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Monday, August 28, 2017

Hurricane Harvey and You

We are not untouched by weather catastrophe
By Will Collette

This is a White House photo showing an emergency meeting on Hurricane Harvey being chaired by VP Mike Pence while Donald Trump sits all alone in Camp David. No aides. No notes, but happily no cell phone for his itchy little Twitter fingers.
As we watch any disaster unfurl on television, there is a natural tendency to think, if not say, “I’m glad that’s not us.” I’m sure most Texas Republican members of Congress thought that way when we were getting hammered by Hurricane Sandy, and certainly when they voted against federal relief for Sandy’s widespread destruction.

I doubt anyone will vote against Harvey relief. I’d like to think we’re not that small-minded. In fact, you can bet that people across New England and the rest of the Northeast are trying to figure out how to help.

Image result for Harvey & gas pricesMajor disasters are not strictly localized events. We should see immediate effects at the gas pump, as the price per gallon goes up from 5 cents to a quarter. These increases should be temporary, but who knows for sure. Epic floods could knock out Houston area production for much longer than expected.

The damage and the loss of production may have even broader impacts on the national economy.

Charity scams

Major disasters are great opportunities. No, I'm not just referring to Donald Trump using Harvey as cover for disgraceful acts like pardoning racist former Sheriff Joe Arpaio or issuing the official order banning transgender people from service in the military.

You may start to get calls asking you to donate for Harvey disaster relief. If you get a cold call asking you to donate, DON’T! After disasters like this, there will be even more fake charities running phone bank boiler rooms to steal money from people with big hearts.

The American Red Cross always raises lots of money after disasters, but later, we often find out they did not spend the money for the purpose it was given. They are still being called to account for money they raised for Sandy relief.

My Louisiana friends said the Red Cross did little to help after Katrina, even though they got the lion’s share of the money. They credited the Salvation Army and local churches and non-profits with doing the best job.

Good Charities

Consider these charities for Harvey relief instead of the American Red Cross or some caller who tries to get you to give to some new charity they say will help Harvey victims: 
Toxic waste
One story you may never hear about is the effect Harvey’s floods will have on the hundreds of terrible hazardous waste dumps all over the Houston area. I used to visit the area a lot to work with local groups in the small cities and towns around Houston and stretching down to Galveston.

Those company towns had toxic waste dumps often covered up with schools, subdivisions and, playgrounds. These sites generally don’t have any safeguards. Floods of this magnitude are not just going to fill the streets and homes of local residents with alligators and poisonous snakes, but lots of hazardous waste.

Under Trump’s EPA, heading by Scott Pruitt, I doubt we will hear Word One about this inevitable consequence of Harvey. It will be for a future EPA under a better President to assess the health damage from this disaster.

FEMA Funding

Current projections are that Harvey relief will cost far more money than FEMA has available. Even after Congress approves more funds, the odds are there won’t be much left in FEMA’s piggybank for the next disaster. I say that with confidence, given Trump’s March budget proposal to drastically cut FEMA funding.

Here in New England, we know that we WILL have a major weather emergency, if not this year, than the next. Will FEMA be there for us? Under Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress, I doubt it.
Image result for hurricane harvey GIF
Climate change

Hurricane Harvey’s bizarre behavior is being called unprecedented but it is not unexpected. 

Climate scientists have been telling us that climate change means among many other things that there will be more frequent and more catastrophic weather events. 

Harvey gained its strength from higher than average temperatures in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Yet the Trump regime makes no mention of climate change as having any bearing on this storm. That’s not surprising since Trump has banned the use of the term, except to call it “fake,” and has purged the scientists and their research that might help us make sense of it.

Good luck, Bill DiLibero

Charlestown’s former town administrator Bill DiLibero is now the City Manager of Beeville, Texas, a small city of 12,000 about 45 miles north of Corpus Christi and the area where Harvey made land fall.

I e-mailed Bill before the storm to wish him well and in his reply, he noted that he had the experience of dealing with Hurricane Irene six years ago to the day when he was still here in Charlestown.

The main worry for Beeville is the flooding from over two feet of rain.

I hope Bill and the residents of Beeville come out of this OK.

And a sidebar

One of the earliest sources of relief for Texas came from - would you believe? - Mexico. They were among the first to offer relief supplies and willing, helping hands.

After all the abuse Trump and so many in the government and the country have heaped on Mexico, they stepped up to help.

And that's not the first time, as you can see in the photo to the left.

There they are coming in to help Hurricane Katrina victims in Louisiana.