By Doug Porter
Hurricane Harvey hits Houston. This story is much bigger than one Texas city and one Category 4 hurricane. Today I’ll attempt to tie some of the threads of this story together, as President Trump tours nearby cities and does his best to live up to today’s NY Times headline predicting he’s gonna reclaim his mojo.
San Diego has a piece of this story, as local lifeguards packed and ready to travel to Texas were told to stand down rather than aid in rescue efforts. UPDATE: The stand down order is o longer in effect.
Undocumented immigrants made headlines, as ICE dumped 50 women and children at a bus station as the storm made landfall, while the Houston city government pledged to help everyone, regardless of status.
A Twitterstorm focused on the obscene wealth of Houston-based evangelist Joel Osteen and his role (or lack thereof) in aiding victims.
The GOP’s lie machine has been busy casting partisan aspersions on Obama/Democrats. Perhaps they should just rename the St. Andreas Fault after the 44th president and just get it over.
Finally, there are the larger questions. How much did Houston’s lack of building regulations impact the damage? Will Louisiana/New Orleans be devastated? And how much can we point the finger at Climate Change in assessing the damage done by Harvey?
— Holly O’Reilly (@AynRandPaulRyan) August 29, 2017
A summary of what we know about Hurricane Harvey as of Tuesday morning includes the following:
The Houston metro area covers about 10,000 square miles, an area slightly bigger than New Jersey. It’s crisscrossed by about 1,700 miles of channels, creeks and bayous that drain into the Gulf of Mexico, about 50 miles to the southeast from downtown. The storm is generating an amount of rain that would normally be seen only once in more than 1,000 years, said Edmond Russo, a deputy district engineer for the Army Corps of Engineers, which was concerned that floodwater would spill around a pair of 70-year-old reservoir dams that protect downtown Houston. (Associated Press)
- As of 10 a.m. ET, a rain gauge southeast of Houston reported 49.32 inches — breaking a state record that was set by cyclone Amelia in 1978, the National Hurricane Center said on Tuesday. (NPR)
- Lloyd Ziel with the Red Cross told Eyewitness News they have already received more than 9,000 evacuees, and the flow of people through their doors has not stopped… …The [George R. Brown Convention Center] shelter was given an original capacity of 5,000. The Red Cross said it was working to make room at the downtown shelter. (Houston’s KTRT)
- Harvey’s downpours will continue over parts of Texas and Louisiana and slowly drift northward through the end of August, exacerbating the unprecedented flooding disaster that continues to unfold.“This is a devastating flooding event, the likes of which we have not seen in at least the last 12 years, since the Hurricane Katrina disaster,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Brett Rossio said. Communities will be under water for weeks and perhaps a month or more even after the rain stops. Power will remain out for an extended period until it is safe for crews to repair the lines. (AccuWeather)
San Diego’s nationally recognized river rescue team won’t be part of the aid efforts in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, thanks to a long-standing feud with the management of the city’s fire department.
BREAKING: The SDFD has rescinded its stand down order and the River Rescue team will be dispatched to Texas.
A letter of apology from San Diego Lifeguard Sergeant Ed Harris (and union leader) was posted on Facebook:
Dear Governor Abbott, Mayor Turner and citizens of Houston,
I am sorry to tell you that we are not coming. I am a San Diego Lifeguard Sergeant. We have a River Rescue Team that is nationally recognized. Our guards spent weeks rescuing people during hurricane Katrina. We saw this storm approaching Thursday and packed our bags. The team hooked up the taxpayer funded CAL-OES trailer and boats that have sat in storage for this type of event. They waited for the call to go that would surely come quickly. It did not. On Saturday, our team was informed to unpack and take the boats over to the Fire Department. They will go. Our team stayed packed and readied more boats and asked to go. Sunday came and we listened to your pleas for help; still we are not sent. Today some guards and I asked for time off so that we could drive our own boats and trucks on our own time. We planned to be there by 3 pm Tuesday. This was in response to your cries for anyone with a boat. We were denied vacation to come help you. The Coast Guard reports through CNN that there are thousands in need and the worst is yet to come, still we sit here. We have plenty of staff to send, but we are blocked.
As professional lifeguards, we are saddened that there are moms, grandmas and children that we could rescue if we were only allowed to go help. We are sickened that Chief Brian Fennessy has blocked our response. Former San Diego Fire Deputy Chief Doug Nakama is now Chief of Special Operations, OES for Governor Brown (Cell: 619-381-7800and Email:firstname.lastname@example.org). Nakama knows that we have ability and numerous resources. He knows that we are self-sustained and could leave with an hours notice. He does not send us. It is with heavy hearts that we send this apology. We can only hope that if our families were in need, someone would come. Attached is a photo of our CAL-OSHA truck packed and sitting in the yard.
