Garbage, garbage everywhere

BEAUMONT, Texas — Having experienced two major hurricanes and the deluge-producing Tropical Storm Harvey over the past  12 years, one becomes accustomed to certain sights over time.

After hurricanes Rita and Ike, the blue tarp became the symbol for damage for many and the recovery for some. The blue covers mostly came from a U.S.. Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA program called “Operation Blue Roof.” This is a free service in which damaged roofing can be covered for free for homeowners who sign a right of entry (ROE) form for contractors. The “blue” in blue roofs is so called due to the fiber-reinforced sheeting used as covers, or tarpaulins. Those tarps are blue.

I recall flying into the local airport  when returning from a trip in 2008 in Washington, D.C., and noticed an abundance of blue roofing covers still in place from the September 2005 Rita.

So, Southeast Texas is now several weeks in recovery efforts from Tropical Storm Harvey. The majority of the storm damage from the Houston to Sabine River in Texas was a result of the unprecedented flooding.

Like the blue roofs from past hurricanes, now the symbol where I live and in many other places in Southeast Texas, is trash — and lots of it.

September 4, 2017, Houston, TX – Debris on the side of the road in a Houston area neighborhood affected by Hurricane Harvey. FEMA file photo

The Category 4 Hurricane Harvey made landfall Aug. 26, 2017, on the middle Texas Gulf Coast, where it caused severe wind and storm surge damage. But Harvey wasn’t through there.

Harvey moved inland becoming a Category 1 hurricane before being downgraded to a tropical storm. The track continued until reaching an area about 55 miles southeast of San Antonio.  The storm then took a southeast turn before making a southwestern direction. And, it turned again, making a southeastern leg and eventually hugging the upper Texas coast. TS Harvey was a large-enough storm that its center never came all that near Houston even though the rain it produced was devastating.

The tropical storm made landfall for a final time on Aug. 30, 2017, near Cameron, La., about 50 miles east southeast from where I live in Beaumont.  I remember when the center of the storm was about 45 miles south of here. It had rained for, I lost count of the days, it was flooding and the tropical storm actually had some pretty good gusts of winds. While I had no weather station, I could see the trees outside bending to and fro.

Most of the folks I know from this area, and I tend to agree, could never remember it raining so hard for for so long. This entire area and extending up into the East Texas pineywoods and into Western Louisiana saw an unbelievable drenching. Some preliminary National Weather Service  reports put the rainfall around the Beaumont-Port Arthur-Orange Metropolitan area ranging from 36 to 60 inches over the course of the storm. Many of the unofficial  reports in my area put the rain total at 55 inches. Our area has an average annual rainfall of almost 60 inches.

I have no idea how much damage was received from the time it made its first landfall until when it landed again as a tropical storm. In the area from Houston to the east in Texas, at least 70 people died from the flooding.

Recovery from Harvey, still undergoing, will take a long time to accomplish.

One of my favorite zoos escapes major hurricane damage.

It is heartening to know the Houston Zoo fared well during Hurricane Harvey and its flooding. About 60 staff members stayed to care for the animals at the long-time Houston attraction.

The Miami zoo has also prepared for Hurricane Irma which is barrelling through the mostly peninsular state.

The giraffe exhibit at the Houston park sustained the most damage which included about eight inches of water.

Although I do not remember hearing of any human electrocutions from lightning during Harvey,  an electrocution did kill someone who stepped on a power line under water while touching a metal boat. Also, I don’t know how much lightning was experienced at the zoo. But quite a bit happened here in Beaumont during the deluge. That brought to mind something I had often wondered: Are giraffes major targets for lightning due to their height?

Apparently, lightning kills maybe two giraffes a year, according to a BBC article on the subject. An average of 55 people are killed by lightning per year in the United States says this fact sheet from Texas Tech University.  I remember interviewing a guy who was struck by lightning following Sunday church services after a sudden thunderstorm in Central Texas. The man retrieved an umbrella and decided to help some older ladies get to their cars. The umbrella acted as a lightning rod. There seems a lot of irony in this.

A beautiful Malayan tiger at the Houston Zoo. Photo thanks to Houston Zoo.

The Houston Zoo is hoping folks will visit as a means to divert them for at least a little bit from the big bummer that has been Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath. That sounds like a good idea. I might visit there myself when I have a long time I can kill after my frequent trips to the Houston VA Hospital. I might have to walk awhile and rest a few minutes due to my back problems but it sounds like it would be worth the effort. It has been more than 20 years since I visited the Houston Zoo. It is second in my top two zoos I have visited in the U.S.

