Saturday, September 2, 2017

Hurricane Harvey

I blog often about hurricanes during the season, and you can click on the word "hurricanes" at the tail end of the post to see more, but I wanted to talk about Harvey a bit. image

First of all, I am not without sympathy for the people who lost everything during the storm. Many of them were poor to begin with, and now they have nothing, and nothing to rebuild with. It's tragic.

However...there are a couple of howevers in all this.

1) The City of Houston has been making stupid zoning decisions for a long, long time. I've seen interviews with their own emergency managers on The Weather Channel dating back years, angry and desperate at this. They all KNEW this was coming. But instead of managing development, or requiring developers to deal with storm drainage, they let people build willy-nilly with no regard for the nature of their city, the problems they already have, or the fact that hurricanes hit that area of Texas every 10-20 years. They knew this was coming and apparently did not give a damn. And someone was lining their pockets. Developers, definitely. Elected city officials? Well, there are kickbacks that are traceable and those that are not, the "we golf at the same place and give each other's kids jobs" sort of glad-handing ways of politics everywhere.

So before you commit too much money to relief efforts, and before you cheerfully watch a billion dollars of federal tax money go to relief and think that's 100% okay, understand: they knew it was going to happen and they let it. They could have prevented a lot of the damage. If I ran the world (and I'd be a nasty fascist dictator, I suspect, so good thing I don't), I'd strip the wealth of every Houston developer and every Houston city council member. I'd leave them in nothing but their underwear, huddled on the sidewalk, all their accounts frozen, and see how they like it. And that money would go to poor people the city did not care about. Unfortunately, I don't rule the world. Rich people rule it, and you can be sure they have each other's backs on this. There won't even be a condition to the bail-out money that they change their zoning. There will be no justice, and the next hurricane will be as horrible for them and require another billion to bail them out again. I thought it was important you knew about this.

2) Be careful where you send your donations. The Red Cross, though administration-heavy, does get money and services to victims. Catholic Charities is another vetted organization. There is a Houston Food Bank, and there is a Houston Humane Society. Don't send money through GoFundMe or the like. There are as many scam artists as true victims there. I know it's appealing to think that if you avoid big agencies that no money will go to pay staff or for rent or so on, but better 70% of your money get to the victims than 100% go to a scammer.

3) Instead of only wringing your hands at the horrors you've seen on TV, think about your own locale, its natural disasters or the nearby chemical plants or nuke plants and rails on which dangerous chemicals are shipped, or a week-long power outage during extreme weather, and imagine the worst possible scenarios for you and your loved ones, turn off the TV, and make a plan:
A) In the first case, you have to grab and go. You have 10 minutes to do it. Most of us would spend that 10 minutes grabbing a child's favorite toy, the pets, the cell phone, and our old photo albums. Have a go-bag ready for every family member so you don't have to stop and pack clothes and shoes as well. Put a couple of pop-top cans of food or MREs in each bag and a few bottles of water. Help your kids pack their own bags. That will get you through a day where you're fleeing. And don't ever let your gas tank go under 1/2 a tank, because you really never know

B) In the second case, you are going to shelter in place and ride out a hurricane or ice storm or earthquake aftermath--either because you choose to or you haven't any choice. Don't wait until the last minute to gear up for this. Always have a five-day supply of emergency lighting, bottled water, canned food, some emergency cash, and other supplies you'll need. Go check out for more specifics. You only need do this once, leave the food most accessible, and switch it out once a year. (I'm a big fan of wheeled trash cans for this purpose--then if you need to walk a mile to a shelter or friend's house, you can push the thing along.) If you keep this up, you won't have to fight crowds or arm-wrestle over the last AA batteries on the shelf.

fill me with emergency supplies

Again, I'm sorry for the people who were hurt by the hurricane, those who are homeless, those who lost everything or, worst of all, a loved one. I'm not callous. But I am a realist, and I don't want your tender emotions to lead you to bad decisions.

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