According to the Union-Tribune, the San Diego Fire Department urban search and rescue team arrived in Texas on Monday.
Three 18-wheelers, several box trucks and trailers left San Diego late Saturday and traveled by caravan. The group of 45 brought six boats, including two inflatables, to help rescue people from floodwaters that have submerged highways, shopping centers and entire neighborhoods in the Houston area and beyond.
Here’s some shameless behavior. For all the feel good stories about journalists rescuing flood victims, and dedicated employees beating impossible odds to show up for work, there are a few stinkers out there.
About 50 immigrant women and children were stranded by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)at a downtown San Antonio bus station due to Hurricane Harvey.
From Buzzfeed News:
Barbie Hurtado, a community organizer with RAICES, a nonprofit that provides legal aid to immigrant families, said Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett, who represents San Antonio, had called immigration enforcement officials the day before to tell them not to drop families off.
“Knowing that, they just dropped them off,” Hurtado said. “These are women and children who have been released from family detention with no money, cell phones, and don’t speak English.”
“All of the aliens who were transferred to the San Antonio Greyhound bus station by ICE on Friday morning had confirmed tickets and itineraries to their destinations,” ICE said in an official statement. The only problem was those buses had been canceled.The families were ultimately taken in by San Antonio church.
The only problem was those buses had been canceled. The families were ultimately taken in by San Antonio church.
And then there’s the matter of the megachurch with no room at the inn. After messages from Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church tweeted out a solicitation for funds to help victims, people started wondering whether there might be more the 16,000 seat facility could do.
The church initially posted that it was inaccessible due to flooding. After Twitter users started posting photos contradicting that claim, low and behold, the mythical flood waters receded and the organization said it was ready to house people once shelters reached capacity. (See item above about the Civic Center.)
And then the flooding claim vanished into the night.
From the New York Post:
“We have never closed our doors,” a Lakewood Church spokesman said in a statement to CNN. “We will continue to be a distribution center to those in need. We are prepared to house people once shelters reach capacity. Lakewood will be a value to the community in the aftermath of this storm.”
The Islamic Society of Greater Houston’s 21 mosques were all open for anybody needing shelter. (A great many other congregations stepped up on this also.)
Houston officials, led by Mayor Sylvester Turner, promised to assist anyone who needed help, regardless of legal status.
From Vice News:
The Houston area has the third-biggest undocumented population in the U.S., according to Pew Research analysis from 2014. Pew estimated based on Census data that there are 575,000 undocumented immigrants living in the Houston area, representing about 8.7 percent of the population.
Turner, a Democrat, promised to personally provide legal representation to anyone who finds themselves in the hands of immigration authorities. He also doubled down on his opposition to SB4, urging state lawmakers to put the law “on the shelf” while rescue and hurricane relief efforts are underway.
There is no disaster too great to stop the GOP’s lie machine.
Facing criticism over his past refusal to vote for disaster relief for victims of New York/New Jersey victims of Hurricane Sandy, Texas Senator Ted Cruz’ lips just kept moving:
“The problem with that particular bill is it became a $50 billion bill that was filled with unrelated pork. Two-thirds of that bill had nothing to do with Sandy.”
— Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), interview with NBC’s Katy Tur, Aug. 28, 2017
The real issue for Congressional Republicans with the aid bill was that it did not mandate a reduction in spending elsewhere in the federal budget. In other words, cut food stamps in Minnesota to help New Yorkers or else…
From the Washington Post:
The Congressional Research Service issued a comprehensive report on the provisions, and it’s clear that virtually all of it was related to the damage caused by Sandy. There may have been some pork in an earlier Senate version, but many of those items were removed before final passage. There were also some items that appear to have been misunderstood.
I’ve saved the best/worst for last. The GOP’s Twitterverse has exploded with postings over the past 24 hours purporting to contrast President Trump’s handling of Harvey (it’s too soon to tell) and President Obama’s handling of Katrina.
The fact that Obama wasn’t President in 2005 seems to have escaped them.
Or maybe not. The Alliance for Securing Democracy dashboard, which tracks 600 monitored Twitter accounts linked to Russian influence operations show’s they’ve boosted this meme and other similar ones over the past 48 hours.
“In the middle of the hurricane, I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they would be normally,” Pres. Trump says of Arpaio pardon. pic.twitter.com/Og9YWtI3Sb
— CBS News (@CBSNews) August 28, 2017
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