Hurricane Harvey Hits Houston Hard
1 in 4 Texans impacted – help is needed.
Via Faith Robinson / CNN
When you live on the Gulf Coast as I did some years ago, you live in the path of storms. Hurricane season comes with wind, rain, lightning, tornadoes, and terror. Quite a bit of terror. As the storm barrels down and the winds pick up and the palm trees are bent in half, your fears begin to mount: Fear of everything from electrical outages lasting weeks in high summer to no running water to losing everything you own and possibly your life or those of someone you love.
The impact can be minor or tremendous, the aftermath a day’s cleanup or months. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina became the costliest natural disaster—$108 billion—and one of the five worst hurricanes in U.S. history. The death toll was 1,836. More than a million people were displaced. The devastation can still be felt in parts of New Orleans and other areas of the Gulf coast that were hit hardest by the storm itself and then the burst levees in New Orleans. Friends were displaced for lengthy periods. Several friends detailed their experiences in books. All carried the forever-altered city with them.
Katrina hit New Orleans the same week as Harvey has hit Houston—the final days of August. And as with Katrina, the hurricane itself is over, but the damage continues. Now-tropical storm Harvey is hovering over Texas with Houston, Victoria and Beaumont getting the worst rain. Predictions suggest Houston will get up to 50 inches of rain by week’s end. Then Harvey will move into Louisiana and the same areas that still have PTSD from Katrina.
ABC News reported on August 28 that 1 in 4 Texans had been impacted—6.8 million people. As many people as the total populations of Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.
The cost of Hurricane Harvey will be monumental. The current guestimate early on is $30 billion, but that is expected to double by week’s end. Concerns over flooding and infrastructure damage and much of the state’s oil refinery systems being at risk are being voiced by a people in finance and the oil industry. Additionally, few people have flood insurance, which is the only insurance that will cover the damage to home owners and renters. Many people will return home only to find nothing remains. Nothing but water and mud and the shards of a life.
The scenes of devastation have been heartbreakingly similar to those witnessed during Katrina. Animals chained in yards, up to their necks in flood water. People stranded on top of cars and roofs. Desperate mothers with crying babies. Long lines to gain access to shelter in schools and arenas and anywhere dry.
Disappointed to hear some reporters claim folks"refused to evacuate."People have no money to leave & nowhere to go. pic.twitter.com/WrF8lAv4Y6— Victoria Brownworth (@VABVOX) August 28, 2017
One scene left many stunned—elderly women sitting waist-deep in filthy floodwater as they awaited rescue from their nursing home. One woman calmly knits. A cat sits on a shelf in a corner with a woman slumped over a chair next to him. (They were all rescued some hours after the photograph was taken by one of the women and texted to her son.)
During Katrina there were many rumors post-storm when there was no power or Internet access. Rumors of thousands dead. Rumors of people being shot. Rumors of rumors of rumors. But what didn’t exist then that has throughout the Harvey storm is a president constantly insisting in rallies, press conferences and tweets that the mainstream media—all TV news as well as major newspaper outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post–are #FakeNews. Suggesting that the media cannot be trusted when we are the ones who will provide critical and often life-saving information during a natural disaster like Harvey meant some people weren’t listening to the news the way they had done in previous storms. How much damage that created is hard to calculate. But Twitter has exposed many people claiming that the storm isn’t as bad as it actually is, perhaps in part because Trump himself has been tweeting about many other things—including that wall between the U.S. and Mexico—while the second largest state in the country, home to as many people as Canada or Australia, is under water.
Clear from even before Harvey made landfall was how much damage would be left in its wake. And what many knew from Katrina is that help available in the early days when the disaster is still headline news begins to fade. As the story recedes, so does the help.
Some were succinct about where help should come from. Many tweeted that the billions President Trump wants Congress to allocate for a wall between Mexico and the U.S. should go to Harvey relief. Others, like investigative reporter Christina Wilkie, who covers Trump, were even more specific.
Right now would be a good time for the wealthiest president ever to reach into his pocket and personally contribute to disaster relief.— Christina Wilkie (@christinawilkie) August 28, 2017
Trump, a billionaire who has a charitable foundation, has not offered to donate so much as a #MAGA hat.
Watching all of this misery unfold, whether or not you have family or friends in the area, is frustrating. If I were in Texas, I’d be rescuing animals. If I were a billionaire real estate magnate, I’d be writing checks to local shelters and other agencies who are doing hands-on work with the displaced. If you want to help—and who doesn’t?—here are some of the best and easiest ways to do so.
- The quickest way to help is to text $10 to the Red Cross by texting HARVEY to 90999. The $10 will show up on your next cell phone bill. You can also call the Red Cross 1-800-Red-Cross to give via check or credit card.
- Or you can make a donation online at redcross.org. The Red Cross is also looking for volunteers in the area. Call their hotline or check online if you can volunteer. People with cars and especially SUVs and vans are especially needed.
Not everyone is a fan of the Red Cross, but they are doing direct service in the area and the giving is easy. Everyone wants to help, but the simplest ways are often the best. The sooner, the better.
- Global Giving has established a fund specifically for Harvey relief which has a donation site and a FAQ.
- If you want to give directly to LGBTQ people in Houston, there is an LGBTQ Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief Fund managed by the Houston LGBTQ Montrose Center. As the Montrose Center explains on their website, "The catastrophic and historic impact of Hurricane Harvey will be felt by the LGBTQ community of Houston Texas for days, months, and potentially years to come. Help our LGBTQ community members displaced by the storm today by giving to the LGBTQ Disaster Relief Fund, managed by the Montrose Center – Houston’s LGBTQ counseling and community center serving Houston for 39 years."
The Montrose Center asserts, "With more than 35,000 clients in core programs, we are already learning of staff and community members who have lost everything." Funds will be allocated for "individuals and families begin to rebuild their lives through counseling, case management, direct assistance with shelf stable food, furniture, housing and more. The Center’s dedicated case management team will be on call to help homeless youth, seniors, people living with HIV, hate crime survivors, and those devastated by the storm."
- In addition to cash, you can donate blood. If you live in Texas or Louisiana, blood is needed. In disasters, blood goes quickly and blood supplies are always low in summer because of vacations. If you aren’t in Texas, you can make an appointment with the Red Cross wherever you are. Blood is being shipped and taken by volunteers.
- Pets are often the first casualties in natural disasters and there are heartbreaking photos of dogs and cats left stranded in flood waters on roofs, porches and in water itself. There are also happy-ending stories of rescues and animals being reunited with their owners.
But shelters are always overflowing during hurricanes, so they need donations. The SPCA of Texas can be reached 214-742-SPCA or you can donate online.
Sadly, there are always unscrupulous people trying to make money off the misery of others. Do not donate money to individuals unless you know them personally nor to individual GoFundMe or other donation sites unless they have been fully vetted. The number of scams that were reported during Hurricane Sandy relief were in the thousands. You want your cash to go to folks who need it.
Hurricane Harvey has been devastating for millions. Anything you can give will help other people whose lives have been forever altered by this terrible disaster.