My favorites:

  1. San Diego Zoo — It is huge and the gold standard in American and possibly world zoos. I visited there while stationed on a ship in San Diego back in 1978. I spent all afternoon walking around this massive park and could have returned to spend several more hours. The zoo is located in the awesome Balboa Park.
  2. Houston Zoo — This is a zoological park that opened in 1922. My Dad worked there as a young man and I enjoyed hearing his story about feeding the wild animals.
  3. St. Louis Zoo — This storied park had its origins during the 1904 World’s Fair.
  4. “The Saint Louis Zoo traces its origins to the 1904 World’s Fair and in 2004 commemorated the centennial of the Fair with this dramatic new transformation of the 1904 Flight Cage.“The Smithsonian Institution commissioned the Flight Cage for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition and intended to move it to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. following the Fair. But St. Louisans rallied to keep the Flight Cage intact, and the City of St. Louis soon purchased it for $3,500 (the structure had originally cost $17,500 to construct). Within a few short years, it served as the impetus for St. Louis to develop a full-fledged zoo – the first municipally supported zoo in the world.”Long before there was a “Jungle Jack” Hanna and the Animal Planet network there was “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.” I loved watching this animal show hosted by Marlin Perkins. The show began during his tenure as director of the St. Louis Zoo.
  5. San Antonio Zoo — I found this to be a nice zoo during a visit around 1982 or 1983. This zoo, located in Breckenridge Park, began with some small animals, and later some buffalo and elk.. This park had the first white rhino born in the U.S. back in the early 1970s.
  6. Cameron Park Zoo in Waco — I visited there once or twice when I lived there. It was nice for a smaller zoo. I always liked the dik-dik exhibit. These are small antelope from eastern African. I always thought their names were funny. My Dad used to call me “Dick Dick” as a little boy.

Runners up:

Caldwell Zoo in Tyler — I took a small group of emotionally disturbed boys with whom I supervised to this park. I found it to be a nice, small park that was well-laid out. With this group, I also thought their education program for kids was first rate. Like most other zoos I visited, I have not been back since first visiting in 1987.

Fossil Rim Wildlife Park in Glen Rose, Texas — Although not technically a zoo it does feature a number of animals to be found on a self-guided tour. I went there to do a story about one of its conservation programs in which the then-nearly extinct grey wolves were bred and later reintroduced into the wilds of the Rocky Mountains. I was let in the cage holding the mother and pups. It was amazing.

Living through another pain-in-the-ass disaster

If I could sum up the past week here in Beaumont, Texas, in one sentence, it would be: Natural disasters suck!

The town I live in has been in the news quite often over the week during the tremendous flooding that was a result of first, Hurricane, then Tropical Storm Harvey. The first hurricane I experienced was 12 years ago this month, Hurricane Rita. Three years later, Hurricane Ike, blew in from the Gulf and left a good portion of the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast flooded.

Rita had extensive wind damage and it took quite some time for Southeast Texas to rebuild. As was the case with both Rita and Ike, I was fortunate enough to sustain no property damage from Harvey. I did evacuate Rita though in my hometown some 60 miles northeast, although the damage there was also quite extensive as it was in Beaumont.

The biggest problem in Beaumont I have faced with Harvey’s deluge was having no running water due to the city losing its water supply system. That is, after the brief power outage we faced.

The water pump station is located along the Neches River and draws water from the river as the main source of water for the City’s water system. The City also lost the secondary water source at the Loeb wells in Hardin County. At this time there is no water supply for the City water system. It looked like after going through all of this, my apartments faced evacuation due to management’s concern about water supplies should a fire threaten us. We were given about 24 hours to find somewhere else to live.

But, we were told the next morning that we would be staying. Albeit, it was without running water.

The next day, a somewhat weaker water supply was evident with running water in the taps and in the toilets. However, we are required to boil any water we get from taps. One hopes boiling it will be a good fix because who knows what all kind of pollution is in the floodwaters.

There was a shortage of places to buy needed staples. Those stores are slowly but surely opening. The same goes for restaurants. I had a burger and onion rings yesterday from Willy Burger. Today, I bought a buffet carry-out meal at Golden Corral. It is the water supply that is also hampering regular operations of restaurants.

