Hell & High Water: “Houston Was Warned” –The Inside Story of the Impact of Hurricane Harvey

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“Houston’s perfect storm is coming — and it’s not a matter of if but when,” journalists wrote, a year and a half ago. “Why isn’t Texas ready?”

The story below was a joint project of The Texas Tribune, an excellent local publication, and ProPublica, writes David Leonhardt in the New York Times. Headlined “Hell and High Water,” it exposed the lack of preparedness, and downright denial, in Houston about flood damage and the climate change of our warming oceans. The project mixes maps and text, and you can dip into it briefly or dig into the details.“We’re sitting ducks. We’ve done nothing,” Phil Bedient, a Rice University professor and storm-surge expert, says in the story. “We’ve done nothing to shore up the coastline, to add resiliency … to do anything.”

Hell and High Water

Houston is the fourth-largest city in the country. It’s home to the nation’s largest refining and petrochemical complex, where billions of gallons of oil and dangerous chemicals are stored. And it’s a sitting duck for the next big hurricane. Why isn’t Texas ready?

It is not if, but when Houston’s perfect storm will hit.

They called Ike “the monster hurricane.”

Hundreds of miles wide. Winds at more than 100 mph. And — deadliest of all — the power to push a massive wall of water into the upper Texas coast, killing thousands and shutting down a major international port and industrial hub.

That was what scientists, public officials, economists and weather forecasters thought they were dealing with on Sept. 11, 2008, as Hurricane Ike barreled toward Houston, the fourth-largest city in the United States and home to its largest refining and petrochemical complex. And so at 8:19 p.m., the National Weather Service issued an unusually dire warning.

“ALL NEIGHBORHOODS, AND POSSIBLY ENTIRE COASTAL COMMUNITIES, WILL BE INUNDATED,” the alert read. “PERSONS NOT HEEDING EVACUATION ORDERS IN SINGLE FAMILY ONE OR TWO STORY HOMES WILL FACE CERTAIN DEATH.” (Click to Site)

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