Hurricane Harvey Hurts Texas

There’s a lot to be said about the relationship between the damage from Hurricane Harvey and climate change. But that can wait.

People are hurting. People are afraid. People have died.

So I’m urging readers to donate — everything helps, even a little bit — to charities which will help now. The American Red Cross is one possibility. There are many others, and with a little bit of research you might find one that’s equally or more effective, and more in need. Do be careful, you don’t want your donation to go to something that isn’t really going to do the job we need.

Set aside politics, put scientific arguments on the shelf. There’ll be plenty of time for that later. Right now, people need help.

16 responses to “Hurricane Harvey Hurts Texas

  1. Whilst I cannot argue with your main premise, in my professional capacity I have recently taken an engineering argument down off my virtual shelf:

    Reported electric power outages in Harvey’s wake are increasing once again this morning. Up to over 270,000 in Texas plus ~5,000 so far in Lousiana.

  2. One easy and relatively painless way to donate is to text HARVEY to 90999. $10 will be added to your wireless bill, and the money goes to the Red Cross, specifically for Harvey relief.

    I do want to comment on “But that can wait.” It reminds me of the gun lobby’s “Now is not the time to discuss gun control” every time there’s a mass shooting. Then the shooting disappears from everyone’s consciousness and that’s that.

    Of course I understand that you are NOT taking the gun lobby equivalent position here, but I think it’s worth saying that the best time to discuss the causes of a disaster is while it’s still fresh in everyone’s mind–perhaps not while it’s still unfolding, but in the immediate aftermath.

    I imagine that this is what you were getting at.

    PS: For those who haven’t seen it, Mike Mann does leap in headfirst and discuss climate change and Harvey at The Guardian:

  3. I respectfully disagree that discussion of climate change can wait. There is no sense in throwing money at the problem that is Houston. I watched Katrina stroll across the Gulf and blow up from a Cat 1 storm to Cat 4/5 and I knew that the Gulf Coast from Tampico to Biloxi had become a death zone. Harvey is the new normal for Gulf hurricanes. If you believe that, then the only response that makes sense is to talk about abandoning the low-lying infrastructure, armoring the essential high ground infrastructure and doing everything possible to move the population inland.

    • As someone in another forum put it, some cities are where they have to be. Major port cities like Houston *have* to be on the water, or they stop being major port cities. Tankers and container ships can’t go inland.

      Everybody knows Houston is prone to flooding – it’s flat and built on a swamp – and they are generally prepared for it. It’s just that getting AN ENTIRE YEAR’S WORTH OF RAIN in a single weekend is going to overwhelm even the most forward-thinking flood control measures. No city could cope with the volume of water that was dropped in that short a time, no matter where they are.

      And note that the flooding had nothing to do with Harvey’s intensity, but with the fact that it *didn’t move* for a day and a half. It went from Cat 4 to tropical depression fairly quickly, but instead of moving inland like normal, it decided to hang around Cuero for some reason, pulling in Biblical amounts of rain and dumping it all on Houston.

      • the thinking that created the problem is incapable of imagining the solution. Don’t send money to help rebuild Houston. Houston and all coastal infrastructure from Tampico to Biloxi is at great risk of wind, rain and flooding damage from the hurricanes that will develop over the warmed gulf waters. If you think the Biblical amounts of rain and the slow path of the hurricane are the big problem and that these issues are also not driven by global warming, then please send your donation dollars to one of the mega-churches in the region and you can magnify the power of mega-church prayer to protect the Gulf coast.

      • Whachamacallit

        Slight correction on that, jfb. The cyclone went from a major hurricane to a tropical *storm* very quickly, but then it stayed as a tropical storm for an extended amount of time. I think it only became a tropical depression early today.

      • jfb:

        Major port cities like Houston *have* to be on the water, or they stop being major port cities. Tankers and container ships can’t go inland.

        Oh, come on. Houston’s port facilities have to be on the water, but everything that doesn’t can be moved inland, above maximum sea level rise. With what happened to Galveston in 1900 to remind them, even Texans understand that ports destroyed by hurricanes stop being major port cities too, unless they are rebuilt at great expense, and no expense will bring the dead back to life. Transportation of people and freight to and from the port can be addressed more cheaply than writing off billions in developed urban real estate.

        As those billions so often come out of my taxes, I feel justified in making provisos on aid to Houston and Texas. I have no problem making targeted charitable donations, but if Harvey’s victims won’t act collectively to help themselves, I’m unwilling to help them with my taxes.

        getting AN ENTIRE YEAR’S WORTH OF RAIN in a single weekend is going to overwhelm even the most forward-thinking flood control measures.

