It is Labor Day and it has been a slow day for me. But that is good. I decided to mute the TV and the madness that, in all reality, surrounds what is the real presidential race. There is plenty time for me to comment, or vent, about that contest.
Oh well. That’s all I want to talk about today. If you like sports and degenerates, and live in the Houston/Beaumont area, tune in to Fred and A.J. Oh, if you call and they ask you what’s up, answer “Sports.”
Summer just began but in Southeast Texas it hasn’t been too different from many past days this spring. The rains, which have produced flooding both in the Sabine River basin and in the Houston area, have proceeded with a pretty good clip here in Beaumont, on the upper Texas coast. But over the last few days we have had typical summer weather.
So what is typical summer weather here in Cajun Texas? Well, it means waking up to 75-degree (F) mornings and watching the temperature and humidity climb for the remainder of daylight. Typical, likewise, brings around a 20-to-30 percent chance that showers or thunderstorms will pop up from the day’s heating.
Yesterday, we had an early evening thunderstorm. Today, so far, we had a good coating of rain. Then, when the rain let up, we had what some refer to as a “sun shower.”
Just as the name infers the sun shines while the rain continues to fall. Sun showers happen when wind from a rain storm pushes raindrops into an area with little or no clouds and during which the sun still shines.
This type of weather seems to happen quite a bit on the Gulf Coast, particularly in the northern, more humid places. Or maybe that is where I have noticed such instances more.
I have long known that sun showers produced some folk wisdom as to why such an event happens. Growing up, my Mom and Dad, who were both born in East Texas during World War I, would say “The Devil is beating his wife,” whenever it rained and the sun was shining. This was, according to legend, because Satan was mad that God created a beautiful day. I suppose that is a more “spousal abuse” explanation of “Ol’ Scratch’ kicking his dog. Of course, either type of abuse has a high level of intolerance these days. And it’s about time. But some of the explanations for sun showers in other parts of the world are sometimes just plain wacky, from a westerner’s point of view. Not to say abusive on some level or the other.
Texas Republicans will vote on the secession measure Friday during the state GOP convention taking place at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas. How appropriate is it that the Texas Republicans are convening in the former Dallas Convention Center? The center was renamed after the former GOP U.S. senator from Texas, who was also state treasurer and legislator as well as a television legal correspondent in Houston and a University of Texas cheerleader.
I didn’t always agree with Hutchison — I did let her use my office bathroom on a RV stop to my little East Texas newspaper during her treasurer candidacy — but I don’t remember hearing really off-the-wall ideas from her like her fellow Texas U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn.
The idea of Texas succeeding from the union is nothing new in the Lone Star State. I suppose one act by Texas military hero, former president of the Republic of Texas and later governor of the state, Sam Houston, which makes him an American patriot as well as a Texas hero was his opposition to Texas leaving the Union during the Civil War. Houston was removed from office and refused a Union army offer to put down the rebellion then quietly retired to his home in Huntsville, Texas. If you happen to pass on the southern outskirts of Huntsville on Interstate 45, either in day or night, you will see the 67-foot-tall statue of this larger than life hero.
Since the United States put the kibosh on states taking off on their very on — with a heavy price to both the Union and the southern confederacy — talks of secession have been just talk.
Most of the recent talk has been fueled by one man, a Daniel Millerwho lives about 15 minutes away from me in the city of Nederland, Texas, and someone who does make great use of the internet. But the Texas Nationalist Movement, or TMN, claims to have had a 400 percent jump in membership since the 2012 elections.
Among the reasons why the TMN seek a separate nation in Texas is a government wholly in the state, and “an end to the siphoning of Texans’ hard-earned money by D.C. bureaucrats.” The movement also says that: “Independence is what the people of Texas want.” Well, I suppose I can’t argue with that although the independence is the one that many have sought in coming to the United States.
More than 125,000 people have signed the Change.org petition asking the White House to grant Texas independence. Only 25,000 signatures are needed to elicit a response from the office of the U.S. chief executive.
“Although the founders established a perpetual union, they also provided for a government that is, as President Lincoln would later describe it, “of the people, by the people, and for the people” — all of the people,” Carson wrote. “Participation in, and engagement with, government is the cornerstone of our democracy. And because every American who wants to participate deserves a government that is accessible and responsive, the Obama Administration has created a host of new tools and channels to connect concerned citizens with White House. In fact, one of the most exciting aspects of the We the People platform is a chance to engage directly with our most outspoken critics.”
It is difficult to imagine what makes people seriously believe that life in the United States is so horrible that they would want to set off what would surely be a battle with the federal government, no matter how many “Texas Nationalists” there really are.
