Valiant action did indeed share the same space as helplessness, hopelessness, gratitude and despair as Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc in Houston, Texas. Rainfall numbers have broken national records at 51.88 inches as of Wednesday, Aug. 30.
Retired FDNY firefighter and Brooklyn-based Vulcan Society member Abdullah Granger told the Amsterdam News that he had spoken with Lieutenant Kevin Maynard, member of International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters of Houston, Tuesday. “He is there working—in the water, in the streets,” said Granger. “He spoke about the severity of the situation there. It’s just a mess there he says, as he could not talk long, I hope to reach him again soon to assist in any way we can.”
A citizen navy boarded all manner of hastily conscripted boats and floatation devices to save fellow Texans. Makeshift shelters were formed out of furniture stores and safe neighbors’ homes, hotels were occupied by hospitals and heroes emerged from the creeping waters of the Lone Star State.
As more and more inches of rain fell this week in the Houston-Galveston area, the wrath of Hurricane Harvey, downgraded to a tropical storm, continued along the Gulf Coast toward Louisiana, sparking more evacuations and further heightening concerns of residents and local and state officials. Harvey blasted ashore as a Category 4 hurricane just north of Corpus Christi late Saturday.
President Donald Trump, along with his wife, White House staff and elected officials, met in Corpus Christi Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 29 for a briefing led by Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
Trump applauded the efforts of first responders in Texas and promised to make sure the recovery efforts would be swift and serve as a subsequent model for the world. He closed with comments about the impressive size of the crowd that turned out to hear him.
However, critics fault him for saying nothing to the thousands of victims who remain homeless, lost or dead.
Houston has emerged as ground zero with record-breaking rainfall, unprecedented flooding and more than 17,000 people displaced and forced to seek refuge in three mega-centers: the Houston Convention Center, the NRG Center and the Toyota Center—all three at or beyond capacity.
Red Cross CEO American Red Cross Gulf Coast Texas Region David Brady said Wednesday that his organization has opened close to 100 smaller shelters in Texas. Cities such as San Antonio and Dallas, both spared from the fury of the storm, have opened centers to accommodate the overflow of citizens. In a twist of irony, with thousands still stranded and at least 13 reported dead, including a 61-year-old veteran Houston Police Department officer, Tuesday also marked the 12th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Katrina touched down in 2005, devastating the U.S. Gulf Coast, killing more than 1,800 people and resulting in more than $100 billion in damage.
In the Houston area, the U.S. Coast Guard reported Tuesday that cries for help still had not abated as officials recorded as many as 1,000 calls per hour. As of Tuesday afternoon, they had rescued more than 3,000 people via boat and air. Between Sunday and Tuesday, the Houston Fire Department reported receiving more than 2,300 calls, including 400 from individuals seeking to be rescued from the great floodwaters.
Meanwhile, the Houston police reported that between Monday and Tuesday, they had rescued 1,000 people, bringing the total to more than 3,000 since the flood began.
Houston Defender publisher Sonny Messiah-Jiles was counted among the many rescued from their homes as water poured through her house forcing them to higher ground.
“It’s been a hell of a day,” Messiah-Jiles said on Sunday. “Some neighbors came down from about four or five blocks from us and ended up rescuing everyone from our gated community—about 60 people—and it was my first time in an airboat, but I’m alive and well and OK.” Messiah-Jiles noted that she’s now safe in a hotel.
“I’m just hoping we don’t have what they had in Louisiana with the levees,” Messiah-Jiles said.
Karen Carter-Richards, the publisher of The Houston Forward Times, said that she and her family and the offices of the Forward Times remain intact.
“Thank God we’re OK,” said Carter-Richards. “There’s no water in our house and we’re safe and dry.” She noted that the Forward Times building did receive minor water damage.
Flooding from Tropical Storm Harvey, described by the National Weather Service as “unprecedented,” has overloaded resources as authorities in and around Houston continue scrambling to save those still trapped by the high waters.
“The breadth and intensity of this rainfall are beyond anything experienced before,” the NWS said. “Catastrophic flooding is now underway and expected to continue for days.”
The Houston Independent School District has canceled school for the week and the Houston Astros baseball team has moved its home games to Florida.
Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport closed because of flooding. Ben Taub Hospital, which houses a Level I trauma center, faced evacuation after flooding in the basement “disrupted the power source.”
Some 316,000 customers lost electricity and the Red Cross said it has kept busy serving approximately 130,000 meals a day.
Lt. Craig Cummings of the Texas Department of Public Safety said attempts to drive to safety might be futile anyway, as it took him two-and-a-half hours to drive 20 miles in Houston Sunday.
“There’s 60 barricaded locations as of midnight,” he told CNN. “Most thoroughfares are impassable. Several hundred structures are flooded, and we are expecting that number to rise.”