        Singapore appears better prepared than Houston. The difference between them may simply be Singaporeans’ greater willingness to act collectively under their political system. Admittedly their system is rather different from Houston’s, but in both cases the people living there are responsible for their choices.

        At least in urban areas with plenty of room to grow inland, forward-thinking flood control planning would take note of rainfall’s propensity to immediately run off higher ground, temporarily collecting in adjacent low spots on its way to established drainage channels, on all geographic scales from the neighborhood level on up. In Baton Rouge last year and in Houston last week, flash floods occurred in places that had never flooded previously, just because it had never rained that hard there before.

        That, in turn, suggests the prior probability of ‘AN ENTIRE YEAR’S WORTH OF RAIN in a single weekend’ needs to be updated with current data. By now the link between AGW and more extreme rainfall is well demonstrated, and Harvey gave Houston’s stormwater management planners a confirmed target. Implementing it requires the political will to save a lot of socialized cost later by sacrificing a little private profit sooner. In a pluralistic republic such as ours, the affected voters have to supply the will. Is that really so hard to grasp?

    • That was exactly what I have been say to myself (loudly enough that people are becoming concerned). Move the people up and to the north.

    • Not sure you are correct to say that Harvey is the “new normal”. But together with events like Allison a while back it may well become the new extreme in that area.

      While deniers are far worse for getting ahead of/away from the science, that is no excuse to do so from the other extreme.

      • All hurricanes have their own quirks, trajectory etc. The thing that has been apparent since Katrina is that the new normal warmed waters of the Gulf will tend to allow tropical depressions and Cat 1 storms to blow up into Cat 4/5 storms. Katrina did landfall in Fl as I recall and lost a lot of power and structure as hurricanes typically do over land, then it crossed and hit the warmed waters of the Gulf and reorganized and built to a large and powerful hurricane. I grew up 150 miles from the Gulf and I recognized that the global heat stored in the waters of the Gulf had changed the formula for Gulf hurricanes. Will all hurricanes hit Rockport and go stationary over the coast? Will they all look like Harvey? No, but the new normal is that tropical depressions and Cat 1 storms in the Gulf will be larger and more destructive than they were when I was a kid watching Hurricane Carla blow through the front yard. Texas has lots of residential and industrial infrastructure built on flood plains within 200 miles of the coast. This is lovely until the day when the waters rise. Global warming means the waters will rise more often now. Does it make sense to help Texas rebuild in the floodplains?

      • My take on the “new normal” meme is that the major way that it is wrong is that we are not even close to being in equilibrium.

        Hence, the ‘new normal’, whatever it turns out to be, will certainly be much worse. (Or, if we apply your correction, Harvey may be the ‘new normal’ indeed, but the ‘new outlier’ will be much worse.)

  4. I’ve worked under the Australian Red Cross, and can tell you that the Red Cross is an excellent organisation to donate to.

    I came here to see if there was comment on the statistical properties of this storm, but I’m happy you’ve taken the direction you have.

    (And the data hasn’t stopped arriving, so there’s plenty of time. Maybe next week.)

  5. I agree that we need to do what we can to help, right now.

    But I disagree, respectfully, that the climate change conversation needs to be postponed. That’s what thew denialati want. Now, they want it postponed ‘lest it distract.’ Later, they will say that it’s old news. In any interval between these two phases–and they will attempt to reduce that interval to zero, if at all possible–they will repeat that this is really nothing new, that you can’t attribute single events to climate change, and accuse any attempt to raise the topic of ‘playing politics.’

    I think most of us, who will not be out in airboats doing swift-water rescue, or driving supply trucks, or doing emergency medicine in outlying shelters, are well able to give what aid we can, and ALSO to initiate and sustain a much-needed debate on *policy*.

    In the last 12 years we’ve seen 3 major American cities savaged by cyclonic storms in ways that most of us had literally not experienced in our lifetimes. How much more are we going to take without recognizing the reality that is squarely in front of us?

    People want to talk about this now. I think we should go with that impulse.

    And yes, we should give.

  6. I actually collect for red cross each year and it is not unusual to be receive $50 donations. The collecting is only done in a few specific streets that I am directed to cover in a small town and it is not unusual to wind up banking over $200 for a few hours voluntary work.

  7. When we give to the victims of Hurricane Harvey, we should also spare a thought and perhaps a dime or two for the millions affected by the floods in South Asia, and the unfolding flooding that has displaced 100,000 people in Benue State in Nigeria. And after we’ve contributed, let’s keep talking about our changing climate.

  8. The statistical nature of events like Harvey makes it so difficult to grasp for us, that things are changing. Basically you can see it clearly only in hindsight. The art of preparing for the possible is called prudence, and that’s the way to go, IMHO.