I served in my nation’s armed forces during the Vietnam era and the Cold War. By the time I served it wasn’t at all a really “hot” war. Still, the specter of terrorism was lurking around even back then in the mid 1970s. Three Navy Seabee officers were killed by Philippine terroristswhile inspecting a road about three months before I enlisted in 1974. Three years later I would spend quite a bit of time near that same site in the Philippines on a ship. Some of that time included petty officer of the watch duty, armed with a .45-caliber pistol at my side. Knowing what had happened and what could happen would give me a scary edge, no matter that it was “peace time.”
Maybe the kind of strong coffee one gets down here in Southeast Texas, itself considered Cajun country, has something to do with the wild ideas like those who seek a separate nation in Texas. I note that the TMN website listed locally manufactured Seaport Coffee, a family owned and operated company in Beaumont, as it the “official fuel of the Texas Nationalist Movement.” Whether Texas Coffee Co., which makes Seaport as well as many different wonderful kinds of spices, knows of its TMN distinction I do not know. What I do know is that the nationalist movement does not speak for Texas nor Texans. A separate Texas nation is just a dream, a joke, and a dream.
Ah, just as the 1982 Supertramp song “It’s Raining Again,” declares, it is raining once or maybe twice or perhaps even three times again down here in the sodden Southeastern part of Texas.
It has actually flooded in some parts. Houston has largely shut down today as officials say this is the “rainiest day ever, before noon,”according to online magazine Slate.
The many-times lifesaver of urban life in Houston, TranStar showed late this afternoon that water was still standing below 1-10 West, the Katy Freeway, only five miles or so from what is known as the widest highway in the world.
I have been off work today. I had intended to do some work today, including a safety inspection but the other half of my inspecting was prevented from flying from Dallas to Houston or Dallas to Beaumont. I was supposed to be off work today. I didn’t even notice it until I got up and looked at my work calendar that I found I shouldn’t work today. It happens sometimes.
A quick calculation tells me I have lived, on and off, about half of my 60 years in this part of Texas. I have been through about four or five hurricanes, two of them pretty nasty. Plus, the subtropical area in which I live averages between 58-60+ inches of rainfall per year.
But I cannot recall a year that has had the amount of rain over several rain events since I have lived here.
Last month saw some exceptional flooding on the Sabine River between Texas and Louisiana where I was raised. Some 12 or maybe more inches of rain fell over the area. But worse, hard hit was the area to the north of Toledo Bend Dam, the largest such impoundment on the Sabine and the last dam before the river meets the Gulf of Mexico.
Toledo Bend Dam and its reservoir is the fifth largest man-made lake in the United States. The dam spans the Texas and Louisiana border. I remember when my Daddy and I crossed the Sabine near there to attend the groundbreaking for the facility back in 1960. I don’t remember a whole lot of the day but I do remember crossing the river in a boat provided by our local fire department. The site for the ceremony was the type of such that one would expect to see in the South. There was plenty of barbecue, several local high school bands, and politicians out the wazoo .
Governors Price Daniel Sr. of Texas and Jimmie Davis of Louisiana were also there. The bands played a rousing rendition of “You Are My Sunshine” when Davis was introduced. It was Davis, a gospel and country singer, who popularized the tune on record in 1940. To add a little perspective, Daniel’s son, Price Daniel Jr., was later elected as Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives. After leaving office, he was later allegedly shot and killed by his wife, Vickie Daniel, whom he first met while she was a waitress at a Dairy Queen. She was acquitted of murder in the death of Daniel Jr. in a spectacular trialwhich was recounted in a book and made-for-TV movie.
Ten years later after dirt was first turned, in 1970, the massive reservoir, dam and power plant were finished. It was quite a feat for a facility of that size to be built without the help of the federal government. Both Texas and Louisiana have Sabine River Authorities.
Since Toledo Bend Dam has operated, flooding has been at a minimum down river along the nearly 90 miles to the south along Newton County. The same in most cases applied to Vernon, Beauregard and Calcasieu parishes in Louisiana which are across the Sabine from Newton County. The river then continues on through Orange County and the port of Orange and onto the junction of the Sabine with the Neches River where the salt-water Sabine Lake empties into the Gulf.
The exception to the flooding has been in low-lying areas where folks have settled on the river banks near Deweyville in southernmost Newton County. However, the March rainfall caused not only severe flooding in Deweyville, but also along the river just south of the dam and all along the river along Newton County and the three Louisiana parishes. More than 5,000 homes were flooded in Deweyville and the surrounding areas.
