VA Official: Flooded Beaumont VA to reopen soon. Nearby the saddest and most remarkable event from Tropical Storm Harvey

Southeast Texas veterans and their families can return in November to the Beaumont VA Outpatient Clinic. I hope that if you read this, pass it on to other veterans.

My local Department of Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic has been closed since being, at least partially, swallowed by the Great Flood of Ought-17. The clinic I use, which is only a block from Interstate 10 in Beaumont, TX. The flooding was due to Hurricane-Tropical Storm Harvey. I have to go to that Clinic at least every two months or so for various reasons. Thus, I looked at the VA information on the ‘net and saw that the Beaumont VA clinic was closed when the flooding began at the end of August. It remains closed here on Oct. 25, 2017.

An RV hosts a mobile Vet Center in Beaumont after flooding from Harvey. VA photo.

A spokeswoman for the VA at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston said the Beaumont clinic building will open soon.

Maureen Dyman, Houston VA spokesperson said in an email that the clinic is set to reopen “sometime in November.”

” … we are seeing more than 100 patients a day in 5 mobile medical units set up out in the parking lot of the clinic. We are really committed to serving our Beaumont Vets during this time,” Dyman said.

Those units outside the water-logged clinic building are reminiscent of “M.A.S.H.” in the movie and television series. That is due to the series of tents outside the clinic. There are also some big RVs helping such as the photo of the mobile Vet Center. Still, in all of this, it seems the staff is getting things done the best they can, at least that was my one experience.

I figured the clinic would be hard hit with flooding. Just off I-10 and near the clinic was where a nurse for a Port Arthur hospital had, for some reason parked in rising flood waters at at a medical building. When Collette Sulcer stepped out of her car with her 3-year-old daughter Jordyn, she was swept away in the swift water, hanging on. Local police and firefighters in a Zodiac boat happened to see a woman in the flood waters with a little girl hanging on. The first responders plucked the child from the flood waters as well as her mother. The police and fire people saved Jordyn but Collette didn’t make it though those responders and others tried mightily, giving the mother CPR all the way to a hospital. The mother died holding onto Jordyn Grace Sulcer.

Some say Collette is a hero for the remarkable feat of hanging on to her daughter in the racing water that claimed the mother’s life. Maybe. Perhaps so. But Collette Sulcer was also doing her most important job as a mother.

Read up! We have a democracy that needs help

I have been neglectful in the care and feeding of my site. Oh well, it isn’t as if anyone has come forward to say “why haven’t you updated your blog lately?” So I must be doing something right, just kidding, kinda sorta.

One thing is for sure, plenty of topics are out there in no small part due to that orangutan that millions will not admit  is the 45th president of the U.S.

The devastating storm that battered the Texas coast, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands all have a tie into 45. Even if the president is taken out of these disasters our U.S. citizens, including myself, encountered is often unimaginable.

Then there was the mass shooting in Las Vegas. There are so many stories there. Too many questions remain. Here is my question — and I am not certain whether it has or hasn’t been answered — why hasn’t any information been unearthed or released about those hotel guests who were staying on the same floor as the shooter?

As for No. 45 alone, it seems as if more and more Republican officials are beginning to realize what most of us who voted against Old Orange Man have known from the start. The president is incompetent and has an extreme and even dangerous type of narcissism. I am sure that one day experts will want a look at his postmortem brain. Both Democrats and Republicans are discussing, mostly in an anonymous fashion, the two legal means of ridding the White House of Old Orange Man. These manners of booting 45 are impeachment and removal from office, and exercising the 25th Amendment. Barring some dramatic and/or dangerous event involving the president first occurs, impeachment seems a  more likely avenue. That would require the Republicans coming together in Congress so if the impeachment process rolls forward, one would be assured that the reasoning for trial is a serious event.

The 25th Amendment also is an option, but hopefully that would be employed as a very, last option. Too much would be involved with such a solution not least at what is the slippery slope it would create for our democracy.

Yes, there is much to be learned and too much to digest all of the above as well as other concerns — North Korea chief among those.

So, if you haven’t already, get to reading about the news and if you find something that doesn’t sound right — which are most of 45’s actions and speech — read some more. Our democracy depends on you.

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.