By Sam Burnham
I'm sitting here drinking coffee and thinking as the rain falls from the outermost remnants of Hurricane Harvey. My thoughts have often been with the people of Houston this week. Seeing the floodwaters inundate the 4th largest city in the United States has been troubling and humbling.
There has been some nasty criticism of this storm. Seeing the Left react and wondering if the "Conservatives" or "Trumpers" in Texas would be willing to accept government help has been disgusting. Never waste a crisis. Well, I'm no Trumper but I've been very impressed by the results. Seeing that many private citizens respond and lend a hand to their neighbors and assisting the overwhelmed government agencies who were poorly matched for the size and scope of this storm has been refreshing. We've seen a highly diverse city, as well as their neighbors from other states, rise to this occasion and show us that in time of crisis in America, Left and Right, black and white, rich and poor, even Muslim and Christian can work together and get more done than our collective government could have. Good job, Houston.
But I've also seen some criticism of government that might also be a bit unfair. There is a lot of talk about the need to evacuate the city and condemning the mayor for not doing so. Houston is a highly populated metro sprawled out over an immense tract of land. Using Google maps I measured the actual footprint of Houston to cover an area from from Villa Rica to Conyers and then from Alpharetta to Griffin. And then there is over six million people living the metro area. The actual city population is almost 5 times that of Atlanta. And Texas is so spread out hat there is really nowhere immediately to evacuate to, especially when there are six million people to evacuate. The logistics of moving that many people successfully would take at least 72 hours and coordination and cooperation. I just don't think it is realistic to expect this to have happened in the time that Harvey posed and threat and landfall.
But we're now faced with the conundrum of American cities. We've seen New Orleans and Houston both fall victim to hurricane floodwaters. Suggesting that we should do away with cities is silly, even if it sounds good. New Orleans is 300 years old and Houston is nearly 200. These cities hold strategic locations economically. Houston alone is responsible for 27% of all US petrochemical industry. Houston in particular is in a position of being needed more than it needs. It is vital to the economy. This means jobs and jobs mean a population - a population that makes more demand, more jobs, more population, etc. These cities aren't going away.
These cities have specific threats - hurricanes. It is just as specific as earthquakes to Los Angeles and San Francisco, Volcanoes to Seattle, or Tornadoes to Atlanta or Birmingham. The task at hand is how to develop plans, infrastructure, and resources that will allow for some residents to be evacuated, some sheltered in place, and others moved within town to assure people are safe from the dangers.
Regardless of how this situation is to be solved, I want to close with another word of admiration for the regular folks in Houston. The first responders, the Cajun Navy, and each and every neighbor out there looking out for each other. That is America.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire