far west Houston that the United States Corps of Engineers, in 2009, labeled with an ominous “extremely high risk of catastrophic failure” warning.

Comment by Rodney Roe on August 31, 2017 at 5:27am

Ron, thanks for reminding us that disasters are personal tragedies; not just statistics.

I'm afraid that Texas is doomed due to a combination of unbearable heat, water depletion and rising sea levels, and that low lying areas like Houston will suffer the most.  There is no solace to be found in the understanding that the same is true for Louisiana, and Florida. 

Comment by Rodney Roe on August 31, 2017 at 5:43am

The Texas disaster and Hurricane Sandy bring in focus the fact that we will have increasingly frequent events such as this, and that the strain on the national economy will become unsustainable.  Half of the U.S. population lives withing 100 miles of the coast and some of the most expensive real estate is built on the most vulnerable land.  One projection for South Florida is that one in a hundred year events will soon be one in every six year events.  We are already seeing "climate refugees" from South Florida in the Georgia and North Carolina mountains as people get rid of their Dade County property in anticipation of having fish swimming in their streets.  

Comment by moki ikom on August 31, 2017 at 7:28pm

More than two decades ago we were struck by what was called a cat five at the time.  We've had evolving to very strict zoning regulations for most of half a century now, but it's only been in the recovery process after after that hurricane that our building codes became anywhere near as well defined and strictly enforced as our zoning codes.  Unlike some insurance company's claim monies, FEMA monies came in after the hurricane in large part as low interest loans with strings attached, one string being that one could not use such funds to build in any way not conforming to reasonably strict building codes, shoreline setback codes and minimum finished floor heights above the county engineer's "hundred year flood" protections approved by FEMA.  My bother -for twenty plus years a home, building contractor in Houston but since moved away- assures me that Harris County has building codes, but,. I wonder how not the once upon a time 500yr flood projections, but these frequent "once in 500yr flood" events is going to effect Texas' existing building codes.


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