Residents of Northwest Houston awoke Thursday to clear and sunny skies as well as pleasant temperatures. There were no flooded streets or downed trees, and the power was on as usual.
The Houston region was spared from the wrath of Hurricane Laura, which made landfall early Thursday morning in southwest Louisiana. It was a high-end Category 4 hurricane, bringing wind speeds of roughly 150 mph and a devastating surge of seawater along the Gulf Coast, including in parts of southeast Texas.
More locally, meanwhile, the impact was minimal. There was a cool overnight breeze and little to no rain.
“We absolutely dodged a bullet,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said in a Thursday morning video posted to social media. “(It was) the strongest hurricane that Louisiana had seen, certainly in that area. If it had impacted us here, it would have been truly catastrophic.”
Hidalgo thanked Houston residents for being prepared and heeding warnings earlier this week. The city and county had activated its emergency response systems and was ready to help the region cope with a potential disaster – three years after Hurricane Harvey brought unprecedented flooding.
Local businesses closed early Wednesday and area residents secured their homes, with some clearing out neighborhood storm drains in anticipation of heavy rain.
When the storm sidestepped the Houston area, the community turned its attention toward the ravaged Texas-Louisiana border and particularly the hard-hit Lake Charles area.
The county encouraged residents to donate to the American Red Cross or other reputable relief organizations.
“We’re lucky, we’re grateful, and our hearts and thoughts are with our neighbors to the east,” said Houston City Council member Abbie Kamin, whose younger sister is a journalist who was covering the storm in Lake Charles.
Late Wednesday afternoon, when it became clear that Houston likely would be spared, Mayor Sylvester Turner and U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee spoke about the need for a dike or coastal spine that would help protect the region from similar storms. Such infrastructure has been proposed since the aftermath of Hurricane Ike in 2008.
Turner said, “We need it yesterday. … We’re running out of lives, so to speak.”
Added Jackson Lee: “There is the indication that this will not be the last hurricane that we will see in this region. It certainly may not be the last one that’s extremely difficult and devastating. I hope not, but it is an active hurricane season.”