This morning The Washington Post sent out a tweet saying Houston was struggling “after Harvey.” Having woken up Sunday morning with two feet of water surrounding my bed, I can confirm that, like most of Houston, I am currently “struggling to get moving.”
This is mainly — as anyone can see from looking at a radar image — because Harvey isn’t over. It’s still raining in Houston. Hard. The roads are covered in water. Levees are breaching, like, right now as I type this. People are still being told to evacuate right now, if they can. Harvey is still camped out over Houston and moving slowly. We have not yet reached the “after Harvey” stage.
So that’s the No. 1 dumbest thing, but there are more.
2. “They should have evacuated the city”
There are 6 million people in greater Houston. If everyone had evacuated, we’d have all died on our cars a few miles north of downtown.
But that would never happen because here’s the thing: You actually, physically, cannot force people to evacuate. Adding “mandatory” to your evacuation suggestion doesn’t have any practical meaning. The folks who wanted to evacuate did so (as they always will), but most Houstonians, myself included, preferred to stay in our homes (as they usually do). A suggestion from a mayor or county judge doesn’t change much, no matter how sternly it’s worded.
3. “They undersold the danger!”
I understand the impulse to cast blame somewhere when almost everything you own has been destroyed overnight (I’ll miss you so much, 1997 Lexus LS400). This is the second time this has happened to me since Memorial Day 2015, and recovering from a flood is more of an ordeal than I imagined. It’s an extraordinarily expensive and mentally draining process that takes months.
I wish there was someone to be mad at, but there isn’t. All week, every meteorologist and media outlet in Houston warned us there was an absolute monster of a storm headed our way. They said it would hover over the city for several days and they said we could see 35 inches of rain. And that’s just what has happened.
Often, meteorologists warn us of big storms that wind up being nothing. That happened a few days after the Memorial Day flood of 2015, when tropical storm Bill was said to be coming inland to make a bad situation worse. Bill fizzled out, and we were all hopeful the meteorologists would be proven similarly mistaken about Harvey. But they were right.
Harvey didn’t sneak up on anybody.
4. “It’s a design problem”
It is well known that Houston is prone to flooding, and since the more isolated floods in 2015 and 2016, the city has undertaken projects to help the city drain itself more quickly. In my neighborhood on the southwest side, those efforts have had a noticeable effect.
So, sure, there are things the city can do and is doing to improve the situation. But, guys, we just got 40 inches of rain.
Some Houston floods can be blamed on design flaws. This isn’t one.
5. “It’s because of global warming!”
Maybe it is, but just shut up, will ya? Just shut up.