Climate Change Isn’t a Hoax and Coastal Communities Need an Infrastructure Plan

Rural America In These Times

Aug. 27, 2017—Stranded elderly residents up to their waists in floodwater wait for help at an assisted living facility in Dickinson, Texas.

As of Sun­day evening, flights in and out of Hous­ton, Texas were ground­ed. All major inter­states were closed and free­way off-ramps in the nation’s 4th largest city were being used as boat launch­es for offi­cial and unof­fi­cial res­cue efforts. In small­er com­mu­ni­ties like Dick­in­son, res­i­dents with flat bot­tom boats, try­ing not to hit their props on sub­merged cars, were using social media to track down neigh­bors — includ­ing senior cit­i­zens and strand­ed pets — who need­ed help evac­u­at­ing. Coastal towns such as Rock­port and Port Aransas are void of func­tion­ing infra­struc­ture” and will be for weeks or months.

But this is only the beginning.

On Sun­day morn­ing, the Nation­al Weath­er Ser­vice (NWS), not known for hyper­bole, called the amount of rain­fall in South Texas beyond any­thing expe­ri­enced.” Lat­er that after­noon, Trop­i­cal Storm Har­vey, cur­rent­ly expect­ed to keep bring­ing rain through at least Wednes­day, had already dropped a mind-bog­gling 11 tril­lion gal­lons of water. Some mete­o­rol­o­gists now expect that vol­ume to double. 

In short, when all is said and done, this may very well end up being the worst flood­ing event in U.S. his­to­ry. But as the right crit­i­cizes the left for politi­ciz­ing tragedies, and the left crit­i­cizes the right for refus­ing to acknowl­edge that cli­mate change con­tributes to these tragedies — noth­ing changes the fact that liv­ing at or near sea lev­el is increas­ing­ly dangerous.

Amid a nation­wide out­pour­ing of sup­port for those affect­ed by the storm, a revi­tal­ized dis­cus­sion about the role cli­mate change played in the ongo­ing dis­as­ter is also in full swing. This is espe­cial­ly so because Texas is known both for its eco­nom­ic depen­den­cy on fos­sil fuels and for elect­ing vocal cli­mate skep­tics—guys like Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. Greg Abbott. In the mean­time, 100- and 1,000-year extreme weath­er events” and cat­a­stroph­ic wild­fires are hap­pen­ing more and more fre­quent­ly. This begs the ques­tion: If get­ting the GOP to acknowl­edge this real­i­ty isn’t an option, per­haps per­suad­ing them and their col­leagues to look into infra­struc­ture plans to pro­tect the mil­lions of Amer­i­cans liv­ing at or near sea lev­el is? This would, of course, need to be approached as a prac­ti­cal alter­na­tive to spend­ing bil­lions of dol­lars to fight end­less wars over­seas (or build­ing ridicu­lous walls between the Unit­ed States and Mexico).

The per­son­al sto­ries and images pour­ing out of Texas (in real­time thanks to social media) are shock­ing, sad, sur­re­al and inspir­ing. Here are a few:

When Har­vey, a trop­i­cal storm first named on Aug. 17, swirled out of the Gulf of Mex­i­co and made land­fall in South Texas on Fri­day night, it was a Cat­e­go­ry 4” hur­ri­cane with 130 mile per hour winds. Unlike most hur­ri­canes that quick­ly weak­en over land, a full two days lat­er Har­vey remains a trop­i­cal storm — one threat­en­ing to cir­cle back into the Gulf, strength­en and hit the same inun­dat­ed region again. The sys­tem is actu­al­ly being sus­tained by its own rain­fall — a phe­nom­e­non known as the brown ocean” effect. This satel­lite image of Hur­ri­cane Har­vey was tak­en short­ly before it made land­fall on the night of August 25, 2017. (Image: @NASAGoddardPix / Twitter)

Accord­ing to the Saf­fir-Simp­son Hur­ri­cane Wind Scale, a Cat­e­go­ry 4 hur­ri­cane mak­ing land­fall means that, Well-built framed homes can sus­tain severe dam­age with loss of most of the roof struc­ture and/​or some exte­ri­or walls. Most trees will be snapped or uproot­ed and pow­er poles downed. Fall­en trees and pow­er poles will iso­late res­i­den­tial areas. Pow­er out­ages will last weeks to pos­si­bly months. Most of the area will be unin­hab­it­able for weeks or months.” (Info­graph­ic: Scoop​nest​.com)

A man helps his kids out of the flood­wa­ters and onto dry land. (Image: @GQMagazine / Twitter)

Evac­uees wade down a flood­ed sec­tion of Inter­state 610. (Image: mprnews​.org)

A vol­un­teer with a boat res­cues an elder­ly man and his wife who spent Sat­ur­day night in their flood­ed home. (Image: @CNN / Twitter) 

The viral video of a Hous­ton man catch­ing a fish in his liv­ing room. (Video: YouTube)

A pic­ture of a dog car­ry­ing a bag of food in its mouth also went viral on Sun­day after­noon. (Image: the​blaze​.com)

A video blog­ger’s take on Hur­ri­cane Har­vey and the pol­i­tics of its after­math. (Video: Styxhexenhammer666/​ YouTube)

Texas fire ants stack them­selves on top of each oth­er to form a float­ing island until they reach dry land. (Image: @OmarVillafranca / Twitter)

For a time­line of Trop­i­cal Storm Har­vey’s devel­op­ment, click here. For updates from the Nation­al Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter, click here. To learn more about the var­i­ous relief efforts under­way for peo­ple and ani­mals affect­ed by the storm, click here—though be sure to ver­i­fy the authen­tic­i­ty of any unknown orga­ni­za­tion’s claims before con­tribut­ing any money.

*Update 828 1:00 pm: con­trolled water release of the rapid­ly ris­ing Bark­er and Addicks reser­voirs is impact­ing res­i­dents.

(Video: KHOU11)
This blog’s mis­sion is to pro­vide the pub­lic ser­vice of help­ing make the issues that rur­al Amer­i­ca is grap­pling with part of nation­al discourse.
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