Some residents, especially those of my age and younger, recall the Sabine River as only endangering a small portion down river from Toledo Bend near Deweyville for flooding over the years. Many, like myself, had mistakenly believed that Toledo was built for flood control. It turns out that it wasn’t. The Sabine River Authority of Texas pointed out in the wake of the flooding that the dam was only built for water supply, electrical generation and recreation. A number of those who were flooded were incensed that, even though weather forecasts had called for such a huge amount of rain along the Texas and Louisiana border, the river authority did not open the gates of the dam which some victims believed might have prevented the flooding. The Texas river authority said that the law prevented the opening of the gates until a certain lake level had been reached. So, the gates did not open until the lake reached the level, which by then, contained a much increased volume from the rainfall.
A group of residents whose homes have been destroyed by flooding have met with attorneys to consider a class action lawsuit against the Sabine River Authority.
Perhaps the March 2016 flooding is of the type that is called by government planning and emergency officials a “100-year” or even “500-year” flood. But one must consider the rains this area has experienced today, including flooding that brings Houston — some two hours away from the Sabine River — to its knees. It seems at times that is just too foolish to try and outguess nature.
The flooding along the Texas and Louisiana border is undoubtedly no big national story. That is because, perhaps, a half-million people reside there as opposed to larger metro areas. The same limited media coverage also happened in this part of the U.S. during Hurricanes Rita and Ike. Sure there were the TV people who parachuted in and got their “Dan Rather” routine, trying to stand up in the wind and rain while talking. I imagine some of these folks could even chew gum at the same time.
But have no doubt this flooding is affecting millions of people merely because the flood waters in the Sabine River between Texas and Louisiana has submerged Interstate 10. Texas transportation officials say it could be Tuesday or later until it is reopened.
The most recent Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) figures, that I could find after an hour of searching, from 2013 shows about 48,500 automobiles travel I-10 just outside the southwestern Beaumont city limit. Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city is, mostly, west from there some 75-to-80 miles. Near where Interstate 10 intersects with what are basically three highways in Beaumont — US 69, US 96 and US 287 — more than 130,000 vehicles travel per day. On about 25 miles east, at the Texas-Louisiana border, the traffic count is about 46, 000. You talk about cars, trucks, buses to the Louisiana casinos, and so forth going here and there, that is a lot of people.
The flooding at the I-10 bridge at the Texas border in Orange — that city was devastated from storm surge in 2008 from Hurricane Ike and now may see even worse flooding — was the scene Wednesday of confusion between the two states and no doubt left much head-scratching among those in the more than 46,000 vehicles which head east and west.
Amid this confusion, TxDOT issued some I-10 alternate route information that made me wonder if the information was clear enough for the average driver who does not live in this part of the state, or even if they are from elsewhere.
El Paso take I-20 East of Van Horn
San Antonio take I-35 North to I-20 East to Shreveport
Houston take US 59 North to I-20 East to Shreveport
Beaumont take US 96 North to US 69 North to US 59 North to I-20 East to Shreveport
At least the last alternative made apprehensive. US 96 to 69 — remember they are considered the same along with US 287 going northward from Beaumont. That is really no problem but I think the transportation department might have added: In Lufkin, turn right on Loop 287 and take the US 59 exit toward Nacogdoches. Trust me, I lived in Nacogdoches for many years and those directions are seared in my brain.
All of those alternatives were not meant for me, of course. I think later, when the Sabine River bridge was opened on US 190 in Bon Wier, Texas, TxDOT gave the alternative to travel up US 96 to US 190 in Jasper, from where the state line is about 25 miles east to southeast on that highway toward Baton Rouge.
I worked today so maybe I didn’t read everything about traffic on I-10 that I needed to. I was quite surprised though when heading to downtown Beaumont this morning where I-10 was reduced from three lanes to one lane. It turned out, I didn’t even have the option of going on east to downtown. Traffic was being rerouted at the I-10 split with US 69/96/287.I found a way off and made my on alternate route to downtown. I wish I had known that I couldn’t drive on the interstate the way I usually do. To be fair, I had to go out westbound on I-10 later on, and coming home I saw that an electric sign message said that the interstate would be closed at the exit where the routes to the Piney Woods split.
These are all minor inconveniences to me. The majority of the area hit hardest on the Texas side of the Sabine is where I grew up and where my closest relatives and old friends still reside. Several family members are working to keep others safe. One of those — a niece — is helping others even though she and her family had to be rescued by military personnel. Hopes for her home surviving are dismal, from the last messages I have seen.
This is, literally, a disaster. A large portion of this area in Texas has been declared a disaster area by the state. Gov. Greg Abbott, the Republican executive of Texas, flew over the region in a chopper. I am hopeful President Obama will also declare these counties as a disaster area.
Looking at such wreckage makes you forget your own minor problems — like some traffic slow-down. I do hope TxDOT will learn from their mistakes and miscues. Obviously, Texas and our neighbor to the east need better communication.