There aren’t enough thumbs to raise in the air (and probably not enough to point downward, either), but as we now begin to put Hurricane Harvey’s impact in perspective, let’s take a look at the people, companies and organizations that deserve Texas-sized pats on the back, and a few folks who deserve a Texas-sized whuppin’.
Say what you will about evacuation orders and any other questions we might have had for those people we elect to be the guardians of our community. But in this case, we’d be hard pressed to shove public leaders into a more difficult position and see them handle the problems with such clarity and grace.
Mayor Sylvester Turner and County Judge Ed Emmett made decisions that best protected as many people as possible for as long as possible. They answered every question asked of them, and they were both humble and discrete in their ability to manage this storm’s devastation.
At times, Turner sounded more like a life-coach than a mayor, and there was no better time for that than in the past week. Emmett, as pointed and direct and grateful as any politician we have in the community, used his experience from Ike and Rita to steer the county clear of as much turmoil as any one person could.
And we’d be remiss if we didn’t include the public officials who helped man the compound at TranStar the entire week. Our heart goes out to Police Chief Art Acevedo and his entire department on the loss of Sgt. Steve Perez, 60, who had served the citizens of Houston for 34 years. Acevedo’s real emotion, broadcast for the world to see, gives us a wonderful glimpse into the soul of our city.
Fire Chief Samuel Pena directed his first responders with class and urgency, as did the other men and women who directed our area’s response to a horrific disaster.
Locally, Constable Alan Rosen and his team spent more than two days without a wink of sleep carrying out rescues across the county, and they lived up to the billing they often receive as one of the shining stars of public service.
When you think back to tragedies all over this nation (think Katrina and Mayor Ray Nagin), there’s a lot of bad that goes with trying to save human lives. In this case, our public officials stood up straight and admirable through the destruction that overwhelmed our city. They were not overwhelmed.
Did you talk to a neighbor this week that you’ve never talked to before? The safe bet is that you did. Maybe you looked across the river running in front of your house and saw a friendly face just down the street. Maybe, once the water cleared, you were able to take a stroll down the street and help someone move a tree out of their front yard.
It’s easy to give credit to public officials for their work during a storm such as Harvey because we know their names and faces and we see them on TV. But the hero of this storm was you. From your rescue of a neighbor, to your compassion to people you’ve never met before, the kindness that eventually pushed this storm out of Houston is what will help rebuild this city long after the last TV camera has left town.
Have you ever driven across town and begrudgingly fussed about how all the power lines running down our streets just looks terrible? Have you ever wished that CenterPoint Energy would put all the power lines underground?
A few years ago, CenterPoint went to court against a community south of town because that community demanded that CenterPoint bury all the power lines. They wanted their city to look better, and they voted to force CenterPoint to make that move.
Folks, if it wasn’t clear last Friday, maybe it is this Friday. In a city (swamp) such as ours, there is no feasible reason we should ever have power lines underground. Imagine what would have happened when trillions of gallons of water fell on Houston, flooding our reservoirs, our bayous and, eventually, our streets. If that water knocked out our power – and it would have – how would CenterPoint crews fixed the outages? The obvious answer is that they wouldn’t have.
Wasn’t it amazing to see our streets turned into lakes and our lights still on? And when power did go out – briefly for many in the Heights and Garden Oaks on Tuesday – is it not a small miracle that the lights turned back on in about 12 hours?
Well done, CenterPoint.
When devastation hits an area, usually people flee from the scene. That didn’t happen in Houston this week. Any neighbor with a boat or a high-water vehicle drove straight into the face of the storm and began pulling people out of homes and apartments.
If you watched any TV coverage of this event, you’ve seen these stories and you don’t need much more detail. But it would be a travesty if we didn’t give a hearty thank-you to all the people who risked their own lives to save those of others.
State and Feds
Say what you want about government officials, but there are no Hurricane Katrina stories here. Our state and federal government did an outstanding job giving as much support as humanly possible.
Normally, when you see tanks and Coast Guard helicopters descend on an area, it brings about a fear that’s hard to describe.
But in this case, how comforting was it to see military vehicles coming to the rescue? How comforting was it to see the Coast Guard dropping lifelines into neighborhoods to pull people to safety?
Our state and federal officials did the best they could to help us. And they’ll be around a while longer.
It’s popular to beat up on the media these days, and for a newspaper, we take a small bit of joy in throwing shade at our media competitors when they mess up something important.
Make no mistake about the coverage we received locally on Hurricane Harvey. If not for local TV, we would have had more questions than answers. We wouldn’t have known where not to drive and when we could go buy more food.
Local TV did an outstanding job working five days straight to keep us informed.
Guys with Fake Shirts
You probably saw this on local TV, but in case you didn’t, a group of men broke out uniforms of black shirts and khaki pants. The shirts donned a logo that said HIS, and they told people to evacuate.
These weren’t officials of any type. These were criminals, and what’s most sickening (of all the sickening descriptions) is that these jerks were in another town somewhere and had the wherewithal to have shirts printed to make them look like they had jobs with our county.
May these people rot in the bottom of a jail.
The Expected Looters
Only second worse to the people who planned robberies were the folks who meandered down streets during our city’s worst tragedy and robbed small businesses that will have a hard time surviving the ramifications of this storm.
If looters have been caught, I hope our judicial system puts them in the cell block next to the scammers.
This is a preemptive thumbs-down, because it’s going to happen and there’s no way for us to stop it. People are going to come in our community and try to make a fortune from our mishap. You will be promised work that you’ll pay for and never receive. Others will raise money in the name of “Houston Strong” and make their bank accounts stronger.
If you don’t know who you’re dealing with in the weeks and months ahead, be smart. And if you have any questions, give them a preemptive thumbs-down.
– Compiled by Jonathan McElvy