New Yorkers, too, with family members have been desperately trying to reach out to family members caught in the relentless tides. With remembrances of the 2005 Katrina disaster as a backdrop, the images swamping the media this week stirred the soul. Tales of the dead were horrific, as were the constant video of mothers grabbing onto children and meager belongings, flashed alongside men wading chest deep through murky snake- and probably gator-infested water, as they pulled evacuees from water-filled homes to some semblance of safety. As Joel Osteen tried to defend himself against a social media panning for not immediately opening his megachurch, mosques threw their doors open.
Thousands upon thousands of people are displaced, as of Wednesday, Aug. 30, 3 p.m., 19 people were declared dead, 14,000 Texas National Guard troops were joined by 10,000 out-of-state colleagues, 32,000 Texans were in shelters, 18,000 people have been rescued by boat, helicopter and sturdy, big-wheel trucks.
Reportedly, 33 counties in Texas were affected by the storm on Wednesday. At the same time, though, undocumented immigrants in Texas continue to fear feared possible deportation as the Tropical Storm Harvey continues to make an impact.
The American Civil Liberties Union reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection aren’t being transparent enough in the wake of the disaster. On Aug. 24, the Border Patrol for the Rio Grande Valley Sector released a statement saying, “Border Patrol checkpoints will not be closed unless there is a danger to the safety of traveling public and our agents.”
As for help, Dawad Wayne Philip, former editor of Brooklyn-based Daily Challenge, and former Minister of Culture in Trinidad and Tobago, told the Amsterdam News, “The Caribbean community has always been generous in times of need. It is my hope that the organizers of both J’Ouvert and Labor Day parade use the vast base to heighten awareness of the dire needs of the people of both Texas and New Orleans.”
Krystal Sonia, New Black Panther Party leader there in Texas, told the Amsterdam News that their NBPP BlackCross.com is asking for “money, water, boats no bigger than 17 feet with at least 25 horsepower and volunteers.”
On News One Now, host and managing editor Roland Martin interviewed Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) for an update on recovery efforts and relief in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. He said that it has been reported that more than 13,000 people have been rescued, and that rains have topped more than 51 inches in Cedar Bayou, a saltwater channel on the coast.
“Many people don’t know that we are 50 feet below sea level and we are still flooding.” said Lee, who has been deeply involved in recovery efforts. “The Houstonians are resilient, but they need our help. Our job as members of the United States Congress is to get that aid package and to make sure that the president complies or keeps the promises that he made—and that is that we have full funding and an aid package to help people return to their homes, their jobs and their families and to help children return to school.” She said that although not all of her district, which includes downtown and inner-city Houston, flooded, they are utilizing the full services of the National Guard, FEMA and the Coast Guard.
“The real message to the president is that we have got to keep the voice of unity and those dollars [intact],” said Lee. “This is going to be more than Hurricane Sandy and more than Hurricane Katrina— 30,000-40,000 houses may have been destroyed, 500,000 cars may have been destroyed. We’re going to have a multibillion dollar devastation here in this region.”
Emergency Management Specialist Simeon Booker III, son of the much celebrated journalist of the same name, said “When disaster strikes, the first things to do are protect and secure yourself, family, home and property.” Major disasters, both natural and man-made, include but are not limited to floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, ice and winter storms/blizzards, wind storms, fires, droughts, cyber-attacks, terror attacks, civil disorder, environmental (chemical, biological, nuclear); widespread loss of critical infrastructure(s) such as water, electric, internet; extraterrestrial activity such as solar storms, etc. These events could keep you in or out of your home and away from your job for days, weeks and possibly longer.
Here’s what to do:
*If you have essential needs for food, clothing or shelter call your city or county at 211 and/or 311.
*Check on other relatives, friends and neighbors, especially senior citizens, those with special needs, and others needing help.
*Contact your insurance companies, if applicable.
*Contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency at FEMA.GOV or 800- 621-3362 for information or assistance.
*Monitor news reports and social media for information, updates.
If the president declares your state and county for assistance to individuals and households in a major federal disaster, you and/or your family can apply for up to $33,000 per disaster in assistance from FEMA. States and counties can apply for disaster public assistance from FEMA. Individuals, businesses and nonprofits can also apply for low-interest disaster loans from the Small Business Administration.
If you believe you experienced discrimination in receiving federal disaster assistance, contact FEMA’s Equal Rights Office at fema.gov or 202-646-3535.
Before disaster strikes, get ready, be prepared. Go to REDCROSS.ORG and READY.GOV for more information on being prepared.
“The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security and no challenge—no challenge —poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change,” according to President Obama. Although the NAACP reports that “race —even more than class — is the No. 1 indicator for the placement of toxic facilities in this country, and communities of color and low income communities are often the hardest hit by climate change,” we know from Hurricanes Harvey, Katrina and Sandy, along with the current Flint, Mich. water crisis that communities of color and low-income communities are most at risk and least prepared for emergencies and disasters. Remember, in an emergency or disaster you are the first line of defense to protect and secure yourself and family.”