 

An Army vehicle carries a woman through flood waters in Orange, TX. The troops are from the 1-143 Infantry Regiment, Airborne Battalion. Army photo by Spc. Austin Boucher

Next in my big bag of flooding complaints is the fact that the flooding has cut off Beaumont from pretty much the rest of the world. First, almost every road leading in or out of the city was shuttered due to rising water. Today, Interstate 10 from Beaumont to the Louisiana line is closed mainly due to flooding in an around Vidor. U.S. Hwy. 96 which leads to Jasper and points north is closed due to the collapse of a bridge over Village Creek from flood waters. I-10 from Beaumont is open again, and I will have to use it to drive to a medical appointment on Wednesday at the Houston VA.

While Harvey did quite a lot of storm damage as a hurricane upon landfall near Corpus Christi, it was its unending rain that caused so much damage in Houston. Upon the storm re-entering the Gulf and making another landfall near the Texas-Louisiana border, that rain only became worse. I did see a lot of trees swaying to and fro as the tropical storm moved to the south of us. But it caused little wind damage up here.

There is no doubting that I am very fortunate in not having severe hardships such as requiring military helicopters to pick me up and taking me to some shelter. Just how many homes and other abodes will require repair or rebuilding, it is hard to say. Likewise, the human loss seems to climb every day. The toll has surpassed 60, ABC News reported tonight.

Finally, many societal questions have risen in Harvey’s aftermath. The first responders from across the U.S., and at least one person from Israel, came to help. A lot has been made about the “Cajun Navy” who have come to help. During such a crisis, there is often a tremendous sense of “coming together.” But we are a nation divided that continues down that path, I think, until that moron in the White House is gone. Even rebuilding will be negatively affected by Trump and his fellow assholes. The easy reconstruction process made so easy by ready Mexican labor during Rita will be in severe demand because of the racist moves of the administration to rid our nation of immigrants.

Our newest challenge is once again North Korea which exploded a hydrogen bomb during a test this weekend. The concern that nation is causing makes a 1,000-year flood look like a spring rain.

 

Seeking shelter from the storm — at home

 

Hurricanes and other natural disasters often leave those people who are not trying to survive with little to do. Since I am off work until a week from today, I spent last night watching TV and surfing the internet. Thus, I went to bed about 1 a.m. I woke up at 7 a.m. and went back to bed until 12:30 p.m. During those times when I was awake I think I can safely say that the rain from now-Tropical Storm Harvey has not abated.

An Army National Guard soldier rescues a woman from her flooded home in Houston. Texas National Guard photo by LT Zachary West.

Beaumont, Texas, does not receive the publicity of, say, Houston. This is obviously because of a matter of scale. Houston, with a population of more than 2.3 million, is the fourth-largest city in the United States. Beaumont, with around 115,000 people, is not.

But, publicity be damned, weather does not play media favorites. Of course, that may have been difficult to fathom for some of the folks in other locations 12 years ago when Katrina inundated New Orleans and wrecked the Mississippi coast. Even now as Tropical Storm Harvey has moved into Louisiana, the national media seems fixated on New Orleans.

New Orleans suffered a significant loss in people and damage, there is no doubt about that. Houston, where thousands of refugees from Katrina sought shelter, will likely see much more damage from Harvey. Hopefully the casualties will not come even close.

It seems a lull in the heavy rain is taking place. The same for the pounding thunder and 35-40 mph wind gusts. But we likely have at least another 24 hours of tropical storm ahead of us. One only needs to look at the weather warnings from NOAA here in Jefferson County to know that:

 

 

The clown prince speaks his insanity once more

Trump is talking about what “we” will do in Afghanistan and issue yet again a “Trump” doctrine. Is there a mouse in his pocket? Crap o’mighty.

He speaks in his hyperbolic narcissism.  It is just too ridiculous to repeat.

Trump’s Secret Squirrel attitude once again promised he will not tell the public — who provides “blood and treasure” in the manner of bullet catchers and unlimited money — what  our troops will do. That danger is a government that willingly spends those lives and those dollars with no oversight. Oh, well there is “congressional oversight,” if you don’t find those words oxymoronic.  Perhaps in Trump’s mind, this might be viewed more toward the moronic.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan on a “town hall” with CNN’s Jake Tapper, the former whom I have long felt bears a scary resemblance with the 60s sitcom “The Munsters” character Eddie Munster, is back ready to suck up to Trump after the president’s bright shining insanity last week.

This is all for right now. Such clarity. I wish I could say this all is a big joke. Well, at least Trump is a joke, but his mouthing off and his stupidity is out for all to see.